Justin Obriecht thought he had it all.
"I had a good life,” said Obriecht recently at Hope Covenant Church. “I had enough money, I didn't have a lot of stress. Things were really good for me as an atheist."
Starting with his first restaurant opening in Tinley Park in 2001, Obriecht went on to open Culver’s locations in Orland Park, Tinley Park, Frankfort, Homewood and Matteson. But he later found something was missing.
Today, Obriecht is a member of Willow Creek Community Church. His talk at Hope Covenant Church in Orland Park was his second testimony.
“The nice thing about a testimony is it's a story about what happened in my life,” Obriecht said. “It's not about me shoving anything down anyone’s throat. A testimony is the quickest way to get to know somebody. I have put that out to all my employees. I have not received any negative reply about my relationship with Jesus Christ."
Obriecht came bearing Butterburgers, custard, a few of his employees and his testimony. More than 100 people came out to enjoy dollar Butterburgers and Culver's custard before listening to Obriecht’s story.
"I opened up a business when everyone thought the world was coming to an end," Obriecht said.
Days after the 9/11 attack, Justin was preparing to open his first Culver's restaurant in Tinley Park. Just 25, Obriecht was the youngest person to open up a Culvers restaurant. Three years later, the Tinley Park Culver's had $3 million in sales, more than any other Culver's.
Five years after he found the success in Tinley Park, Obriecht opened restaurants in the other four nearby towns.
"The south suburbs have supported us amazingly,” he said. “I give a lot of that credit to the people of the south suburbs."
Obriecht gave back along the way. He participated in cancer walks, fundraisers for area schools and other philanthropy.
"I was an atheist but I wasn't a bad person,” Obriecht said. “I wasn't cheating, I wasn't stealing but I swore a little too much. The only difference is when you have a belief in God and you know God, he expects you to be more disciplined.”
Obriecht was traveling when he stopped in Tennessee, and began meditating around 2 a.m. He suddenly felt a warmth and peace come over him. He said that Jesus came into his life at that moment.
Obriecht immediately called his mother, who had become a Christian a few years before. She had almost the same experience.
Rather than open more restaurants, Obriecht and his new wife Tara are working on helping others.
"As far as charity work, I started a program three weeks ago,” he said. “When I was saved I went around and told my testimony to all the homeless people that lived around me. One day one of the ladies named Carrie asked me to take her to church. A light bulb went off. Maybe there are others that would like this opportunity. I decided to set up a program where I hand out flyers throughout the week. Whoever shows up at the bus stop near my building, my wife and I pay for them to get on the bus. We go to church together. After church my wife and I buy them lunch and give them tickets to do laundry the following Saturday."