PASTOR JAKE ©
Written by: Matt Storm
It was December 1st, 1994, Monday morning 4:30 A.M, when Pastor Jake rolled his big rig up onto Highway 104 west out of Nova Scotia Canada, heading for Jacksonville, Florida with his first load of Christmas trees this season. He was a huge man, nearing fourty and starting to bald. He pumped iron every day and there wasn’t an ounce of fat on him anywhere. He was 6\'3\", 265 pounds and was as hard as a rock. This was the fifth year for hauling his own trees to Florida. If he had a good month on the road, if he could get through this Christmas season without too many breakdowns, they could pay off the bank and the rig would be theirs free and clear. These thoughts were still running through his head from the night before, when he and Elaine discussed their current financial situation. Pastor Jake didn’t have the head for business, but Elaine did. He knew how to drive and how important it was for him to drive safely, but still keep the big rig rolling down the road.
Once again, Elaine had arranged a tight schedule for him to keep, over the next twenty-one days. He had to make five return trips to Florida this month. He would drive twelve hours, crawl into the sleeper for six hours, drive for another twelve, and he should be in Jacksonville, in thirty hours. He would sleep again, while the dockmen off loaded 800 hundred trees from the trailer, then drive over to the Campbell Soup Company, and sleep a few more hours, while the men loaded the trailer for a trip to Pennsylvania. Another twelve hour drive and he would be in Harrisburg, PA.. Time to sleep again, while the soup was being off loaded, cut across country to Interstate 95 and straight north to the Canadian border and home to Nova Scotia, for another load of trees and start all over again. It was a terrible schedule to try to maintain, but since it was only for the month of December, Pastor Jake knew that with the Lord’s help, he could handle it..
In the old days, Jake was a man to avoid at all costs, he was always half drunk, half crazy, miserable and as caustic as anyone could possibly imagine. He talked and smelled like he just crawled out of a sewer. He had no friends and no one wanted to be anywhere near him, at any of the truck stops, which he frequented. He was a menace to himself and everyone else on the road. That’s what he was like seven years ago, that is until he drove into the Big Stop Restaurant, in Truro, NS, one night around ten o’clock. When his rig drove up to the diesel pumps, the waitresses motioned to one another and said, here comes Jake the Snake. It had been a quiet night up until now. Sally told the new girl Elaine to be careful with this one, if he sits at your table, he’s mean, he’s vulgar, and he stinks like a polecat. Just then, Jake strode into the restaurant in his usual loud vulgar manner demanding service, before he even sat down in the booth. He noticed the new waitress behind the counter, as he walked to his seat. The look in his eyes, as she approached him, told Elaine he was going to try to give her a hard time. She quickly set the cup and saucer on the table before him and began to fill the cup from the coffee pot in her right hand.
“What can I get for you tonight Sir”, she asked?
“Who told you I wanted coffee you stupid broad, if I want coffee I’ll ask for it? Take it away and bring me a glass of iced tea. You must be a natural blonde. You look stupid enough to be two women. One woman couldn’t be that stupid..”
Elaine leaned her head over towards his ear and whispered these few words.
“Look cowboy”, she said, “I’ve had a long hard day, I don’t need a big dumb jerk like you coming in here running off at the mouth for no reason. If don’t agree to sit here quietly and drink the coffee, I’m going to accidently spill this whole pot of hot coffee down the front of your pants. Am I making myself clear, do you get the picture, I am trying to paint for you?”
As Elaine straightened up, Jake glanced up into her face and her eyes. He could see that this little woman wasn’t kidding, she meant business. There was no doubt whatsoever in Jake’s mind, she would do exactly, what she said she would do. He slowly nodded his head up and down, to affirm that he intended to do what she asked.
“That’s good,” she said, “Now let’s start over again. We can do this you know, we can be friends. What can I get for you tonight Sir”?
In a quiet subdued normal voice, Jake asked for a slice of cherry pie and ice cream.
“That’s perfect,” Elaine said, “Now isn’t that a lot easier on both of us? You look like you have had a long hard day too, why don’t you go and wash up, before I bring your pie, get some of that road grime off your face and hands and you’ll feel better.”
When Elaine turned to walk away, she wondered if the big man would throw the cup of coffee at her. Jake just sat there, with a dumbfounded look on his face, no one had spoken to him like that for eight years, not since his mother and sister died together in a house fire. He picked up the coffee cup in his big right hand and quaffed the entire cup in one gulp. He set the cup back down on the saucer, raised himself up and quietly walked to the men’s room. When the door to the men’s room closed behind Jake, everyone wanted to know what Elaine said, that calmed that monster down.
“I just told him I thought he could be a much better person, than the way he was acting. I asked him to quiet down and I would see that he was served quickly. He agreed and he’s gone to the men’s room to wash up before he eats.”
The whole place broke out in laughter, what a joke, Jake the Snake washing before he eats. I don’t think he has washed in years, one of them said. I know you are a Christian woman Elaine and I know you believe in miracles, but this is unbelievable. First you quiet Jake down with some soft spoken words and then you tell us he is going to wash before he eats, that’s too much for any of us to believe. Just then the door to the men’s room opened and Jake walked back into the restaurant with his hands and face washed, and his hair combed.
“Glory be to God,” Elaine said, “Two miracles in one night.”
Elaine was a good Christian woman, she was a soldier in the Salvation Army. She didn’t believe in threatening people like she did with Jake, but she also knew, that sometimes you have to do some things that are drastic to get peoples attention, then you can speak softly to them. She was used to dealing with big gruff men, who sometimes used vulgar language, to bully others into doing what they wanted. She grew up in a lumber camp in Labrador, where there were lots of men just like Jake and perhaps some even worse. Her father and six older brothers were lumberjacks, her mother was the camp cook and Elaine helped in the kitchen, when she was finished with her school studies. Elaine left home, when she finished her schooling, she couldn’t get away from the lumber camp fast enough. She knew she was different from the rest of her family, because she didn’t like the cursing and swearing that permeated the camp and she certainly didn’t appreciate the lumberjacks trying to clutch and grab at her all the time. Her brothers thought the men were only having a little fun with her and that Elaine was too sensitive and over reacting. From the age of twelve, when she started to mature as a young woman, the door and window to her room were double latched and bolted every night. Elaine didn’t find any of them funny at all.
She made her way to the big city of Halifax, where she managed to get a job as a waitress in a local restaurant. The hours and the pay were not all that great, but she got a furnished room up over the restaurant and her meals were free. It was a small family operation, the wife cooked, her husband took care of the cash and the counter, when they were busy, and Elaine worked both the booths and the counter. It was a nice little place, but she didn’t stay there long. The wife was nice to her, but after a couple of months, the husband started to get a little free with his hands, when they were in tight quarters, behind the counter. Elaine slapped him three or four different times, but it wasn’t doing any good. She even told his wife, but that didn’t seem to help either. One day shortly after that, he managed to rub himself up against her and he cupped her breast with his hand. Elaine brought her knee swiftly and forcefully up between his legs and he doubled over in pain. Elaine walked into the kitchen and told his wife what had happened, said she would return for her pay and left.
After packing her bags, she walked to the Salvation Army Citadel. Elaine had become good friends with the young Army Lieutenant and his wife, when they frequented the restaurant. She was hoping that they would help her find a furnished room to rent and perhaps even a line on another job. When she finished explaining what had happened, Lieutenant James and Amy Brown, took Elaine home with them for a few days, while they searched for a room and a new waitress job for her. It was in their home that Elaine was introduced to the Word of God, they included her in their daily scripture reading and devotional times. Elaine felt blessed in her heart, from the moment she first heard God’s word being read to her. Then, as she was being led in devotional prayer by the Browns, she began to feel a huge hunger in her soul to know the Lord, as her own personal Saviour. The next Sunday morning, she invited Jesus into her heart and life.
Elaine found a job in another restaurant, but she didn’t look for another room to rent. The Brown’s were happy to have her live with them, she paid them a modest fee for the room and board and they treated her like a sister. During this time, James and Amy also instructed Elaine through the twelve weeks of lessons required to become a soldier in the Salvation Army. Through her work with the Browns at the citadel, she met a young Christian man named Lance Edwards. Lance was a trucker, he owned his own rig and drove long hauls, as a contractor. They began to date, when Lance was in town and over the course of a year, they fell in love and were married. Elaine left her job at the restaurant and went on the road with Lance. They were as happy as two peas in a pod, as they travelled all over North America, during the next three years.
One day as they were on their way to Toronto, with a load of canned goods, Lance started to experience some tightness in his chest and slight pains in his left arm. Elaine was naturally concerned and said, “When we get to Toronto, we’ll get you a check up at the hospital”. “I don’t think it is anything serious,” Lance said, “it’s probably just indigestion from that greasy hamburg we had for lunch.”
“You may be right,” Elaine said, “but I think we should get it checked out just the same.” The pain subsided as the miles slipped away and that was the last they thought of it. They drove on into Toronto and delivered their load, then drove a couple of more miles to another warehouse and waited as their trailer was loaded with another load going back east. Then without any other thought or concern, they fuelled up and drove up onto the 401 and headed east toward Montreal.
As they traveled through Montreal, Lance began to feel the pains returning, as well as the tightness in his chest. He became very quiet and held tightly to the steering wheel. He didn’t want to worry Elaine and he wanted to get through Montreal before he said anything about the pains in his arms or chest. He started to feel some relief, when he saw the signs indicating the Lafontaine Tunnel was just ahead. So, he thought to himself, I’ll pull over for a rest as soon as we get through the tunnel and out onto Hwy# 20, I’m sure this will pass, just like it did in Toronto. As they entered the tunnel, he felt a terrible pain shoot up and down his left arm. He felt like he was going to pass out, so he gripped the steering wheel with his right hand and squeezed, as hard as he could. He somehow managed to maintain consciousness, until they were through the tunnel and he could move the big rig to the shoulder of the highway. Elaine sensed that something was terribly wrong. “Are you alright”, she asked Lance?
“I have a pain in my arms and chest, but I am fine he said. I just need to rest for a few minutes”.
When he finally brought the big rig to a complete stop, he turned the key off, laid his head on his arms over the steering wheel, and quietly passed away.
Following Lance’s funeral, Elaine spent the next six months going through the affairs of their small trucking business. She hadn’t paid very much attention to any of this before and so she was at a loss, to understand, what she needed to do. Fortunately for her, Lt. James Brown had a good head for business, and so he was able to show Elaine and help her through this terrible ordeal. She finally made a big decision, based on suggestions from James and Amy Brown, to take a little more time to relax and get her life back together, before thinking of looking for work. Lance was well insured, so Elaine didn’t have to go to work, if she didn’t want to. At first she wanted to work, because she thought it would be good for her, to have something to occupy her time. But for now, she had listened to the Browns, the grieving process was ending and she was starting to put her life back together. Ten months to the day of Lance’s death, James and Amy Brown were promoted to Captains and transferred to Toronto. They asked Elaine to go with them, but she declined.
“I don’t think I want to live in a big city,” she said. I am going to look for a small place of my own, I’ll get a part - time job to occupy my time and give me something to do and just take it easy for now.”
A few weeks later, Elaine noticed an ad in the paper, someone wanted to sell a two hundred-acre tree farm, with a two bedroom bungalow on the property. The price they mentioned seemed reasonable to Elaine and she wondered, what it might look like. She called the broker and asked where the property was situated, and what condition it was in.
“It’s located just outside of Truro, NS was the answer she got, and the house is in beautiful shape, you have to see it to appreciate it. The owners husband died and she wants to move back to Ontario, to be near her family.” So, Elaine made an appointment to see the place the next day. She liked the house, as soon as she saw it, and after a bit of haggling, the owner agreed to a smaller price, and Elaine was now a home owner.
The next couple of months were taken up with getting moved in and settled. She purchased new furniture, drapes, carpeting, dishes and silverware, quickly becoming her own interior designer. When she finally finished moving the furniture around and decorating the house they way she wanted it, the days seemed to get longer with time on her hands. That’s when Elaine knew she needed a small job to occupy her time, so she became very involved at the Truro Salvation Army Citadel, so her new life had a purpose. But somehow, she felt like she needed to get out and work, somewhere, where she would be meeting people. Sometime later, she noticed an ad in the paper, for a waitress for the Big Stop Restaurant. She applied and got the job, that’s how she came to be working the night that Jake the Snake arrived for the rendezvous, that began the miraculous change in his life.
Jake was a very angry young man, he wasn’t thirty years old and he had been alone in this world for the last eight years. His father had been a fisherman, but he drowned, when Jake and his sister were very young. Their mother raised them, by cleaning other people’s houses. Jake vowed he wasn’t going to be a fisherman like his father, he wanted something more stable and less hazardous. He took a training course to drive tractor trailers, when he was nineteen, and by age twenty, had a job driving for a local trucking firm. He was on a long haul to Birmingham, Alabama two years later, when the news reached him that his mother and sister had died in a house fire, that destroyed his home. That seemed to be the straw which broke the camel’s back. From that point on, Jake went down hill day by day, week after week. He began to hate everyone and everything, until now eight years later, he was known, as Jake the Snake.
The night Jake encountered Elaine for the first time, was a turning point in his life. He finally met someone, who wasn’t afraid of him, someone who quietly without any loud fanfare, told him that his behaviour was unacceptable and she promised to do something to him, if he didn’t change. He obviously didn’t like the thoughts of that hot coffee going down the front of his pants, so he opted for the logical alternative. Jake’s life was turned around, because of his meeting with Elaine, but it didn’t happen overnight. To everyone else around him, he was still Jake the Snake, he still yelled and screamed vulgarities and bullied those people, who let him get away with it. However, as soon as he entered the Big Stop, he knew Elaine would be working and his whole personality changed. He respected Elaine for her courage to stand up to him and he admired her for the softness in her manner toward him.
Jake made a point of stopping to see Elaine every trip he made past the Big Stop, both coming and going. She would always serve him, because none of the other waitresses wanted to. If they weren’t busy when he came in, Elaine would sit with Jake and talk to him for a few minutes. They were quickly becoming good friends. Elaine felt comfortable enough one night, to ask Jake why he still acted the way he did, with the other people who served him?
“I don’t know,” he said, “I guess it’s an old habit that’s hard to break. I had some terrible things happen to me, when I was younger and I became angry and mean over the years. Besides, I think they expect it from me anyway.”
“I don’t think so ,” Elaine said, “they are asking me how you can be so nice to me and so mean to them? They don’t ever remember being mean to you. I’m sorry that you experienced some terrible pain in your life, but you can’t go through life feeling sorry for yourself, making everyone else walk on eggshells and feel miserable, because you are. Why don’t you try being pleasant for a change and see how much better people treat you. What do you say, will you give it a try?”
Jake sat silently looking across the table at Elaine. She began to wonder, have I gone too far too fast this time? Jake’s face broke out in a grin. He said, “You sure have a way of pushing my buttons girl, I’ll tell you what. If you’ll go out to supper with me on your next night off, I’ll be nice to everyone I meet for a whole month. What do you say?”
“That’s a deal,” Elaine said, “You’ll be nice to everyone for a whole month, is that right?” Jake smiled at her and nodded his head yes.
“That’s good then, we have a deal, I’m off tomorrow night, is that okay for you?”
“Where would you like to go? What time can I pick you up,” Jake asked?
“How about going into Truro for some Chinese food, or we could go to Keddy’s for their buffet. I could meet you here at six o’clock, if you like.”
“I think I would prefer the buffet, if you don’t mind,” Jake said. ‘I’m not very fond of Chinese food, but I’ll be here for you at six.”
Jake finished his pie and coffee. As he was leaving the restaurant, he passed by the counter, smiled, touched the brim of his cap, and wished the other waitresses a good night. They were totally stunned to say the very least. Jake the Snake had never said anything nice to either of them, or anyone else for that matter, in all the time they knew him.
Jake pulled into the Big Stop parking lot at exactly 5:45 pm. As he stepped out of his rental car, he straightened his tie and wished he had a drink or two or three. The last time he could remember being completely sober and wearing a suit, shirt and tie, was to his Mother and sister’s funeral. He felt strange and somewhat apprehensive, no a lot apprehensive, but this was his decision, to be sober and dressed properly to take Elaine to dinner. This was an expensive dinner date, not only did he have to rent a car, but he had to buy a suit and a shirt. The clothes hanging in his closet, he hadn’t worn in eight years and of course they wouldn’t fit any longer. When Jake walked into the restaurant, there was a collective gasp, Elaine was sitting at the end of the counter waiting for him. Everyone in the place knew she was going out with Jake the Snake, and they were waiting to see what he would look like, when he showed up. They were making bets, first that he wouldn’t show at all, others that he would be dressed in his regular dirty clothes, and that Elaine would be too embarrassed to go anywhere with him. They were definitely not prepared for what they saw, when he entered. Elaine was just beaming, when he sat at the stool next to her. She was thrilled to see Jake in a suit and shirt and tie, but she never expected to see him clean shaven. She leaned over and whispered in his ear.
“You look absolutely beautiful.”
“I like that a lot better than what you said to me, the last time you whispered in my ear.”
They laughed out loud together, thinking of their private joke.
Elaine and Jake spent a terrific evening dining and learning what there was to know about each other. They seemed to be drawn together. They had both been through a number of difficult adversities in their young lives, so they shared a sense of compassion for one another. This was to be the beginning of a courtship that lasted nearly a year, it might have been even longer, if Elaine hadn’t helped Jake pop the question. After they were seeing each other for about four months, Jake started to go to church with Elaine on Sunday evenings. One Sunday evening, as the Captain was preaching on the “Forgiveness of Sins, and the Salvation of Souls,” he noticed Jake fidgeting in his seat. As he continued his message, he watched as Jake nervously changed his position back and forth. At the conclusion of the message, the Captain asked, “If anyone in the congregation, was sensing the presence of the Lord calling them into a personal relationship with himself? If there is someone like that here tonight, I would invite you to come forward to the mercy seat, where we would be pleased to pray with you, and ask Jesus to come into your heart and life.” Jake hesitated a few more moments, then he rose to his feet and knelt at the altar and turned his all over to God. Elaine waited patiently in her seat, while the Captain led Jake in prayer, at the altar. The Lord Jesus Christ came into Jake’s life that night and marvelously transformed him into a new creation.
Elaine and Jake were married six months later in June 1988. In September 1989, Jake quit his job, they financed their own rig and went into business for themselves. At the end of the year, Elaine quit her job. She ran the business from home, scheduled Jake’s trips, sent out invoices, looked after the books and in February 1990, she gave birth to little Jake. It was a good marriage and working relationship, Elaine took care of everything at home and Jake took care of himself and the rig on the road. He ran up and down the highway with his stereo deck blasting out Southern Gospel Music. Whenever he keyed his CB radio, the other truckers would hear gospel music playing. Wherever he went, someone would always comeback and ask him, if he knew the Lord, and that would be an open invitation for Jake to share his testimony, with everyone who had their CB radios tuned to the same channel as Jake. One day as he finished sharing his testimony, another trucker keyed his CB and asked if Jake was a Reverend?
“I’m not a preacher,” Jake said. “I’m just a follower, a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. I’ve shared with you a little bit of what he has done for me in my life, and I pray that it will encourage you to invite Him into your life.”
“I’m not a Christian Jake,” he said. “But I have sure enjoyed listening to you share your story. I’ve listened to a lot of different Priests and Ministers in my time, but for some reason they were not able to reach me like you have today. I think we should give you a new handle, how does “Pastor Jake sound.”
One at a time, one after another, a dozen or more CB radios were keyed and voices on the other end saying, that’s a big ten four to Pastor Jake. Jake was exceptionally silent for a few minutes, he was giving thanks and praise to Jesus for the response he was receiving.
Then he keyed his radio and said, “Pastor is a word that means friend, so I’ll accept the new handle you have given me, have a great day my friends, Pastor Jake out!”
Jake called Elaine that night from a truck stop phone, he was excited to tell her about the response to his testimony and the new handle he was given by his fellow truckers. She was thrilled for him and she had some exciting news of her own to tell him. She had been to see the doctor that day and she was pregnant with their second child. Jake was thrilled to hear that news. We have so much to be grateful for he told Elaine, God has been so very good to us. Elaine said, I’ve just finished signing the contract to deliver 4000 trees, in each of the next three years, to Jacksonville, Florida. She was so happy, they had already sold that many trees, in each of the last two years. The trees, which were planted on her property, when she bought it, were paying off the loan, they got to buy the rig. Now the contract she had just signed would sell enough trees to get them out of debt. Over the next few months, all went very well for Jake and Elaine. He had just come home from a trip and after supper were sitting talking, when her water broke. Sara Elaine Carter was born on June 1st 1992. Mother and Child both well. PTL
Many times over the past few years, when he was alone on the road, Jake would take stock of what he and Elaine had accomplished, with the help of the Lord. Today wasn’t really any different, except that it was December 1st 1994, and he was heading out to Jacksonville once again. This was the year they had been waiting and praying for, the year they would finally pay off the rig. A cool quarter of a million dollar outfit and they would not have any more payments. Certainly time to take stock and give thanks to God for His grace and blessings. He had a beautiful wife, who loved him and he loved her. They had two precious children who were healthy, their home was paid for and they had a tree farm, that would subsidize their income for years. As if that wasn’t enough, with the Lord’s help at the end of the month, they would own their rig out right, in just five years. Thank you Jesus!! Jake put a Brian Free and Assurance Quartet CD into the deck and signed on.
“Breaker one, breaker one, this is Pastor Jake, I’m on the 104 West heading to St Stephen, Calais, and I - 95 to Jacksonville, Florida.
With the good Lord’s help I hope to be there day after tomorrow.
I’ve just taken stock of everything I have to be grateful for and the next question is simple. How can I say thanks? Well people, let’s listen to these guys sing for us, “My Tribute”. Then perhaps you might want to take stock of your own life, and the blessings you have received. Have a safe night on the road, and a great day tomorrow. Pastor Jake out!” Then he pressed the play button on the stereo deck and listened as the quartet sang. He reached over and opened the thermos of coffee which Elaine had given him, just a short few minutes ago.
“Bless me Father as I travel, and keep my family safe till I return.
Amen and Amen!!!