Filling the void: Timothy’s story
Timothy grew up in Chicago. When he was seven his parents divorced; he and his siblings have been estranged from their father ever since. Timothy, his mother, and his siblings moved around a lot, frequently staying with relatives. Some of these family members secretly abused Timothy physically and sexually.
When he was 16, Timothy ran away from home. He stayed on the streets, or sometimes with friends, panhandling and doing odd jobs to make money. When he was 24, a friend introduced him to hustling downtown as a way to make money. The first time he got into a car with a john (i.e., a customer), Timothy was terrified. He started drinking and using cocaine to cope with his fear and shame. After that, hustling got easier.
Over the years, Timothy became addicted to more than just the drugs he took; he got hooked on the entire experience—what he saw as the conquest: being able to make a customer pull over for him. But as time went by, his delusions of grandeur wore thin. Eventually he realized that he was really hustling so that he would not be alone. His customers, unfortunately, had different ideas.
“I wanted companionship,” he says, “but they wanted something else.”
Beyond the loneliness and the experience of being used, there was danger in prostitution. More than once, Timothy was sexually assaulted or raped by a customer who was angry at his refusal to perform specific acts. Being raped forced him to feel a powerlessness that no delusions about “the conquest” could overcome.
Timothy often saw Emmaus Outreach ministers on the streets, but wanted nothing to do with preachers or pastors. He took a card from an Outreach volunteer once, but as a rule he stayed away from them and the ministry. He couldn’t get away from the stories, though: other men—guys he knew who were hustling—talking about the help they were getting at Emmaus. His curiosity began to get the better of him. In 2007, he finally gave in and came to the Ministry Center.
To Timothy’s surprise, at Emmaus he found not only a safe place where they served good food, but people who talked with him as a human being, not an object to be used. He quickly realized that, at the Ministry Center, he could be honest about everything in his life. After a week, he realized that he felt at home—the first time he had experienced that sensation since his parents’ divorce. Timothy saw that he had a spiritual void that he hadn’t been able to fill, and began to hope that maybe he could find a way to become whole again.
In 2008, with Emmaus’s help, Timothy went into drug treatment for three months. He came out fully sober for the first time in almost 10 years. He started coming to the Ministry Center regularly. That summer, he went on a retreat with Emmaus to Plow Creek Farm in central Illinois, the first time he had ever been out of the city. That first night, he went outside and saw a sky full of stars for the first time. He was struck by God’s majesty and mercy at that moment, and by how amazing it was that a God who created the stars cared about him. After the retreat, his faith and understanding of God continued to grow as he interacted with people at the Ministry Center, and around Christmas, he realized that the spiritual void he’d felt almost all of his life had finally been filled.
Today, Timothy remains clean and sober. He works for a suicide prevention hotline, and takes classes at Chicago State University. He continues to come to the Ministry Center a few times a month, now as a volunteer and mentor. His goal is to pass along the healing and hope that he has found.
“I’m really sure God has a purpose for me,” he says, “to talk to and reach other souls who are lost and may be in need of some good news.”