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A Rocky Road to Freedom
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By Mary Haskett

Jack, a softly spoken man invites his Sunday school class of 20 to 25 adults to turn to Scriptures pertaining to angels. At the London First Church of the Nazarene, he and his class will explore and discuss the truths of the Bible.

The Sunday school teacher and messenger of the Gospel to street people admit his life before Christ was a turbulent existence. Jack the eldest of four children had an uneventful life until age 14 when his mother, with whom he shared a close relationship, died. Soon after this traumatic event, his father, a disciplinarian started a relationship with a divorced woman on the street where they lived. Jack resented her and saw her as an intrusion into his family. He had cared for his three younger siblings and could not see the need for the woman and her three children to be a part of their lives. His father planned to marry her, and the dynamics of this situation became too hard to bear. At 15, his father told him to get along with his step-mother or to leave.

He left and started walking. He noticed a house with a placard in the window "Room for Rent." Jack had no money, but convinced the woman of the house, he would get a job and pay rent within a week, and he did. The woman of the house turned out to be a bootlegger. This led to a life of alcohol and drug abuse for young Jack with alcohol being the most prevalent of his addictions. In spite of this, he managed to work, going door to door selling magazines and at other times working in men's clothing stores.

As time went by he became a loner and an angry young man. His fiery temper led to fights in bars that were so violent he damaged property. Charged with assault twice, stabbed twice and held at gun point in a washroom, he roamed from rooming houses to hotels, to street life in 14 towns and cities throughout Ontario. Eventually, a provincial court order barred him admittance to bars throughout the province.

One summer he worked his way up north, stayed in a shack in Moonbeam on Lake Rèmi and fished for food. For many years Jack wandered from one place to another.

In 1975, back in London, he worked in Vaisler's Men's Clothing Store and started dating Sandra, a young lady who worked in the office. Together they frequented pubs and soon got engaged. Jack thrilled at the thought of having a wife and home. Over time, he noticed a change in Sandra. She did not want to drink anymore, and she asked him to cut back on his consumption. She started going to church and invited him to go with her. He agreed to go and believed his fiancée would get over this new fad. But it did not happen. Instead, he found himself driving the church bus, but stopped short of attending the services. He did stop drinking for two days in the week, but even so received a ticket for impaired driving, which put an end to driving the church bus.

Sometime later he suffered a severe back injury which limited his activities and had him wheelchair bound. Jack recalls with a laugh Sandra placing Bibles around their home. For a year he received physiotherapy and chiropractic treatments. The situation had him staying in his home for long periods of time. For a while he ignored the Bibles, but one day in 1995, he started to read and could not stop. He read and read and read—the result led to his salvation.

Jack says: "I honestly believe I am saved for a purpose, and that is to bring the message of the Gospel to street people."

18 years ago he and his wife met another couple, Mike and Gail. They all had the same passion to go out and feed the poor, so a downtown "Hot Dog" ministry started. Mike and Gail buy the hot dogs. Cheerfully they serve 30 to 50 people each week. Wanda, who joined the ministry three years ago, provides hot chocolate in the winter months and bottled water in the summer. Christians, who know about the ministry sometimes visit the street people at the hotdog stand and hand out fruit and granola bars. Jack's church supplies condiments. Jack and Sandra give out hygiene bags which they have prepared. The bags contain soap, face cloths, toothpaste, tooth brushes, shampoo, deodorant and socks. In the winter months hats, scarves and gloves are also given as needed.

The ministry has only missed two Tuesdays in the 18 years it has been running. Jack says the only help they receive is from people who donate, time, money and goods. We never solicit or seek handouts. Sometimes are backs have been against the wall, but God comes through for us every time.

This selfless ministry has touched many lives. Jack says they are so appreciative to the people who support them. He states God always provides if a person is in His will and His way.