Monday night men’s group. Fourteen of us sitting on wire chairs moved from the nearby umbrella-covered glass-top outdoor tables of the local motel where we were meeting. We’ve been meeting outdoors for several weeks with no problems from mother nature. Shannon, a stout 40-yr old man about 5’8″ with thinning black hair tall was telling us about the operation just went through. He had a defibrillator installed in his chest (similar to a pacemaker) to supply an emergency jolt if his heart ever stopped. It’d be enough to keep him alive until he could receive emergency help. He’s got a history of heart problems. A couple of months ago they measured his heart’s efficiency at a meager 17%. We prayed and the next week the medical staff, to their surprise, measured it at 32%. He was telling us of the operation and how, when they wheeled him into the operating room, they put an oxygen mask over his face. Noticing that he was talking, they pulled it off to see what he was saying.
“I was just praying for you,” he explained. They left it off as he continued to pray for each member of the surgical room staff.
Well, you might think to yourself, people who are religious would probably do something like that–he was probably raised in a devout home and is used to such public displays of his faith. Well, no, he wasn’t. This is all new to him. He’s only been a Christian for a matter of a few months and is still getting used to his new life. When he starts talking about this new life of his, it’s hard for him to not break down in tears. He talks about moving to the area with no money and no job and an old friend reached out to him. He had known her years before, but they hadn’t been in touch. There emerged a dating relationship with a woman whose father is the leader of our group. He talked with Shannon about the Lord, and Shannon gave his heart to Christ. That was just a short while ago. Church and men’s groups and reading the Bible and praying is all new to him. Unable to hold a steady job due to his heart problem, one of the men in the Tuesday morning men’s group hired him to do some carpentry work around his house. They became fast friends. Shannon is quick to recite a litany of blessings that have come into his life since he moved back to the area, starting withhis newly-found faith and the blessings that occurred since then. Jesus has changed him; Just ask his 10-yr old son. They were swimming in a river a few weeks ago when his son surprised him with a request: “Would you baptize me?” Shannon didn’t know what to do. He wasn’t a minister, he wasn’t a priest, should he? He called John, our group leader. “Of course you should,” John replied. So he did, and he still chokes with emotion at the memory. The other night he explained why his son asked him. “He said he saw the change in me and wanted that for himself.” Oh–and this is interesting—his girlfriend Audra? John’s daughter? She has a job. It happens to be at Northeast Cardiology, which might have something to do with the fact that they operated on a man who had no money for any of their services.
“I can’t believe everything that’s happened to me since I moved here,” Shannon says repeatedly. The latest blessing in his life? “In a few days, I’ll no longer be on parole. My parole officer said I had been meeting all the requirements and hadn’t gotten into any trouble and showed no signs of doing so, so they were ending my paroles early. This is the first time in 23 years that I haven’t either been in jail or on parole. It’s scary. ” This time last year he was incarcerated. . . yet again. . . for dealing drugs. Yes, he was addicted, not to the drugs, but to the money. “It’s quite a rush to walk into a store with $10,000 in your pocket,” he said. That was his old life and the one that consumed most of his adult life until he moved back to Bangor, met Audra and Audra’s dad John, and more importantly, Christ. I asked Shannon if I could use his name in this post. “Of course you can,” he responded, “I want everybody to know.”
Update from Shannon (February 5, 2019)
“I’ve been praying that God would use me to help others. This past week, a couple of guys who I really look up to called me up. This one guy asked if I had time to hang out with him for a few hours. He came over and picked me up, and we talked for a while. He was having some struggles. I tell it straight. I don’t use a lot of fancy language, and I can be kind of blunt. I just shared what I had been through, and how God helped me. It must’ve helped him. When he went to leave, he gave me a real big hug. It wasn’t just an arm over the shoulder thing; it was a big hug, like he really meant it. I couldn’t get over it. I looked up to both these guys. I thought they had it made, and then they come and ask me for help. It was pretty neat. God could use what I’ve been through to help others.”