Hospital vigil as Jack’s life hung in the balance
Jack W Gregory was skin and bones when he stopped breathing for three minutes as his life hung in the balance lying in his Norwich hospital bed. Sandie Shirley reports.
A traumatic past life of drinks, drugs, violence and homelessness had resulted in Jack’s ‘total mental and physical breakdown’. But members from his South Norfolk church mounted a vigil of love and prayer around his bed.
“They sat and prayed with me, cried with me, brought me food, and put up with my outbursts, showing me what the church family is like, which has been an absolute life saver from God,” says Jack.
Within a month he had gained two stone and was able to leave hospital after a turnaround from double pneumonia, pleurisy, lung failure and the terrible psychological damage that dogged his mind.
Now, more than three years later, Jack has a purpose and a certain hope with a transformed persona and identity as a Christian. His new life encounter placed him on the recovery road as he continues to work through life’s challenges and use his pen to help voice the stories of those broken by loss, pain and crime.
Despite being unable to read or write until early adulthood, Jack has authored two published books in the last year.
He tells the stories of those who have suffered from human trafficking and sexual exploitation – to assist the voiceless and vulnerable - and he has written his own life story.
“A Personal Apocalypse – the Poetic Ramblings of a Troubled Man” details Jack’s former broken life and includes the recovery from the inner scars and self-destruction associated with mental illness.
“It took me 20 years to summon the courage to write but it has been very healing; it has put to bed some of the demons that had caused me a lot of nightmares. But looking back, I know there are people I have hurt and caused damage to and I am truly sorry and there are amends I still have to make.”
From his own experience, Jack believes there is no pit too deep for suffering souls.
“You are loved, respected, wanted and known by God. It may not feel like it and you may not be able to see it but no matter how broken you feel, how unloved and how unwanted you may feel, there is a way and that is Jesus and he brings healing to the broken, he did it for me.”
Jack recalls the day that his life began to spiral downwards. “On my eighth birthday I was told I was adopted. Although I knew my adoptive parents loved me, it gave me a fear of loss and rejection.
“Coupled with learning difficulties because I had dyslexia that was not recognised in the classroom at the time, I felt I was not good enough so I would act up and I was seen as a bit of naughty boy. I always had a good head for knowledge but I could not read, or write it down so I could not always express myself.”
Those early hurts and frustrations caused a broken fault line across his life which continued to widen. Further losses led to spates of drinking, drugs, violence and a time in prison but there were long periods when Jack was sober and free from drugs.
In between, he moved to various parts of the country and trained in performance poetry; as a health practitioner and learnt the art of illusion and magic which he demonstrated at various clubs. Nearly 20 years ago the man who taught him magic died: “ He was like my brother, father, best friend and mentor and he got me clean.”
Jack’s life was also seriously rocked when his marriage broke down. “I had 12 years of being clean and sober but ended up sofa surfing between getting flats and losing them and being made homeless for a long time. My mental health went downhill and I went on a self-destructive path. I did one or two jobs but I was unemployed for a long time which aggravated my mood.
“My life had turned before I got ill and I had a job writing policies for the disabled. But in the winter of 2015, I suffered from life-threatening lung failure and a total mental and physical breakdown when I was unable to eat and my weight dropped to six-and-a-half stone as my past came to a head. Until then I called myself a Christian for many years, but if I am honest I used church as a meal ticket.”
After two years study as a student at the ‘School of Supernatural Life’ at Hope Community Church Wymondham, Jack is now helping new students to benefit. The course has helped take him into the deeper healing waters of God’s loving acceptance and given him a new identity and a desire to help heal the broken-hearted using his love for writing and prose.
His latest book, published in the summer: “Between the Street Lights and the Red Lights – escaping from human trafficking, sexual slavery and exploitation” features victims’ stories and letters to the abusers and traffickers.
Both books are published by Warcry Press and are available from Amazon as hard copies (£9.99) or e-books (99p). Between the Street Lights and Red Lights is also available from Revelation and The Book Hive – both in Norwich.
Jack W Gregory with his new book in?Wymondham