I can dream again
By Jimmy Jack
Jimmy Jack grew up the youngest of nine children in a
household devastated by drug abuse and violence. The world labeled him an
outcast, but God had a better plan for his life. After several life-threatening
experiences, Jimmy and his wife, Miriam, entered Brooklyn Teen Challenge and
graduated in 1985. They completed ministerial degrees at Central Bible College
in 1989 and established a Teen Challenge coffee house outreach (Freedom
Outreach) in Long Island, N.Y., to reach others whose
lives have been ravaged by drugs and alcohol. From this outreach Long Island
Teen Challenge was established. Today, the ministry includes seven residential
homes for men, women and families. In 1994 Jimmy and Miriam, with their pioneer
team of Teen Challenge graduates, expanded the coffee house outreach and
founded Freedom Chapel, a church birthed out of compassion for the hurting. The
following excerpt is taken from Jimmy Jack’s recently published autobiography.
One Tuesday night, I needed $200 and asked my sister Dianne
for a loan.
“Jimmy,” she said, “this is church night and I’ll make a
bargain with you. I’ll give you the money if you’ll come to church with me.”
I did my best to get her to change the terms, but she stood
After church that night, Billy Laan and I went to the Lower
East Side of New York to cop four bags of heroin. That was all we could afford.
Billy was my best friend, but even more, he was like my twin brother. We parked
near Norfolk and Houston Streets. I snorted one of the bags, and then we cooked
the other three bags so Billy could inject the dope into his vein.
I helped Billy tie off his upper arm with a belt, and he
frantically searched for a good vein. I held his bicep to get a vein. He
finally penetrated a usable vein and then shot the three bags of heroin into
Within seconds the very thing I always feared came upon us.
Billy looked at me in panic and utter shock as he said, “Jimm-- … !” He fell out of the van before he finished getting my
name out. I realized he had overdosed. The bags we bought must have been uncut,
Billy was on the street turning blue; he wasn’t breathing.
We were in Lower Manhattan with no help, and I thought my
friend was dead. I sobbed hysterically and began to cry out to God, “Please
don’t let Billy die.”
I looked at Billy’s lifeless body one more time when, out of
nowhere, a paramedics van pulled up. I still have no idea where they came from,
but the older of the paramedics asked me coldly, “What’s going on here?”
Their question was short, and my answer was even shorter as
I screamed, “Heroin overdose!”
I lifted Billy’s limp, lifeless body into the van with all
the strength I had. The paramedics began to run fluids into Billy’s body and
pumped oxygen into him. After a short time they shook their heads like he was
gone and there was nothing else they could do. I stood by the side of the van
and got serious with God.
I will never forget that moment as I screamed and prayed. I
remembered the God of my mother, the God of my sister — Jesus Christ.
“God, please! Don’t let him die!” I cried. After I prayed I
began to bargain with God. I promised Him I would do anything He wanted me to.
I would stop smoking. I would never drink again. I promised I would never do
drugs again or steal again. I made so many promises and I was completely
sincere — because I was desperate. “I’ll become whatever You want me to be, God. Just don’t let Billy die!”
I turned my head and looked inside the van, and Billy’s blue
eyes opened — at first blankly, and then he looked at me. Resurrection
power came into his body, and he jumped up. He pulled the needles out of his
arm, then jumped off the stretcher and out of the
Suddenly, I heard the voice of God in my spirit say, I
showed you. God brought me right back to the church service earlier that
evening. When Pastor Joe Cedzich prayed for me, I had asked God, “If You are
real, please show me.” And show me He did.
As I drove home, I was trembling because of all of the
promises I had made to God. I could hear my own words, “If you bring Billy back
to life … ” God had done what He had promised; now could I keep my promises? I
knew deep inside that I could not honor all the promises I had made to Him. I
felt like I had hustled God big time.
After that night, my life went lower and lower. One night at
midnight, I was on an intense drug run and ended up in the projects at my
friend Barry Baugh’s apartment. Barry was introducing all of us to smoking
freebase cocaine. I parked my unlocked van in front of the apartment complex
with the keys in it.
Everyone in the ’hood knew me, and I never thought anyone
would steal my van. I was a makeshift carpenter at the time, and all of my tools
were in the van along with my wallet and license. It was not much, but it was
basically everything I owned.
After smoking some cocaine with Barry, I went outside to
roam the streets. To my amazement, the van was gone. I found a screwdriver on
the ground and stuck it in my pocket in case I found the thieves who stole my
van. I called a friend who was an on-duty cop. He picked me up in the squad
car, and we drove around looking for the van but could not find it. So I told
him to drop me off at a bus stop so I could go to Dianne’s place where my
girlfriend Miriam Navarro and I were staying.
The bus dropped me off about 10 blocks from Dianne’s house,
and I had to walk the rest of the way.
I saw the Brown Derby, a gun-slinging,
knife-throwing bar that I would never go to in my right mind. But that night I
was out of my mind.
I clearly remember guzzling the vodka down, frustrated
because I felt my life was over. Darkness surrounded me, and I knew something
desperate was going to happen.
Through the cigarette smoke and blaring music, I glanced
down at the end of the bar and saw this crazy dude looking at me. I started to
go after him with the screwdriver. In the providence of God, at that same
moment, Georgie Delgado, an addict hustling on the streets, walked by the bar
and saw me through the window.
Ironically, just two weeks earlier, Georgie had stayed at
Teen Challenge. It was only for a few days, but long enough to learn that our
only hope was Jesus. In a split second Georgie saw my predicament. He stormed
in and jumped in front of me.
“Jimmy, stop!” he commanded. “Don’t do anything. There is Someone who can help you.”
“Who, Georgie? Who can help me?” I asked, looking at him
“Jesus and Teen Challenge. They can help you, Jimmy,” he
When Georgie spoke those words, I threw the screwdriver to
the floor. My heart opened, I looked down at my hands, threw them up in the air
as a sign of surrender, and started to cry. I felt like my hardened heart
melted out of my eyes.
I said, “Georgie, call Dianne. She’ll know what to do with
Dianne and Miriam brought me to Brooklyn Teen Challenge at 1
a.m. At first, I was anything but a willing candidate. But the guys who had
been in the Teen Challenge choir at my sister’s church were there. Some
comforted me and others prayed for me. Finally, I slipped into a restless sleep
as Dianne and Miriam left.
At 4 a.m., I awoke and did not know where I was. I suddenly
felt trapped and heard something telling me, “Run. Get out! Get out!” I ran out
of the house and immediately started hustling money for beer and drugs.
I am so grateful that God’s power overcame the power of hell
again as God drew me back to Brooklyn Teen Challenge.
There are two very spiritual places people pray — in a
church sanctuary and in the back of a police car. I remember my own prayers
when I got busted. But the prayer I prayed that next morning in the chapel was
I wanted to live. I wanted God to truly forgive me. I
desperately wanted to change, and I did not want to be dirty anymore. I wanted
to be free, and I wanted God to save me.
When I got up from that place of prayer, I felt like my
sins, bondage and all my vices stayed in that chair. I was free. I knew
instantly that I was a new creation. I was forgiven. All the men stood in a
circle holding hands and praying. I was filthy, stinking like a gin mill and
wearing grimy, ripped-up pants and clothes, but for the first time in my life I
realized I was clean — really clean.
I committed my heart, soul and life to the lordship of Jesus
Christ that day. On November 4, 1984, God restored the dream, and the miracles
From I Can Dream Again: The Jimmy Jack Story by Jimmy Jack
(Jimmy Jack Ministries and Freedom Publishing, 2007).
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