Monday’s Life Change: Jim’s story

I’m excited to introduce you today to my friend, Jim Hendren. He’s a compassionate man who serves like no one I’ve ever seen before! He’s often found leading “Celebrate Recovery” at our church for anyone with any type of hurts, habits or hang-ups. You might also find him feeding the homeless, because he understands what that’s like; he was homeless. Here is Jim’s story:

Jim grew up in a Christian home, but he didn’t have a relationship with Jesus. He felt his dad was often hard on him and left him feeling like he never measured up. Jim’s best friend and the person he spent the most time with was a guy named Jeff, who was a couple of years older than him. At home, Jeff was his friend, which helped Jim’s low self-esteem and filled some of the void left by his dad, but at school, he bullied him relentlessly. Jeff introduced him to pornography at the ripe age of 10, which largely shaped how Jim viewed women. During his teen years, Jim focused on cars, sports, and girls.

After quitting college, Jim became a salesman for Sara Lee. He became “Salesman of the Year” after only his second year on the job. He became a workaholic and loved the thrill of success.  He bought a BMW and a large home, but was very lonely. His accountant joked that he needed another tax write-off, so he got married. It didn’t go well and she left after just three years.

Jim started to party, drink and smoke pot, but only on the weekends. He took his work very seriously and continued to be very successful. He was the #1 salesman in his office, 4th in the U.S. and later, earned three more “Salesman of the Year” awards.

Jim married again after meeting his next wife at a “Coke” party. They had all the “wrong friends and influences” Jim says. He was smoking 4 packs of cigarettes a day, drinking a 12 pack of beer each night, had a $1,000 per week drug habit and gambled. Two different times, Jim forced his wife to have an abortion. He still had “wounds” over the rejection he felt with his own dad and since he was successful, why would he want to bring a baby in to change things?

“It never even crossed my mind that this was a human life. It was just a problem that I had to get rid of.”

His wife became pregnant again, only this time she had the baby. Sadly, Jim had been cheating on her and didn’t even show up for his son’s birth. Drugs were becoming an increasingly important part of Jim’s life. He was even buying and selling them with his two year-old son in the car. He was never home, hiding out in bars and partying all the time, so his wife wouldn’t find him. His wife got sick of it, took his son and left him. Jim didn’t care about anything, but the drugs. He lost the job he had been so successful at and within a year, owed thousands of dollars to everyone, including $700 to Dominos Pizza! Drug dealers would scale the windows of his home in a prestigious neighborhood to get paid. Warrants hung on the front door. Jim was hiding from everyone.

He eventually lost his home and cars and owed $40,000 to the IRS. He was homeless, with no one to turn to. He was alone again.

Over an 11 year period Jim went to 4 Rehab facilities. He never once heard about Jesus. He would introduce himself, “Hi my name is Jim and I’m a drug addict and an alcoholic.” He came to a point one day where he realized that he didn’t want to have to introduce himself that way anymore. He was beginning to desire real change.

Jim says trying to get “clean” made Matthew 12:43-45 ring true:

43 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

Jim felt hopeless. He was homeless, sleeping on the back porches of friend’s houses and stealing money from them when they left the house. They didn’t even know he had been there. He owed everyone money.

He ran into Earl, an old co-worker and “drinking buddy” of his. When Earl asked him how he was, obviously aware that something was very wrong, Jim responded, “Not very well. Maybe you can take me out for a drink and I’ll tell you about it.” Earl’s response shocked Jim. “I can’t do that. I don’t do that anymore.” But Earl did take Jim to dinner and then brought him back home to stay with he and his wife for a few days. Earl shared that Jesus had changed his life. One Sunday, Jim walked through the doors of Earl’s church, after repeated invitations to come. “The pastor shared that God sent his own son Jesus to save my miserable life, because God loved me!” Jim went down to the front of that church and asked Jesus to be his Savior.

Earl spent a lot of time with Jim, discipling him and teaching him what it looks like to be a godly man. He told him that he needed to get “clean” and now, Jim was ready. Within 3 months, he was clean and sober. This time, he really wanted it. He got a job as a grocery store bagger, much like his first job as a teen-ager, only now he was almost 40 years old. He attended a “Celebrate Recovery” group. There “I learned that my self-worth should be based on what God thinks of me and that my purpose was to serve Him.”

Earl told Jim that he needed to go back to everyone he had hurt and make amends. The list was long, but his ex-wife and her family were high on that list. Jim walked into a Christmas party the family was having and shared what God had done in his life and asked forgiveness. What followed were many hugs. They chose to forgive Jim of the hurt he had caused them.

Earl told Jim that he would need to pay off his debts and not run anymore. Jim did just that. He was tired of running. He set up a payment plan with the IRS and credit card companies and even paid back the drug dealers…though he called them first to make sure they knew why he was coming.

Jim has worked hard to have a relationship with his son and ex-wife now and is an active part of his son’s life. His son hears his testimony regularly and understands that the dad who walks beside him is there only because of the redemptive power of God.

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God has richly blessed Jim with his wife, Kathleen. She is a beautiful, servant-hearted woman of God, who passionately loves others along side him. She is such a compliment to him and together, they lead Celebrate Recovery at our church. They continue to offer hope to anyone God brings their way, because they understand the forgiveness they were so freely given.

God is in the business of life-change, friends. To him be glory, both now and forever!

About shannalehr

My name is Shanna Lehr. I'm blessed to be the wife of Scott Lehr and mother to Ella, Ava, Janie and Gracie Belle. I love to cook, travel, run, and spend time with my family. My life has been changed by Jesus and I love to share him with others. Stop back often and join the conversation by leaving a comment. I love to hear from you! You can connect with me on Twitter: @ShannaLehr
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8 Responses to Monday’s Life Change: Jim’s story

  1. Debby West says:

    Wonderful story. Jim and his wife are at Southbridge?

  2. Dave Lenhart says:

    Great to hear God’s amazing grace story as witnessed in Jim’s life.

  3. Andy Rivard says:

    What a powerful story of God’s love for Jim and how he helped Jim through his trials. God’s grace is truely amazing.

    • shannalehr says:

      Hi Andy! Great to hear from you! Yes, God’s grace really is amazing. I love stories of life-change and getting to see Jim’s life in action is such great proof of the work God does!!

  4. Cathy Echols says:

    I have heard Jim tell his story , and especially moving when he speaks to the homeless. I really had not heard all the details until now. Jim is an example of God’s love, mercy, and grace. Thank you for sharing his story. I know it will make a difference in someone’s life.

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