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Men and women come to the downtown eastside skid row with problems that often seem insurmountable. Many have addictions while, others are traumatized or victimized with little self esteem or self worth. They try to drown their sorrows with mind altering substances. Others have horrible nightmares as a ...
Men and women come to the downtown eastside skid row with problems that often seem insurmountable. Many have addictions while, others are traumatized or victimized with little self esteem or self worth. They try to drown their sorrows with mind altering substances. Others have horrible nightmares as a reminder of something often horrendous that had happened to them or to a loved one.
There are those who have done something which they regret. They are sorry but often plagued with memories of what they have done or failed to do.
Men and women abused and beaten down are appalled by what they have suffered at the hands of people they trusted and respected.
Some contemplate suicide in order to end their dependance on drugs or memories which impede their ability to function adequately in society.
the Mission, on the worst street in the country, is a gathering place for those who are plagued with these problems. It is a safe place in the bowels of a hellish existence for many who are forced to live and interact in this setting and sub culture.
When they enter the Mission they feel the caring and concern of the staff and the students from the Bible College. These are loving persons ready to brighten their day, listen to their sordid stories and tell them about Jesus who is their hope.
Those who respond to the invitation and go to the Bible College are rewarded with knowledge and insight into methods of recovering and becoming new creations.
Many have become radically changed. Their life changing adventures are exposed in the pages of this inspirational book.
A Street Boy
2 Timothy 2:1-"You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus."
My wife and I were introduced to the prison ministry by an ex convict who had given his life to Christ Jesus while in prison.
When he was released he got in touch with everyone he knew and everyone his wife knew and started a fellowship for released prisoners at his home.
The fellowship is primarily for those who have been recently released from prison and who don't have family or friends in the immediate area.
My wife and I were invited to his home to listen to these men's stories and encourage those who are often starting a new life on the outside.
The reason we were invited is that the ex convict's wife and my wife attended a Bible Study Fellowship. His wife was a leader and my wife was in her class.
The ex convict knew that those released from prison needed encouragement, from caring people who will show them love and concern. He had experienced what it was like to be released from prison and not have a safety net.
He also introduced my wife and myself to a prison ministry.
He put us in touch with a group that did this ministry once a month on a Sunday afternoon and evening. The church that sponsored this ministry has a bus which they let those in this ministry use.
We joined this prison ministry and got to know the regulars. It was great fun riding the bus as we would sing gospel songs and fellowship on our way to the Correctional Centre and also on our return trip to the big city.
This is where we met the young man, Jack. He was one of the key persons as he was friendly with the leader of the ministry and all the participants. He was the one to get the singing started and to make sure that everyone was introduced and were getting to know each other.
He came and sat with my wife, Kristina and I. We shared where we went to church and what we did for a living. At that time I was not in the ministry and was working part time as well as volunteering in a hospital. I had taken early retirement and was free to volunteer and make a difference in the community.
When he heard that I was a volunteer, he insisted that I come and volunteer at the Mission where he did his ministry. He told me where it was located. I knew that this was one of the worst and most dangerous streets in the city.
I told him that when I drove down that street, I locked the doors of my car and rolled up the windows and got out of there as quickly as possible.
He laughed and assured me that it was safe as long as I didn't make eye contact with anyone and as long as I didn't hold my nose because of the smell, and didn't act like a big shot.
After much thought and several discussions with my wife, I volunteered.
The first evening I was walking from the bus stop to the Mission. On the way, I was stopped on the street by a big man who kept saying, "rock, rock." I tried to get by him but he blocked my way. He told me, "I know why you're here. It's for your girls isn't it?" When I told him I was going to the Mission, he moved aside and tried peddling his 'rock cocaine' to other buyers.
At the Mission, I learned that two years before my coming to volunteer, Jack was a street boy. He was hustling for a living and sleeping in the squats, living hand to mouth. Later, Jack told me of some of his experiences on the street. Some which he was proud of and some which he was ashamed of.
That evening, before the service, Jack and I were joined at a table by two others. Jack told us that he had eight young people on the street whom he has cared for and who he still has contact with. He explained, "They are so fragile, so easily pushed around. I'll take you down there and you'll see for yourself."
I nodded my approval but deep down I felt l would rather decline the offer of walking the streets and going into vacant run down buildings occupied by vagrants who would mug you and rough you up for drug money.
During the service that night, Jack gave his testimony.
I learned from his testimony that his father was an alcoholic and was abusive to his wife and his two sons. At the age of fifteen, Jack went onto the street, tired of being beaten and abused. He explained, "It turned my stomach when I had to watch my mother being yelled at for no reason and often being slapped and punched."
Jack told us he wanted to intervene but his mother told him to stay out of their problems. She knew he would be beaten if he came to her rescue.
Jack had charisma, which drew people to him, and he had a following on the street.
Jack told us that one day, he heard singing from the Mission and got into the line-up. He was drawn to the Mission by the music. Once inside he was amazed to see happy Christians who showed love for each other and love for those who came off the street.
He said, "The Senior Pastor greeted me and invited me to come back and be part of the Mission. I liked to sing and I could talk. I felt I would get along fine as part of this ministry."
A month later, on the bus, going to the prison ministry, Jack told us that he became part of the Mission, working in the kitchen and making a difference. Occasionally, he said, he slipped back onto the street Once he told us he came to a counsel meeting a bit high. "The staff looked at me and shook their heads. I was reprimanded and told I shouldn't do that."
Jack still had his friends from the street and felt an obligation to care for them and make certain that they were not being abused or mistreated.
He was challenged by the staff of the Mission to give up his street life.
Jack tried his best to fit in with the Christians and walk a straight path. He got some used clothes at another mission and tried his best to be presentable. He is a tall, well built and handsome young man, which was to his benefit. He also had a ready smile and a word of affirmation for those he ministered to.
I later learned that one day he was on drugs and came to the Mission. He almost lost his standing in the ministry. It was decided he be given a last chance. After that episode, Jack took charge of his life. He became a new person, a new creation in Christ.
I became a steady volunteer at the Mission. Every time I came, Jack was happy to see me and he introduced me to everyone in sight.
I worked in the kitchen and did whatever cleanup was necessary. At times I carried boxes of food and whatever was donated to the Mission.
With the Mission in high gear and people giving their lives to Christ Jesus, the Senior Pastor realized there was a need for a community home, a dormitory for men who desired to live with other Christians and enjoy their fellowship.
A short distance from the Mission and College, there was a crack house.
It was closed down by the police after a man was beaten and killed in it. His body was thrown face down in the back yard. The house had been vacant and sealed off for months.
This house was ideal for a dormitory as it was only a block and a half away from the Mission. The Pastor spoke to the owner of the house and made arrangements to pay a reasonable rent in return for our renovating and cleaning up the mess.
It meant people from the Mission had to pitch in and help remodel the filthy and run down house. It happened quickly as at times there were crews of twenty or more men and women volunteering to renovate and repair the three story building.
Jack became the captain of the house. They called him the captain as he wore a captain's hat which he had picked up in a thrift store.
A year later, Jack was faced with a situation he had not envisioned. The Pastor of a church in a better part of town, asked if we could manage to take a convict into our dormitory and have him work in the Mission and go to the Bible College. At a staff meeting there was a lot of discussion but the Pastor from the church answered every concern. According to him this man was not violent but he did need supervision.
The proposal had to go through the courts as he was serving time in a Correctional Centre.
The Senior Pastor attended the court hearing and assumed responsibility for the man's actions and his supervision.
Jack told me he was quitting if convicts were going to be placed in his care. I encouraged him to stick in there and see what this man was like. I reminded him of all the nice people we visit during the prison ministry. He agreed that most of them are decent and just needed another chance.
When Tim came to the Mission, Jack and I were pleasantly surprised. He was one of the men we had visited on our last three visits at the prison ministry. Jack was ready to welcome him and make him part of the family of God.
Tim only had a year and a half left in his sentence. During that time he learned to play the guitar and sing gospel songs. He also enrolled in the Bible College. The study was not all new to him as he had belonged to the church whose minister had him sent to our ministry. He settled in and learned a great deal as our teaching is in depth and enlightening to those who take it seriously.
His time at the Mission and the Bible College went by without any problems. I learned from him that he was raised in an affluent home and had connections with some well known and respected people in the city.
I also learned that his crime was the result of his association with persons who tricked him into making big money illegally. He served his time for the crime.
Upon serving his sentence, he went back to the jail to be officially released.
When the Senior Pastor posted a notice on the bulletin board stating that a Bible College was enrolling students for September, I asked if I could enrol. He smiled and told me that I would be most welcome. I had gone to church for years but I had never gone to Bible College.
Jack also came to the Bible College for a short time and was given the role of pastor in training. With Jack, it was all or nothing at all. He accepted Jesus as Lord of his life and was filled with the Holy Spirit. Shining his light for all to see.
He couldn't wait to be baptized, which happened in the ocean one cold December day. There was a big celebration. All the students and some members of the Mission came to see Jack go under the water and come up a new person. His mother and brother attended along with an aunt and uncle and two cousins. It was a reunion for Jack and his family. Six of his street kids came. They were introduced to all who were present.
At the Mission, after the baptism, a big meal was served and everyone congratulated Jack.
Jack made a full commitment to the Mission and College. After a year of Bible College, he became a preacher and took over the responsibility of scheduling the preachers for the morning services. He was totally devoted to this ministry.
I have shared many memorable experiences with Jack.
On a field trip to a small city, Jack decided he would do his own ministry. He gathered the children and the teens together and had a fun day. He enlisted our help in preparing games the kids could play. This took ingenuity as our materials were limited. I made a list of things that could be gathered in the community and in the wilderness area adjacent to the church in which we were staying on our outreach. It was called a treasure hunt. The children and teens were in groups of three. It was not new to the kids so my instructions were few.
My wife made a board game and they had to spin a bottle and act out what it pointed to. There was lots of laughing as some had to act like clowns and others had to act like preachers and teachers, other like they were riding a horse or walking a tight rope.
Jack drew a picture of a monkey. The kids were blindfolded and had to pin a tail on the monkey.
Later, Jack gathered the kids together and told some Bible stories. They were given Bible verses to memorize. A candy was given to those who memorized and to those who made an attempt at memorizing even one or two verses.
It was always fun to work with Jack as he drew people to him and treated them with respect and dignity.
In the morning, he did his exercises which included a five mile run. I joined him for the exercises but I could only do a one mile run to begin with.
At meal times being a six footer and muscular, he had a good appetite. People smiled when at breakfast he would eat porridge, six eggs with lots of toast and coffee.
It was always pleasant when Jack was on an outreach.
Another time we went to a native reserve. Those who attended the service were the older members of the community. Jack would form a small group or go one on one and charm those who were in his presence.
We ministered together for a few years, while he was getting his life together. He was always busy as people asked him to come and help when they were in trouble or in difficult situations.
He adopted a family which was often in crises. There were four young sons and a daughter. He became their uncle and their best friend.
In the middle of the night or anytime, the mother of these children would phone Jack and ask for his help to solve their marital or financial problems.
Jack told me that her husband was hanging around with prostitutes. His wife told Jack that these young prostitutes gave her husband favours as he had no money. I didn't want to know all the details, but Jack unloaded them on me.
Here is a thirty-three year old man fooling around with prostitutes and defiling his marriage. His wife is asking a nineteen year old boy, Jack, to intervene and straighten out their marital and financial problems.
The miracle is that the problem with the prostitutes was resolved as a result of a lot of prayer and intercession. The man admitted his mistake and asked forgiveness. He went so far as to ask if he could come to Bible College and prepare for ministry.
Jerry did come to the Mission and Bible College for three years. He played the guitar and led worship. He stopped drinking and was good to his wife. It was great to see a person give up their earthly desires and desire to serve the Lord.
Jack kept working in their lives. He would drive the family to the Mission. The kids liked the hot dogs and the juice. They would line up to get two or three hot dogs as they were often hungry.
This family lived in native housing which is very nice and affordable.
Upon first year graduation and being commissioned, which means sent out, Jerry started a house church in the native housing complex. He gathered a number of families together and taught them what he had learned at the College. He also enlisted the help of Jack to come and teach. His house church flourished and grew.
God worked mightily through the ministry of Jack, and those who prayed that there would be a change in Jerry's life. God worked a radical change in his life.
He not only had his house church but he also ministered in the Mission.
His is another story.
Jack and I had fun together as there was always something new and often strange and different as we ministered at the Mission.
Jack took me to where his young street kids hang out. He introduced me to Shadow, who was taking his place as their protector. He was sixteen and already a man in charge of younger and older people on the street. They didn't frequent skid row but hung out in a different part of the city.
I had the privilege of talking to the kids he hung around with. Most of them were running from abusive or controlling homes. Some are as young as thirteen and fourteen years old, living on the street and on the run from the authorities. If they are caught they will be sent to foster homes or detention centres.
I was asked to take a fourteen year old girl to the hospital as she had a terrible cold. Jack was working and I had a car which they needed. The group was afraid her cold might turn into pneumonia and she would die.
It made me sad to know that they often slept in buildings with no heat or water.
I witnessed how they lived in abandoned buildings. I figured I'd do this young girl a favour and have her returned to her parents.
While she was waiting for the doctor to diagnose the degree of her cold, I spoke to a nurse. She told me that she had no authority to send her home. She gave me the phone number of a social worker.
I called and told the social worker her story. The worker explained that the girl would run and avoid treatment if she knew what I was doing.
She did tell me she would try to intervene, but she had to be careful.
Excerpted from Radically Changed by Christopher Wilson Copyright © 2010 by Christopher Wilson. Excerpted by permission.
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