By Pastor Doug
I grew up just outside of Detroit, Michigan in a typical middle class working family and was the second oldest of five children. My parents were hard working, loving providers who encouraged us to follow our dreams. They were good moral people. My mom professed to be Catholic and tried to bring us up that way, but there was never any real commitment. My dad went to church on Christmas and Easter and my mom, a little more than that. However, my mom got saved about 1967 in a Catholic, Charismatic movement in Detroit and began praying for the rest of the family.
I started high school in 1965 and had already been experimenting with alcohol, marijuana and LSD. By the time my mother got saved I had left home, wanting to live my life on my terms with no restrictions. I lived in a boarding house a block away from the high school and worked a midnight shift at a seat belt plant. I ended up dropping out of high school in my last year. I got deeper into the drug scene and eventually became addicted to heroin and all that comes with that life style; stealing, cheating, lying, coning people, living where ever and how ever … it was all about me!
In the early 70’s I traveled the country a bit, mostly by hitchhiking, which would give me a brief respite from the heroin, although you could find it most anywhere by now. I built a hut on McKenna beach on the Hawaiian Island of Maui in December of 1969 and lived there for about two months with other hippies from all over the world. There were plenty of mind expanding drugs and marijuana. After a while, I got a job chopping down Keavi trees for a contractor who was clearing space for some kind of commercial development. When I made enough money for airfare to get to the mainland (California) I left Hawaii.
I was taught to juggle in the streets of San Francisco by A. Whitney Brown who went on to write for Saturday Night Live and performed on the Johnny Carson Show. I lived in a commune in Yuma Arizona; fed cattle in Texas; hustled pool and other things in New Orleans, LA and Gulfport Mississippi; lived with topless dancers in Jacksonville FL., and picked Avacados in Homestead FL., etc. I also spent a month or two in jails periodically, mostly for vagrancy or trespassing.
Around 1971 – 72 I spent about three months in Dade county Jail, a very rough place. It was a 900 man jail with about 1,500 prisoners. While I was there one guard was taken hostage and one inmate was murdered.
Back in Michigan in 1975 I was sent to Jackson Penitentiary for 3 to 20 years for delivery of heroin. Meanwhile, my dad got saved and he and my mother had joined a Pentecostal church. They continued to pray for myself and my brothers and sisters.
When I got out of prison in 1977, I met a woman named Roxanne, and we eventually moved in together. We both continued to use heroin and to live that life style. By Christmas of 1986 we had been together for nearly ten years and now had a 19 month old son. At that time, I had been using the needle for so long that many of my veins had collapsed. I had to use an extended length needle and go deep into my neck or in my groin to find a vein. I could never hold a job for any length of time because my habit came first and sometimes a job could get in the way of that. So, I hustled, sold dope, did B & E’s, (breaking and entering) and lived on welfare.
I WAS DEVASTATED
Three days after Christmas we had to take our son, Steven, to the hospital because of an asthma problem. Roxanne and I had scored some dope earlier that day. I had already done mine, so, as I sat with Steven in his hospital room Roxanne went to find a bathroom where she could shoot up.
She never came back. After a couple hours, hospital personnel came into the room and asked me to take a walk with them. They wanted to know if I could identify someone, and escorted me to the basement. It was Roxanne, and she was in the morgue, dead of a heroin overdose. I was devastated.
After I buried Roxanne in the first few days of January, 1987, I signed over guardianship of my son, Steven, to my sister Sue and her husband Bob. They had three children of their own and were solid loving parents who were very active in their church. I thought they were the kind of people that give “Christianity” a good name.
Then, I entered Detroit Teen Challenge, a one year, live in, faith based drug re-hab. I genuinely met the Lord during the year I was there, but I was so full of guilt over Roxanne’s death, the death of two other partners I carried to the hospital, and that whole lifestyle of hurting others, that I could not forgive myself. After finishing Detroit Teen Challenge, I caught the first Grand River Avenue bus heading into downtown Detroit and tried to hide from God for the next three years.
In Matthew, 12:43 thru 45, Jesus says, “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ’I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.”
I had met the Lord of all creation but had not fully allowed him to fill my emptiness, and true to God’s Word, things got much worse.
For the next three years I lived in the infamous downtown section of Detroit, near Wayne State University, known as the Cass Corridor. It was a place filled with the homeless, soup kitchens, flop houses, little broken down hotels, crime, violence, drug addicts, prostitutes and deep, deep poverty. It was also a place where many went to fall off the face of the earth. I was, in a sense, waiting to die as I slept in doorways and abandoned buildings, moving with the daily migration of street people from soup kitchen to soup kitchen.
Now I was panhandling and operating simple cons that would land me in jail from time to time for three or four days. Some of those jail stays were at the 13th precinct at the corner of Woodward and Hancock. There was a police officer there who I did not actually meet until many years later after God directed me to open the Hope Lighthouse Mission in Muskegon Heights, Michigan. He became a friend to me when he became the police chief of Muskegon Heights, and even helped me with our prayer walks throughout the city in the late 90’s.
My main hustle during the three years in the Cass Corridor was selling flowers on the street corners and in the bars, beauty salons and lawyer’s offices around Detroit, but I did whatever was necessary to feed my drug habit. I would dig through dumpsters behind all the flower shops around the downtown area and usually find enough pieces to put together a dozen good looking bouquets to make my rounds with.
Without going into more detail, about those three years in the “Cass Corridor” … I’ll just tell you that my dad, who would come into the Corridor looking for me from time to time, showed up one day. He said, “It’s time to go, let me take you somewhere.”
I WAS AT THE END OF MY ROPE, SKINNY, DIRTY, ADDICTED AND LOST
I was at the end of my rope, skinny, dirty, addicted and lost. I told him I did not care where he took me; just do something with me. He took me to Western Michigan Teen Challenge in Muskegon, Michigan. I entered the doors there on May 9th, 1991 and immediately felt the presence of God.
I was a student for two months when they asked me to come on staff. During the four years I worked there I became the men’s supervisor and completed the Berean Bible Courses to become a licensed minister. I married my wife, Sui, on April 1st, (her ideal) 1995 and in April of 1996 we opened Hope Lighthouse Ministries as a vehicle to minister to the poor, the needy, and the addicted. Although most of our work is done throughout the week; we do have Sunday services.
Many who attend are transitional, i.e. — they come and go, but many have become core members of this ministry. About 30% of our budget comes from offerings within, while 70% comes through my speaking engagements, a newsletter we put out, area businesses, and mission’s type offerings from other churches.
Now, after many years of building rapport, reputation and a solid ministry foundation, God continues to reveal His plans for us . . . to expand into a city wide Ministry Center meeting practical needs and pointing people to Jesus; “Making Jesus the light of hope in our community and beyond.”
As of this writing in 2009:
– Our food and clothes pantries in Muskegon Heights serve over 500 families a month.
– Our loading docks at our Muskegon location receive semi trucks of food twice a month to provide food for over two dozen other area food pantries, feeding many thousands more.
– Since 2001 about 100 men, coming out of prison, off the streets, and fighting with addictions, have gone through our live-in discipleship program. (We have purchased 3 houses in the neighborhood that we fixed up and turned into discipleship homes).
· – We have provided backpacks with school supplies to hundreds of kids each August for nine years now.
· – We minister to hundreds of poverty level, inner-city neighborhoods on a regular basis.
· – We house “Toys For Tots” in our Muskegon building and work with them and other ministries and agencies to supply thousands of brand new toys throughout our community every Christmas.
– We started a Christian school in 2007 with 12 students and this year (2009) we are starting with 16 students.
· – International Aid, a Christian relief agency in our area that has been operating a special store for missionaries for 28 years, decided to close their store in May of 2008. They called us and asked if we would like to take on the store for the many visiting missionaries who have been coming to our area for years. So, we opened the store under our roof and have been serving missionaries since June of 2008.
God took a homeless, strung-out kid from Detroit and totally changed his life and direction. I am eternally grateful to Him to be used in any capacity for His glory.