Mike was born in the low country of South Carolina, between Georgetown and Myrtle Beach. His father was a career soldier and his mother a beautiful lady his father had met and married in Europe. After their second child, the couple was certain that they didn’t want any more children and she was fitted with an IUD. In spite of this, pregnancy occurred and Mike was born in 1970. In the process of giving birth to Mike, his mother began to hemorrhage and when he was eight days old, she died. Mike had lived his whole life under his father’s two-fold condemnation: That he imposed himself unwanted into his father’s life; and that he was the cause his mother’s death. It was a burden that he sometimes found to be almost more than he could bear.
Mike could never remember his father speaking a kind word to him and was certain that he never told him that he loved him, yet Mike desperately longed for a relationship with this man he considered his hero. Although his dad was a harsh and abusive man, Mike looked up to him because he was big, strong, and effective. After his retirement from the Army, his dad bought his own rig and started hauling freight up and down the east coast. Mike would often ride along, helping to load and unload the truck, all this to be near his father and try to win his approval.
One day when Mike was thirteen years old, his life would take a dramatic turn. He was riding in his father’s truck and, as many times before, his father was railing against him. Mike said something that displeased his father who took a swing at him from the driver’s seat and broke his nose. Mike began to cry and his father pulled to the curb in Myrtle Beach and said, “Get out of this truck. Go and get a job and support yourself.” Mike found himself all alone in a town where he knew no one. He went into one of the rides on the boardwalk and asked for a job. The operator allowed him to pick up trash for which he was paid a few cents an hour and in a few weeks, Mike was operating a ride. A local couple learned that Mike was sleeping on the street and took him into their home. They helped Mike get back into school; he graduated, learned a trade, and got a job as a metal fabricator.
Although Mike was making pretty good money in his career, he always felt disconnected and lonely and often battled depression. After ten years, Mike would make an attempt to reconnect with his father. He learned that his father needed some work on the duct work in his house so he went and offered to do the work for free. Mike’s dad accepted the offer and Mike was thrilled, seeing this as an opportunity to earn the relationship with his father that he had always craved. When he finished the job, Mike asked if he could come back and visit his father again. His father replied, “Maybe in about ten years, but not before.” Mike left dejected and broken-hearted. He then began to drink more and more and eventually turn to illegal drugs in an effort to ease his pain. He eventually lost his drivers license, then his job, then wound up on the street.
One day as Mike was walking the street in Jacksonville, FL, he was approached by a man who made him a proposition. “I can offer you an opportunity to make a lot of money with very little effort.” Mike was recruited into a fake ID racket. He was allured by the idea of getting his own “illegitimate drivers license” so he could land a “legitimate job.” Mike freely acknowledges that his thinking was misguided and his decision was wrong, but he was desperate to get another start in life. He got the fake drivers license, left the racket, and got a job driving a truck.
Mike was driving up I-85 through Durham, NC, when he was pulled over by the State Trooper. Mike handed him the license, knowing that there was a good chance he would find himself in deep trouble. His fears became reality when he was arrested and held in the Durham County Jail for several months awaiting trial. In July, for reasons Mike cannot understand, the charges against him were dropped (with the exception of the charge of driving without a valid drivers license). He was order to pay a fine and was released from jail.
Mike felt he had come full circle. His legal battles were behind him, but once again he was on the street with no money and nowhere to go. Someone told him about a ministry called “Meet Me at the Bridge” and Mike decided he would go and check it out. The first time he came, he heard the gospel and was convinced that there was still hope for him. He came forward and prayed to receive Christ. From that moment, God began working in his life.From that day, he attended our Bible studies in the park, learning the Scriptures, praying with his new spiritual brothers, and growing in his walk with the Lord.
Last Saturday, Mike was tearful during much of the service at the Bridge; it was obvious that something significant was going on in his heart. As soon as the meeting had concluded, Mike rushed to me to show me a letter he had received the day before. “Look what the Lord has done for me!” he exclaimed as he put the letter in my hand for me to read. It simply said, “Dear Mike, All is forgiven. We love you. Please come home.” and it was signed by each member of his family. “Now, all I need is one day’s work next week so I can buy a bus ticket and go home to my family. I can’t wait to tell them all that God has done in my life!” I asked Mike where his family was and he told me they lived in a small town near Charlotte.
I said, “Mike, I’m going to take you home!” At 7:30 Monday morning, I met Mike on the street corner where we had arranged to meet. Mike was smiling broadly as he literally ran and jumped in my car. As we drove down I-85 and as we took the exit for his home, Mike said, “I’m not going to blow it this time. God has given me another chance and I’m going to live the rest of my life for Him.” When we got close to his home, Mike spotted his brother-in-law pushing a baby carriage and walking with two small children by his side. We pulled over to the curb and the two little nieces ran to him squealing, “Yay, Mikey!” We rounded the corner and as we approached the house, his sister came running from a neighbor’s house to throw her arms around him and welcome him home. His ailing grandfather was waiting for him at the door with tears in his eyes.
They welcomed us in–Mike and me–and I had the privilege of sharing the gospel with the whole family after which we joined hands in a circle and prayed. I led them in a prayer asking God’s forgiveness, confessing Jesus as Lord, and praying for healing and restoration in their family. There were tears of joy as everyone in the room realized that God was giving them all a fresh start. Mike called me twice this past week to let me know that he went to church on Sunday and sister with him. He is excited to see his whole family–one by one–coming to Christ!
There are a thousand “Mikes” out there whose stories only differ in the details. With God’s help, we can reach them one by one.