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This is Part II of an article about Patrick.
To read Part I, click here.
As Patrick’s story continued to unfold, my heart ached with pain, though it was not my own.
How can someone go through so much agony and suffering, yet still be able to smile, regardless of the time that’s passed?! Hell is not otherworldly. It’s endured by countless lives every day. Patrick has lived it, and he’s come through the fire far stronger as a result.
“I think it was St. Augustine who said, ‘God will allow evil in so much as it can be turned into good,’” Patrick told me recently.
I struggle with that quote. I struggle with the abhorrent realities people are forced to bear. But one thing I do know, the grace that God extends to them is beyond measure, even if they’re unaware.
When Jesus is hanging on the cross, some of his last words provided forgiveness and grace to the oblivious. Marinate on that one.
But Patrick…Patrick has experienced it. He’s far from oblivious.
“I’m the opposite of Job. I went through hell to gain my faith, and there’s nothing that can take it away.”
From the Streets to the Hallways
Following his harrowing encounter in the warehouse, Patrick spent nearly six more years on the streets, hustling and surviving. But by the age of 18, he’d had enough and decided to go live with his mom, who was now separated from his father and living sober.
Soon after, he enrolled in high school as a freshman and graduated at 25.
About this time, he felt compelled to start educating others about life for the marginalized, but he also knew if he wanted to have a greater impact, he’d have to play the game of life.
“I went in to apply at the university, and they asked me, ‘Why do you want to study here?’ So I was honest with them. I said, ‘Cuz I need this stupid piece of paper to get a real job doing what I’m already doing.’”
He was accepted, and after a few years, he earned his degree in the community worker program. He went back to his advocacy work with diploma in hand.
God was with him and using him, but that Truth wasn’t yet real to Patrick.
“I was raised in a Catholic family, but my grandma used to take me to a Baptist church,” he recalled.
“When I used to work on the streets, I’d sing Amazing Grace to myself as I waited on customers,” he remembers, tearing up with the bittersweet memory. “And when I got stabbed, I remember standing outside the hospital, holding my guts in and praying, ‘God, what do you want with me?! Why don’t you just take me now?’
“It took me years to get my answer,” and Sanctuary played a pivotal role.
“I always thought leaders in ministry are holy and didn’t do anything wrong. But Greg [Paul, Sanctuary’s pastor] was the first person ever to tell me that it’s okay to be broken and still know God.”
Patrick’s heart was beginning to soften. And in 1999, at a Christmas Arts Extravaganza at Sanctuary, his ears were finally opened to the divine Whisper that had been calling him for years.
“I left Sanctuary, went to my sacred spot in Boys Town, and I cried for eight hours. And after the last tear fell, I heard God say, ‘Now you’re mine!’
“And that was it!”
My spine is tingling after writing those words. And I’m trying to see the computer screen through misty eyes. Oh, the power of grace and love!
For nearly 25 years now, Patrick’s been working with the marginalized of society, and nowadays, he’s running his own organization, Bridges for Youth 2, a “social justice education” program. He guides ‘street walks’ not only to teenagers but also to church groups, teachers and even police trainees.
Since his conversion in ‘99, he’s been incorporating God into those walks, but he can also look back and see God in his own life story as well.
“I was born two-and-a-half months premature and should have died. When I got older [and started taking pills], I’d have doctors and nurses tell me, ‘Stop, you’re going to die.’ When I was on the streets, I’d have police and judges tell me, ‘Stop, you’re going to die.’
“But even after all I’ve been through, you know what? I didn’t die. I look back and see all the things God has brought me through and I see all these steps and little signs, and I can point to them and say,
“That’s God, that’s God, that’s God…”
I love those moments of life, however infrequent they may be. Those hindsight confirmations of God’s presence are sustenance to my soul. And I move forward with a strengthened faith.
Patrick is my favorite kind of person. He’s honest, witty, open and wise. But he’s broken too, and his journey isn’t over. He’s the first to admit the struggle continues. But what a refreshing change that is!
There’s no need to pretend with him. There’s no need to sugarcoat and cover up, doing all I can to put my best foot forward. I can be me…good, bad and ugly. Anything I tell him will be met with grace (and occasional admonishment). But I know he’ll love me anyway, regardless of my own failings.
Read back through that previous paragraph. After typing it, I just read it again and was struck by the description, for it mirrors my relationship with Christ…
I’ve been out walking around Toronto with Patrick a few times now, and it seems like everywhere we go, we’re getting stopped by “friends from the street.” They gravitate to him, and seek his attention. They clearly love him, and he’s not opposed.
“There’s something special about being embraced and loved by a whole bunch of messy people.”
And he loves them too, giving them a taste of Christ’s grace, whether they know it or not.
- Ponder those Jesus hung out with most. Religious leaders labeled him a drunkard and a glutton, a friend of tax collectors and prostitutes. Yet that was his crowd. Who’s your crowd? Any need to diversify?
- If you have a group of people you think could benefit from Patrick’s ‘street walks,’ (generally requires two days here in Toronto), feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 416-732-4987. He offers them to anyone of a mature age. Eyes will be opened and perspectives expanded, I promise you.
- Pick up a copy of God in the Alley, by Greg Paul. It provides great insights and more importantly, a compelling call to action for those who claim Christ.
- Pray for Patrick’s ministry, and for Sanctuary as well. Every day provides new opportunities and challenges. Pray for guidance, wisdom, patience and strength.
About the Author: Stephen Crane is a year-long fellow with World Next Door. He has a bachelor's degree in theology from Calvin College and a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University. He has a passion for overlooked places and people and would snowboard at all times if it were possible!