Gord looked into his young friend's eyes. Glen has Down syndrome, and Gord didn't want to disappoint him. But watching Glen perform in his Christmas pageant meant attending church—something Gord hadn't done in years.
He sighed. He knew how much it meant to Glen. At least he'll be happy I'm there.
“I'll go,” he said finally.
But the evening ended up being far more than simply a favour for a friend.
It Started With Coffee
Gord Wheadon was born in Western Bay, a small community on the eastern tip of the island of Newfoundland. His mother attended church, but his father didn't, so Gord didn't have to either.
And when I did go, I got nothing out of it because I couldn't understand what the pastor was talking about,” Gord recalls.
At 17, Gord enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces, where he served for 25 years. He did three tours of duty in Cyprus and retired from the military in 1993.
Gord married and had three children, but the marriage fell apart. “After serving in the military, I suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder,” he says. “I had nightmares and I never wanted to go anywhere. I was in a bad place.”
One evening, while his nieces and nephews were visiting him, the children talked him into going downtown. “I didn't really want to go,” Gord says, “but now, I'm glad I did.”
For that night, Gord met a woman named Linda. “We went out for coffee and talked for hours. By the end of the evening, I knew Linda was someone special. I asked her out for dinner a few nights later and things just went from there.”
The couple married in 2002.
A Special Invitation
Linda's job as a teaching assistant for children with special needs presented Gord with a unique opportunity. “One of Linda's students, a boy named Glen, needed a personal-care worker, and Linda thought I would be perfect for the job,” Gord says. “I was hesitant because I didn't have any experience, but I decided to try.”
Gord and Linda took Glen to Tim Hortons. Within minutes, a special bond was formed. “Glen is the most wonderful, amazing person," Gord smiles. "I take him hunting and fishing, and I love spending time with him.”
That's why Gord couldn't say no when Glen invited him to the Christmas pageant.
Gord and Linda both attended the pageant at the Salvation Army church in Conception Bay South, N.L., in December 2012. “As soon as I went in, I could tell this place was different,” Gord says. “It felt like a family, and I was already a part of it, even though I'd just gotten there.”
Gord returned to church the following Sunday. The next week, he attended both the morning and evening services.
“I craved church and I wanted to know more and more,” he says. “Major Lorne Pritchett, the pastor, explained things in a way I could understand. I was on the edge of my seat, listening to him. I just couldn't get enough.”
After a few months, Gord knew that he wanted to have a closer relationship with God, but he was hesitant. “I worried what people would think of me. I was afraid that I would lose my friends if they found out I'd become a Christian.”
One Sunday morning, Gord was in church, thinking about his decision. “I was struggling, and I heard a voice say, 'Don't be ashamed of Me because I am not ashamed of you.' That's when I knew what I needed to do,” Gord said. “I knelt down at the mercy seat, the simple wooden bench where people can ask for God's forgiveness, and became a Christian.”
Since then, Gord's life has made a complete turnaround.
“I cope with life much better than I used to,” he says. “My nightmares are gone, and I no longer have to take medication to be able to sleep at night. It's as if I'm living on cloud nine. I don't have to worry because I know God is there for me.”
In February 2015, Gord and Linda became official members of The Salvation Army. “I am proud to be a Christian and I put on my uniform so people will know I stand with God,” Gord states. “My only regret in life is that I didn't give my life to God sooner.”
Gord's wife, Linda, shares her story with Faith & Friends here.
A Willing Heart
Raised by his grandparents, Douglas and Rebekah Walters, Glen Walters has attended church at Conception Bay South since he was a baby. In 2010, he became an official member of The Salvation Army and plays an important role at the church. He helps with the children's classes and collects the offering. “I also move the chairs a lot,” Glen says. “I like to help.”
But Glen's most important role is clearly outreach. He invites his friends to church and new people rarely leave Conception Bay South without receiving a hug from him.
“God is using Glen so much, it's almost overwhelming,” says Rebekah. “God is touching his life and touching others through Glen. He is a blessing to so many people because of his willing heart.”