Saved by a Stranger: Rick Jackson's Story
ATLANTA- - Rick Jackson, an entrepreneur who started healthcare staffing company Jackson Healthcare, knows the business world and the success that can come with it.
"God has really blessed me with material success," Jackson told CBN News. "I have been very fortunate."
Jackson Healthcare serves more than 5 million patients across 1,300 facilities. It's a big difference from the way his life was growing up.
"It was very chaotic, dysfunctional," Jackson said. "My mother was an alcoholic. My dad left me when I was 9 months old, and we had seven stepfathers."
CBN News met up with Jackson at the historic Fox Theater in Atlanta, a place that holds painful memories from Jackson's childhood.
"I was between 9 [and] 11 years old. My mother would drop me off here on Saturday around 12 o'clock to see a double feature by myself and then come back, most times and pick me up 10 o'clock at night, kind of dump me off, I guess," she shared.
When he was 13 years old, Jackson ran away from home and spent six years in the foster care system. He was once placed in a Christian home, where he said he experienced the love and care he always wanted in a family.
"I saw a family hold hands and pray -- the vision of this back then, we'd call it 'Leave it to Beaver,' 'Father Knows Best' kind of things that weren't real, the perfect family, but it seemed like that to me and it just gave me a picture of how a functional Christian family works," he said.
But after about a year with that family, Jackson ran away again.
"Basically, I ran away and a lot of it was because I couldn't take the fact that somebody would love me like they did," he commented.
Jackson ended up at United Methodist Children's Home in Decatur, where he recalled spending one holiday alone.
"During Christmas most of them went home to stay with some family member or something like that. Well I didn't, so I was there... and I'm here by myself, very sad and then I cried myself to sleep," he shared.
Mail of a Lifetime
The next morning, Jackson found an envelope that had been slipped under his dormitory door. It was a gift that changed his life.
"I had this envelope from an anonymous donor," he explained. "I opened it and there's $100 bill in there and I was like, 'Wow... why would anybody who doesn't even know me -- $100 in 1968 is a lot of money."
Life after that experience took a different turn for Jackson. He was eventually reunited with his Christian foster family, attended college, and at 21 began his first business.
He credits that turnaround to a faith that was born during the most difficult time of his life. "I relied heavily on God and that was a personal thing," he said.
"It was out of the pain I was experiencing as a child, there was nowhere else to look to, so I felt a lot of comfort in having that relationship," he added.
That Christmas envelope put Jackson on a spiritual journey to spread goodness.
One example is Faith Bridge Foster Care, a non-profit he started that brings local churches and the Department of Child Services together to help kids in the foster care system.
"We believe that the Church should own this problem," Jackson said. "In James 1:27 it talks about the widows and orphans. We have 160 children in Christian homes."
Today, Jackson often shares his story of hope with others in situations similar to his childhood past.
"I know they wonder how come they're in the situation," Jackson said. "How come their mother or their father doesn't love 'em, or doesn't show, or is dysfunctional, or why can't they get their act together, why can't they quit drinking?"
"And what that does to a child is says, 'I'm unloved, unwanted,' and I think the main message is that God does love you and that your earthly parents may let you down, but your heavenly Father won't and so you can't change your circumstances sometimes, what you're in, but you can get through it if you're looking toward God."
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Jackson said giving and helping others are now his life's purpose.
"I think there's a lot of lives, whether it's Job, Moses or whomever, a lot of history in the Bible that through pain, you learn what your purpose is and to me, through the pain of going through dysfunctional family, foster care and so forth helped me identify," he explained. "That my purpose, the reason I was put here on earth, was to transform the way kids are in foster care and to transform the foster care system and to focus on solving that problem."
"I think that's why I was put here," he said.