In 1982, God gave Wendell Wilson a vision to minister to troubled young men. Two years later, he and his wife, Nancy, opened their first facility in Bradenton, Florida. Since then, Loving Hands Ministries, a two-year residential discipleship training program, has expanded nationally and internationally—giving hope and God’s way out of sin to thousands. As their motto says: Where God’s Love in Action “Saves Our Sons.”
God is in the business of redemption, and the testimonies of those who came to speak that Sunday at my church, Hope International Ministries (HIM) in Bradenton, were from four men who knew that they were there not only to share their stories, but also their gratitude for the love, mercy and grace of God, their Heavenly Father, the salvation they had received through Jesus Christ and the power to change they had been granted by the presence of the Holy Spirit in them.
G. was a drug-dealing gang member in Miami facing a 55-year prison sentence when he arrived at Loving Hands in 2012. He was caught completely off guard in his initial interview. He said, “Pastor Wendell put his arms around me and held me in silence. I was a tough guy. I hadn’t cried in years, but I sobbed that day.” As G. progressed in his training the hardness in his heart began to melt, and God slowly, but surely, made him His own. Today, he is a dynamic speaker and Program Director at the Palmetto, Florida location of Loving Hands Ministries.
J. grew up in the church, but rebelled as a young teen and got involved in drugs. Miraculously, he found his way to Loving Hands. However, he only stayed a few months, then left only to get into more trouble. So, he went back to the program—even though he had to start all over again. This time, he began to take his training seriously, and God has rewarded him with steady progress. Barely out of his teens, J.’s heart is steadfast on the Lord!
N. told of a chaotic life growing up with alcoholic parents who died of their addiction. With no real role model, he drank and drifted, alienating himself from his remaining family members. As he has continued in the Loving Hands program, his relationships with family members are being restored. Today, N. loves the Lord—the One who has given him faith, hope and love.
J.B. was in hot pursuit of a music career—playing in a band for many years, but along the way he got into drugs. After the band split up, he was thrown into a depression, and although he had married a wonderful woman, he was doing everything to wreck the marriage. Fortunately, she had staying power—believing that God could and would transform her husband. Today, God has done just that. J.B.’s testimony was often funny as he shared his gratitude for the many ways God has restored his life and marriage.
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Hearing from Others
In many churches I’ve attended the hymns, scriptures and messages have changed from week to week, but the same preacher has preached every service. Only occasionally has someone else spoken to the congregation. Not so at “HIM.” At our church we have guest speakers on a regular basis who share the amazing ways that God has transformed their lives—giving us encouragement to “forget the past and press on toward God’s calling.” (Philippians 3:14 – Paraphased.)
I was inspired by the remarkable testimonies of these fine men from Loving Hands Ministries. Even though each (for a time) had checked themselves out of the good life God wanted to give them, when they submitted their lives to Jesus, and asked Him to guide them, He has been faithful to walk with them—changing their hearts and restoring their lives.
As the service ended, Pastor Ron challenged each of us (in the congregation) to consider how we may be sabotaging the goodness God has for us in our own lives, and to be willing (as these men have been) to seek God and let Him change and restore us.
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Here is an excerpt from the Loving Hands Ministries brochure:
“Drugs, alcohol, pornography, rebellion and all other evil addictions are only symptoms. The root cause is sin, which lives in the heart of all mankind. When the cause is dealt with, the symptoms begin to vanish! The only cure for sin and, therefore, its symptoms, is Jesus Christ. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (John 14:6) … As a person submits to God’s will, and walks in harmony with Him, he will become a changed man with the ability to become a valuable asset to the Kingdom of God, and a productive member of society.”
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.”
1 Peter 4:8
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Thank you, Lord, for Your wonder-working power to transform us. We give You all the glory, honor and praise. Amen!