By Sharon Mager
On a cold January evening, a group of 50 people, including a few homeless from the church’s shelter, some folks recovering or dealing with addictions, and some former convicts gathered for the church at Lighthouse Mission of Havre de Grace. The church meets Fridays at 7 p.m. at the Susquehanna Baptist Association office.
Lights are lowered, and Lenore Haynes, the wife of Lighthouse Mission Pastor Rick Haynes, leads the worship team, singing, “My Story.” She breaks and asks, “What’s your story?” One man says, “I got a job!” Another shouted, “Jesus saved me!” Then Lenore, in a strong, raspy voice, sings, “Break Every Chain.”
Rick Haynes, tall and tattooed, strides to the front, and with a grin, tells Lenore it’s not fair for her to make him cry before preaching.
Referencing Matthew 6:33, Rick tells his congregation that if they want to “start over,” they have to seek first the Kingdom. “Actively pursue, go after, continuously, every day of your life. To seek the kingdom is to seek the King,” he says.
Following the service, there’s a fellowship meal of hot stew, bread, and cake.
In addition to serving six years as a United States Marine, Rick was a former outlaw biker, an ex-con, and a former addict. He was shot, stabbed, left for dead. He was estranged from family and friends. He lost everything and was homeless.
It was at the height of his outlaw motorcycle club days that God began to change Rick. After injuring a man, and going to trial, the victim’s daughter asked Haynes, “Why did you hurt my daddy?”
“I started wondering, why did I hurt him?” Rick said.
In jail, he agreed to attend a Bible study because he would get a jelly donut. What he didn’t expect was to see his estranged little brother, Bob Haynes, leading the study.
“I went running to him and he came to me. We talked the whole time. I never got the donut.”
Bob helped Rick get paroled and offered him a place to stay. Rick wanted to turn things around but wasn’t ready to totally commit his life to Jesus.
He did want to get out of the motorcycle club. “They broke my knees, my collarbone, ribs; I was stabbed, shot twice, and put next to a dumpster,” Rick said.
He moved to New Jersey and worked in a steel mill. But things went downhill. His father died. His dog died. He lost his job. He was homeless and back into drugs. Social services arranged for Rick to get into Perry Point Veterans Medical Center in Maryland where he found himself wearing other people’s underwear and socks. That made an impression on him. He never wanted to be in that position again, and he wanted to help others as well.
Haynes surrendered himself to Christ and then he met Lenore. Lenore has been a long-time worship leader at First Baptist Church of Havre de Grace (FBC) on Sunday mornings. Rick began attending FBC. Growing in his faith, he had a desire to help others and started “Answered Prayers,” a food ministry that was drawing hundreds of people each week.
FBC Pastor Ron Smith said, “He had experienced so much. He lost everything. Rick had such a burden and he longed to do something.”
In 2013, Rick felt God leading him to hold a tent revival. Pastors from nine different denominations participated, and the revival went on for over three weeks.
Shortly afterward, he began having dreams of being a pastor. “I was fighting it, but God kept pursuing me,” Rick said.
In 2014, with the encouragement of Smith, the church began at the Association office.
Now, Lester Hall is a Lighthouse Mission deacon and was with Rick in the beginning. “I’ve seen changes in everyone there, including myself.”
Hall said most ministers don’t understand the issues that Lighthouse Mission faces every day.
Church member Larry Smith said he likes that Lighthouse welcomes everyone. He said sometimes people arrive a bit tipsy, but the church doesn’t turn them away. “We’re feeding the community, and the church is helping the homeless,” he said.
“I think they like the idea of coming as you are and that the pastor has tattoos,” Rick said with a smile, acknowledging God is redeeming his past. “They relate to me because I’ve been there.”