Bread for the Journey by: Adrian (Ed) Vandenberg

Posted by on Mar 30, 2012 | Comments Off on Bread for the Journey by: Adrian (Ed) Vandenberg

Bread for the Journey  by: Adrian (Ed) Vandenberg

We will miss Jim. Also known as James Anderson, Jim had become a special part of our “family” and community.  He had a brutal past, and lived for most of his life on the edge of society.  He was haunted by the demons of addiction and abuse.  But he had become a special friend to those who knew him.  Among Jim’s qualities were his honesty, his quirky sense of humour, his love of animals, and his loyalty to the people on his “circle.”  He was a hard worker and would give his full strength any work that needed to be done.  Jim regularly help set up for our Toronto Dismas gatherings.  And he could be depended upon to help in many other ways.

I was therefore shocked to learn early Wednesday morning, June 17, 2009, that our dear friend’s body was found on the property of a furniture factory where he had been doing landscaping and yard maintenance.  He had been murdered. This day turned out to be an incredible roller-coaster-type of day, that led to some other unexpected events.  I will not go into the details, just that some of us who knew Jim well were also instrumental in talking the fellow, now wanted for killing him, to turn himself over to the police.  I want to tell you more about Jim and the days leading to his tragic death. 

I want to say more because there were some key signs that Jim didn’t pass away alone.  When Jim met me at my office a week earlier, I knew he was not well.  He had what appeared to be symptoms of blood poisoning.  He was about to be homeless again.  I urged him to seek medical help, and we managed to get an appointment with his doctor for the next day.  Then we talked about other things.  Jim had just been to the food bank.  I also had something for him in the office refrigerator – a loaf of communion bread from my church that we had been given the Sunday before.  “Would you like some bread, Jim,” I asked.  “It is communion bread from my church.”  Jim gladly took it for the journey.  We had no idea that he had only a few more days to his life.  This was the last time that I would see Jim.

Jim was not a church-going guy.  But I had come to know him as a person of faith in Jesus Christ.   Jim’s countenance would usually light up if we talked about faith issues or when I offered to pray with him.    One of Jim’s favourite expressions was “holy luck,” which was his definition of God’s blessing.  He could point out to many experiences of “holy luck” in his life.  He had escaped death many times.  But he knew that his “luck” in this area was running out. 

Jim had committed his life to Jesus Christ several years ago.  He knew what communion was about because he had participated a number of times in communion at our gatherings.  One of Jim’s favourite stories was that of the criminal crucified next to Jesus on Good Friday who asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom.  The Gospel of Luke records Jesus’ response: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (See Luke 23:40-43.)

About 60 people from Kingston to Kitchener, Hamilton and Paris, Ontario gathered on June 23, 2009 to remember and celebrate Jim’s life.  We also had communion together.  It was an amazing service.  We remembered how Jesus Christ broke bread with his friends before he gave his body and blood for our salvation, for our deliverance.

I know that Jim is also a recipient of that Bread of Life that we have in Jesus Christ.  The loaf of communion bread that I was able to give Jim the last time I saw him was for me a sign of God’s presence during the last few days of Jim’s life.  I do not regularly have communion bread in our office refrigerator.  That I had some for Jim I consider providential.

We would have liked to have kept Jim around with us a bit longer.  But we know that he is now walking in paradise with our Lord and Saviour.