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The 700 Club

Homeless, Shunned, and Barely Alive

Tim Smith - 700 Club Producer

“When you get down to 90 pounds and a shoestring around your waist for a belt, when people lock their doors when they see you, when you’ve given up, there’s only one thing left and that’s to die or make a new approach at living,” says Wayne. “And I was just tired, man. I was just tired.”

Wayne’s story begins over 50 years ago, in his home on the south side of Chicago, where he was physically and verbally abused by his father.

“You were always guessing, always guessing what you would, what kind of reaction you would receive. There was always the fear, I think, permeated the air more than anything else.”

Embarrassed about the abuse, he told no one, and soon became a loner.

“I was always scared. Always shame. I was always, I think that even in the pain and in the times that I was hurting the most, I was always afraid that something would happen. Something would happen, because I knew, even at that early age, I knew that it couldn't go on like that forever. I was just always afraid that something would happen. And it did. It did.

After high school, Wayne joined the Army and served four years. For the next 16 years he worked as a trucker, and then as a security guard, but drugs and alcohol were a constant problem.

“I think the main reason I was an addict, I used so many drugs, is because I was trying to hide. I was trying to hide from not only from the things that had happened in my life, but I didn’t want to face me. I was a user and abuser of people. Everything that happened to me, I did to someone else. I was not good news. I was not good news. From military to ’96 I was a mess.”

That "mess" was about to get much worse. It was April, 1996. Wayne went to see his parents, only to find them dead in their home. Both had been brutally stabbed and beaten. Then he learned the killer was his older brother, Craig.

“It became probably the biggest challenge of my life. I’m telling you, I was totally messed up. And I was strung out on all kinds of drugs and alcohol. I was mad at my family, I was mad at my dad, I was mad at God for putting me in such a screwed up family.”

Wayne lost his job, and over the next ten years, he became emaciated, shunned by people, and barely alive.

“And ultimately it ended up with me living under a bridge in homelessness and addiction. And I had submitted my life to that.”

Wayne became a pursesnatcher to support his addictions. One time at a bus stop, he saw an older lady who was a perfect target.

“I’m looking at her and I’m looking at her purse. And she’s looking at me and she just says, ‘Young man, no matter what you do to me, I just want you to know that Jesus loves you.’ And it kind of just, like somebody threw a brick in my face, because Jesus loves me? And she said, ‘Let me show you something.’ And she pointed at a cross that was up in the sky and it was like 40 X 40 foot cross in a place called Victory Outreach and she said, ‘They can help you if you will let me take you there.’

Wayne agreed to go with her.

“I was tired of hiding. I was tired of running. I was tired of getting high. I was tired of being scared. I was tired of lying.”

At the church’s recovery home, the people treated Wayne like family. And he learned about Jesus Christ for the first time.

“What I really learned was that He was real. I saw Him in the people who accepted me at my worst, who loved me unconditionally.”

Wayne had a glimpse of what could be, but his addictions were stronger than his will to get better. Eight months later, he was back on the streets, looking for his next fix. In 2007, Wayne went to prison for larceny. Pursesnatching had finally caught up to him.

“And when I got to prison was when I really found myself alone. And I’m, you know what I mean, where I didn’t have anything else but God. I had gotten my hands on a Bible. And I was reading. And I was finding out more and more about Jesus. And I realized that I was right where God wanted me to be. And that’s when I gave my life to Jesus. I started getting a personal relationship with Jesus and I wanted more.

After serving nine months, Wayne was released from prison. That same year, he married Jaqui.

“I see changing,” says Jaqui. “God changing him to a man who is confident in who he is in God. As a man of God, and when he speaks to you, he speaks to you from his heart, looks in your eyes, and you can just see the pain, the sadness, is gone, and it’s been replaced with a peace.”

“I have forgiven my brother for the crimes, for the murder of my parents,” says Wayne. “We talk now. He calls –actually just called the other day. He calls on a regular basis. We write to him. We send him things that he needs.”

Together, Wayne and Jaqui founded “I Can Celebration Ministries”.

“Sometimes that’s what has to happen in order for God to get your attention,” says Wayne. “He’s got to get you somewhere where there’s no distractions, where there’s nothing else but you and Him. And that’s what He did for me.”

Wayne has been clean and sober since 2012. And he now has a new perspective on his struggle with anger.

“I thought I was mad at people. Even with my brother with the murders. I thought I was mad at him. And all this time I’ve just been mad at God. Because He never did things the way I thought he should. But now, I understand why God did things the way He did them – was His grace. He’s taking us through something to get us to something. But I’m going to pay attention to Jesus when He shows up in my life. I’m going to pay attention to Him, you know what I mean? And here’s the good thing: Jesus will go anywhere. And He’ll meet you wherever you are."

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