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updated: 3/7/2014 1:54 PM

Moving Picture: Elgin man gives back to God and church

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  • Edward Hayes of Elgin bows his head during a prayer group at Vineyard Church of Elgin. Hayes was homeless and addicted to cocaine before members of the church and their breakfast ministry helped to get him into a rehab program. He's been clean for three years and has volunteered at the church every day since.

       Edward Hayes of Elgin bows his head during a prayer group at Vineyard Church of Elgin. Hayes was homeless and addicted to cocaine before members of the church and their breakfast ministry helped to get him into a rehab program. He's been clean for three years and has volunteered at the church every day since.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Members of the morning men's group lay hands on Edward Hayes and pray for him at Vineyard Church of Elgin. From left, Phil Mariotti, Joe Misek and the Rev. Tom Severson.

       Members of the morning men's group lay hands on Edward Hayes and pray for him at Vineyard Church of Elgin. From left, Phil Mariotti, Joe Misek and the Rev. Tom Severson.
    photos by Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Nancy Merlak gets a hug from Edward Hayes of Elgin during the morning breakfast ministry at Vineyard Church of Elgin. She was among a group of members who helped and encouraged Hayes to get into a rehab program and get off the streets.

       Nancy Merlak gets a hug from Edward Hayes of Elgin during the morning breakfast ministry at Vineyard Church of Elgin. She was among a group of members who helped and encouraged Hayes to get into a rehab program and get off the streets.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Hayes has been in charge of clean up of the breakfast ministry at Vineyard Church in Elgin for about three years, ever since completing the rehab program at Wayside Cross Ministry in Aurora.

       Hayes has been in charge of clean up of the breakfast ministry at Vineyard Church in Elgin for about three years, ever since completing the rehab program at Wayside Cross Ministry in Aurora.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Greg Schiller of Street Reach, left, and Edward Hayes, right, pray with a young man with a drug problem who they persuaded to go to rehab during the breakfast ministry at Vineyard Church of Elgin.

       Greg Schiller of Street Reach, left, and Edward Hayes, right, pray with a young man with a drug problem who they persuaded to go to rehab during the breakfast ministry at Vineyard Church of Elgin.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Hayes bows his head during a prayer group at Vineyard Church of Elgin. Hayes was homeless and addicted to cocaine before members of the church and their breakfast ministry helped get him into a rehab program. He's been clean for 3 years and has volunteered at the church every day since.

       Hayes bows his head during a prayer group at Vineyard Church of Elgin. Hayes was homeless and addicted to cocaine before members of the church and their breakfast ministry helped get him into a rehab program. He's been clean for 3 years and has volunteered at the church every day since.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Hayes listens during a prayer group at Vineyard Church of Elgin.

       Hayes listens during a prayer group at Vineyard Church of Elgin.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Hayes mops the floor after the breakfast ministry at Vineyard Church of Elgin.

       Hayes mops the floor after the breakfast ministry at Vineyard Church of Elgin.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 

In 2003, Edward Hayes of Elgin was running. He says he was running from God and staying a step ahead of the law.

"And I was fast," he said.

While in Chicago to do a heroin deal, he got slowed down.

"God hit me with a motorcycle," Hayes said.

An airborne motorcycle crashed into him after the driver fell off, leaving Hayes with two broken ankles and his head in a halo when he woke up in the hospital. He also had drugs stashed in his underwear. He was sure he was caught.

"When I woke up I felt a lady cutting my pants off and I said, 'Oh, Lord, I'm going to jail,' " he said. He then heard a voice he says proved God was with him. "Whatever this is I'm going to take it and throw it away," a woman said. He doesn't know who took those drugs, but he says he knows where the help came from.

"I knew it was God," Hayes said.

After having 14 pins and two plates put into his ankles, Hayes could no longer run, but he still wasn't walking what he calls "God's path."

"Just like the children of Israel, God would save them and after a while they would forget," he says. "I believe God saved me, but after the motorcycle I went right back to the streets and started all over again."

Fast forward to 2010.

Hooked on cocaine and using all the money he made dealing drugs to support his habit, Hayes was homeless, depressed and contemplating suicide.

He was already attending a breakfast for the homeless at Vineyard Church in Elgin. He opened up to the ministry leaders, telling them what he was going through. They took him to see the church pastor, the Rev. Tom Severson, and together prayed for him.

"It really touched my heart," he said.

Two days later, he was on his way to a six-month rehab program at Wayside Cross Ministry in Aurora.

Hayes was one of only 12 people in his group of 54 to graduate the rehab program, and he's come back to Vineyard to the people who helped him. He says he hoped to have an opportunity to repay them, and he started by helping with the breakfast ministry.

"I didn't want to go back to Elgin, but forces led me there," Hayes said.

One morning after helping at the breakfast, he was praying in the sanctuary. "Father, you brought me back here to Elgin and I'm just going to come here every morning until you show me what to do."

He was invited to participate in the discipleship program at the church and took over clean-up duties after the ministry breakfast. He also helps in any way he can with the church and sharing his experiences.

"As long as I wake up every morning, I will be here to help out," he says. "And to try to show people what I've been through and that they can change their lives, too."

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