Vince Gordon | The Heart of a Father
Vince Gordon, Area Director for Urban Young Life, really should have been a statistic.
's mother worked hard to provide for Vince, his
younger brother and sister, he
grieved the absence of a dad.
Even then he
made a vow that he
would become the kind of father to his
children one day that his
father had never been to him.
Fast forward to 2012.
kept that vow many times over.
Not only has he
been, according to his
daughter, Tran, an "extraordinary hero" to her
brother and sister, but he
has filled the role of father figure to countless others through his
work with Young Life
puts it, "My misery became my ministry."
showed promise as an athlete, had an outgoing personality and made good grades in school.
son to join Cub Scouts
and to play organized sports thinking the adults supervising these activities would help fill the void of an absent father.
As a ten year old, Vince
was approached by two adult leaders, who were later found to be child molesters.
"I was fortunate," says Vince
, "in that I had a mother I could always talk to.
I didn't hesitate to tell her
, and she
removed me from those activities."
says the incident made him question himself, and as he
hit the teenage years, he
felt a great need to prove to himself that he
was not gay.
had an appetite for rebellion, for fast girls, fast cars, and a rough life-style.
It was joining the band and playing high school sports that helped settle him down.
Playing the drums in one of the finest high school marching bands in the entire country was a wholesome outlet and also an activity that took him on several amazing trips to places like the Rose Bowl, the Super Bowl, and a competition in Hawaii.
Life was coming together for Vince
, but his younger brother was starting to get involved with gang activity.
There was not one thing he
liked about Jackson.
Despite the extended family all around, there was "absolutely nothing to do," he
He enrolled at Lanier High School and got a job at Popeye's Chicken on Livingston Road where he worked for the remainder of his high school career.
did not want to join the band because Lanier's band did not begin to compare with the band he
had left behind in Los Angeles.
In a half-hearted effort to find his
niche in his
new school, he
went to a dance following a football game that fall.
explains that he
had some dance moves that caught the attention of his
classmates as well as his
principal, Mr. L.B. Buckley.
Mr. Buckley was so impressed that he
a brand new "Bulldog" costume and made Vince
the first human mascot in the Jackson Public School System.
danced in front of the band at all the football games and parades.
began to enjoy school again.
Damascus Road Experience
Vince graduated from Lanier in 1982, enlisted in the Navy and headed off to San Diego for basic training.
spent seven years in Charleston, South Carolina where he
was a cook on a submarine.
Military pay was good, and he
acquired a taste for partying, sports cars, and motorcycles.
also met Leila, who became his
had always had an interest in law enforcement, so he
jumped at the chance for a position as a military policeman in Yokosaka, Japan.
and Leila were young, footloose, and fancy free.
They also thought they were rather invincible.
It was in Japan that Vince
encountered a group of rather "radical Christians," as he
They weren't "churchey," he
says, "but they were relational.
They seemed to really care about others and talked about the Lord as though they had an ongoing relationship with Him.
On the one hand, Vince
was drawn to them and on the other hand, he
wanted to get as far away from them as possible.
When a disgruntled co-worker accused Vince
of gross misconduct and brought serious allegations against him, his
attorney advised him to accept a plea bargain or risk significant prison time.
The charges were completely false, and Vince
refused to admit to something that he
had not done.
Still, it was a situation of his
word against the co-worker's and there were no witnesses.
Suddenly, all Vince could think about was finding those Christians he
had thought were such fanatics and asking them to pray for him.
was on his
knees day and night begging God to intervene.
"God, if you are real," he
prayed, "Please help me and help me turn my life around."
ground and refused to plea bargain.
Chances were slim and none that he
would be able to prove his
needed a miracle, and he
The trial began and a totally unexpected thing happened.
accuser was called to the stand and admitted under oath that the accusations were all lies.
was not the same party animal he
had been before.
knew God had intervened and Vince Gordon
planned to spend the rest of his
life serving Him.
God Opens New Doors
left the Navy
with an honorable discharge and moved back to Jackson in 1992.
Choosing Jackson was really not his
idea…it was God's.
had spent a lot of time praying about what God wanted him to do next, and he
says it was only after a great inner struggle that he
gave in to God's clear call.
There was something God had for him to do right here, but God was not in a big hurry to show him what it was!
and Leila were expecting their first child when they arrived with no job prospects and no place to live.
They moved in with Vince's mother who lived in a tiny two bedroom house, but Vince vowed that he would have a job and a house before their baby girl was born.
first house before Tranquility Gordon arrived on August 4, 1992.
That house, Vince
believes, was quite a God ordained gift in more ways than one.
Dr. Perkins was often out walking in the early hours of the morning just about the time Vince
was starting his prayer time.
is definitely a spiritual father to me," Vince
God brought other spiritual fathers his
way in the next days and years.
Bishop Ronnie Crudup of New Horizon Church has also taken Vince under his wing.
Finding enough work was always a challenge, but Vince
continued to believe that God had brought him back to Jackson with a specific job in mind.
When a neighbor who ran an after school program approached Vince
about driving a bus and picking up the children from school, he
was glad for the opportunity.
was quickly attached to the children, many of whom reminded him of himself.
Many did not have fathers, and he
understood why they were so hungry for the attention he
could give them.
found himself volunteering to do more than drive the bus.
discovered a real passion for working with kids and others recognized how the children responded to him.
church, Abundant Life and Bible Fellowship, partnered with Parkway Baptist to do a Summer School Spectacular that year, they asked Vince
to head it up.
That job led to an interview with Jackson Public Schools
as they were hiring instructors and liaisons in their Work Experience Training project, a grant-funded program assisting special needs juniors and seniors with job related skills and employment opportunities.
was in his
loved the interaction with the students, and he
loved watching the positive transformations that occurred through relationship and through matching a youth with a job that fit their interest and skill level.
"It was a beautiful thing," Vince
Three years later Vince
was put in charge of the entire project.
asked and then mentioned the classified.
"Is that job still open?"
The cheery voice at the other end of the line connected Vince
with Winston Ford who was, at that time, Director over the urban arm of Young Life
in the metro area.
accepted the invitation.
was thrown with young people who reminded him of himself.
The kids without fathers gravitated to him, and he
wanted to make a difference in the lives of these kids, and Young Life provided the perfect platform.
When it came time to attend camp at Windy Gap, North Carolina that summer, Vince
went along as a chaperone.