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I was born and raised in Dorchester, ON, the youngest of three children. I have two older sisters. I lived there until I was about 9 years old. Although, I was a typical village kid who enjoying playing in the river and exploring the woods, there were behind the scene factors that were at work.
My parents had relationship that eventually led to my mother leaving and taking me with her. My older sisters had already left home.
This was the start of a series of events that tore my world apart and left some scars that still exist today (although I am consciously working on them). A few weeks later my father kidnapped me back and I lived with him until age 16. As part of the divorce proceeding we had to sell our home and we moved to London, ON.
In many ways I did not have a childhood or many friends (I was the little fat kid that everyone picked on) so I was a very bitter teenager with a lot of anger. My father was also an alcoholic and would become rather aggressive when drinking so I spent as much time away from home as possible.
On August 22 1983, my father threw me out of the house and that began my time as a youth on the streets of London, ON. Describing that year could easily fill several pages, but suffice it to say that I experienced much of what that “culture” had to offer, from its drugs and easy sex, to hunger and desperation.
It was also that time where my spiritual hunger developed. Being a small town boy that was close to nature I had always had an awareness of God, even though our family never went to church. That awareness led me to look for a higher power, first by messing around with witchcraft and later seeking after God. Although, I never got involved to any real degree with the dark arts, I was curious. That same curiosity seems to be a family trait.
Much of my time was spent in video arcades and soup kitchens and it was in the former that God sought me out. The video arcade that I was spending my time at was purchased by an ex-biker, now Christian, by the name of Tom Reade. Although he had purchased the arcade as a business, he began to witness to the kids and would put out tracts and Christian books on the tables.
Within a short time I began to feel threatened by his witnessing and decided that I was going to prove that Christianity was a lie. So I gathered a bunch of tracts to research them, stole a Bible to find the errors in it and began to read. I started in that Bible in Genesis and three months later I found myself in the Book of John with a changed heart. Something in the words that I had read started to melt my heart. I had been unable to find the supposed errors in the Bible, evolution turned out to be full of holes and I realized that I needed something bigger than myself to change my life.
The first verse that spoke to me in my three months of reading became my first life verse; Psalm 27:10 – When my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will lift me up.
So on August 22 1984, one year to the day that my earthly father forsook me, I looked up at my ceiling and said a very simple prayer, “What the heck God, let’s go for it.”
The next day I informed Tom at the arcade of my decision and promptly began five years of full time street ministry. Since I had originally started my study, God has also spoken to Tom about His plans for the arcade. God made him realize that what he had was not a business, rather a ministry. Today, that ministry still exists as Ark Aid Street Mission in London, Ontario.
Within the first few months of receiving Christ, I began to attend an IAOG church in London (Faith Tabernacle) where I attended for five years. It was in that church that I was baptised, received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit at the altar one evening and began the process of inner healing that I needed.
It was in that church as well as in the Street Mission that God started to bring men into my life that would become surrogate fathers to me and teach me what it is to be a godly parent myself.
I greatly enjoyed that early time in the church and Christian service. I was able to totally immerse myself in either Christian service or receiving teaching. When I was not at the street mission, I would be at church or seminars or studying. I certainly made a lot of mistakes in those first few years, but I credit that time for my dedication to Christian service. I simply cannot imagine ever being a “Sunday only Christian.”
Call to Missions
From the time I became a Christian at age 17 I wanted to make a difference in the world and was actively seeking God’s will for my life. I remember being in youth camp at age 18 where God distinctly spoke to me about being in ministry. At the time, I discounted that calling thinking that I was imagining things and the thought of myself being in ministry was absurd. For 18 year old me, being in ministry meant being a pastor and with my personality I could not imagine that ever happening.
Still I continued looking for God’s will in my life, taking Bible College courses, etc. Then one day my sister came to me with a business opportunity in Mexico. I have been buying and selling things since I was in grade school and the line of beauty products that she encountered looked promising.
That business venture died with when our financer passed away, but in the meantime I had made several trips to Mexico and began to have an interest in Latino culture. I felt that God was speaking to me about doing a short term missions trip in Latin America so I began to study Spanish. While I had no thought of anything other than doing a three month short term trip, I did not wish to go to another country and not be able to communicate.
When God finally gave me the green light for that trip, I spent a lot of time praying about where to go. I had obtained a list of all the YWAM bases in Central and South America and I was thinking about going to Chile because I have friends there. However, every time that I looked at that list, Bogota seemed to pop out of the page at me. I had a long “discussion” with God on that one, but I finally gave in. I started calling the bases in Bogota and when I spoke to one base director I knew that I had the right place. The first thing that he said to me was, “Well brother, you realize that you might have to mops floors and stuff don’t you?” It was the exact same thing that we used to say to potential volunteers at the street mission.
In 1995 I made my first trip to Colombia; serving for three months in construction, working with outreach teams and generally helping where I could. At the end of my term, I felt that God was telling me to return the following summer. I was driving taxi and the summer months were very slow, so I thought that this would not be too great a sacrifice and would contribute to my growth. Silly me, I did not realize where God was taking me. I was still looking to start a business and support missions, not be a missionary myself.
However, over the course of the next summer, God made it very obvious to me that I was to return to Colombia full time. So I returned to Canada, began to pay off my debts, sold everything I owned and prepared to take the required YWAM training school. Each step of the way God reinforced the calling that He gave me. I remember one day in Texas, while I was doing my training school, we had a teacher named Wick Nease. He spoke about his experience when he visited Colombia and how he worked with street children. For me it was something that I knew about first hand (having been on street teams in Bogota) and not really anything new, but I suddenly felt myself overwhelmed my emotion. I am not one to cry easily, nor do I tend to be emotional, but that day I had to leave the classroom in tears and I spent the rest of the afternoon crying. God just confirming once again His direction.