Jonathan Duhamel | Assistant Chaplain
In February of 2014, I was sitting at a table making jokes that I needed a female leader in the youth group I was overseeing, and therefore needed to get married. Then one of the gentlemen took me aside and said, “Have you talked to my daughter, Heather?” From that moment on I suddenly had a connection with Redeemer, and I was dating a beautiful girl with the most interesting combination of Majors/Minors. Six months later, I was on one knee, purposing to her, and one and a half years later, I'm married to a Redeemer Student. Hi, I’m Jonathan DuHamel, and I am the Assistant Chaplain/the new Mark/the Timothy Project guy.
You never know the path that God will take you on. My story starts a lot earlier than finding the love of my life. When asked to write this article, I was a little lost for words; so I decided, why not share my story and give you all a chance to get to know me?
In March of 1991, I was born into a pretty great family. I had two older siblings, and a loving mother and father who were planting a little church on the highway in Muskoka. The life of a PK (Pastor’s Kid) is a great one, but unfortunately for me, it was short lived. When I was six years old, something happened that I didn’t understand. We were leaving the church my parents were pastoring, but this time not going to another. My dad took a job outside of the Church, and it didn’t feel normal. I then started to notice my dad's absence, and a while later my parents gave us the news that my father was leaving.
Months later I remember being in a counselor’s office. My brother, sister, dad, mom, and I were sitting with the counselor as my dad explained to us that he no longer loved my mom, and was now dating a man. To a six year old this concept was confusing, and to be honest, I didn’t understand what that meant until my dad moved in with his first boyfriend. Going to bed at night, trying to comprehend that 'Daddy is no longer sleeping with Mommy but a man,' often made my siblings and I physically sick. The nightmares that came along with that were horrific.
My mother felt God speak to her the day we got the bad news from my dad. She knew it was coming, and left to pray. In that moment God told her she would one day work in Burlington, in the specific building where our Counseling was: CTS, also known as 100 Huntley Street.
God confirmed this in her heart while we were living close to family in Port Hope, Ontario. We were attending a church when a lady complained that we were there. This woman was nervous that my siblings and I would talk to her kids about our father, so the minister asked us to leave the church. My mom knew she had to move somewhere, and remembered the moment she had with God.
We moved to Burlington out of faith, and God blessed my mom with a job, not a great paying one, but still a job. We were living in the 'ghetto,' where going out after dark wasn’t safe because of the gang violence and drug culture. We didn’t have much, but we always had just enough.
At this point in my life, I believed in God, but didn’t really think He cared. How could He? My picture-perfect family quickly turned into a nightmare. I gave up on God when I was nine. I started getting involved with the wrong group of kids, and I was headed toward the gang life. We would beat up kids for fun, and steal from the local gas station just because we could.
I remember the day my friend offered me weed. I can’t tell you why I didn’t say yes. I was a grade 5 student at this time, and all my friends were doing it.
My sister attended our church's youth group, and I thought it might be cool. The church was just transitioning a junior high pastor in, so we got to attend with the older kids. The youth pastor was a pretty cool guy. He had tattoos and would often wrestle with us. The first time I went, I heard his story, and it suddenly made me rethink my life. To summarize quickly, the pastor used to be a drug dealer, went to a party with drugs, yet everyone already had their fix. He took the drugs himself, died, and miraculously came back to life. With scary spiritual experiences during his high, he realized God was real, and he needed to commit his life to Him.
So with just saying no to drugs, I suddenly saw what my life may have become and thought maybe I wouldn't be so lucky. God got a hold of my life, and over time He became the centre focus.
By the time I got to grade 12, life was great! My mom had gotten remarried, we had a big home, and I became extremely involved in my church. On top of all of this, I was living my new dream. I was working as a professional actor.
My brother thought my “dream” was lame. Although he recognized I was good at acting, he would always tell me I was wasting my time, and should become a pastor. In January of 2009, my brother passed away from an accidental overdose of caffeine. Suddenly the God I trusted had taken someone away from me again. How could He?! My brother was more than just a brother. He had become a fatherly role model to me, and was my best friend. Yet this time was different. Although God had taken from me again, I knew that my brother was never actually mine. He belonged to God first, and I knew that although it hurt God to see us hurting, that He would make all things work for His good.
I decided to attend Master's College and Seminary’s 1 year program so that I could continue to pursue my acting career. The summer before school, my acting career had skyrocketed. I was being noticed as one of Canada’s top talents for film and television, and was even offered a recording contract with Sony. My dream was becoming a reality.
But then, suddenly, God changed my life’s direction. In one of my first year classes we were reading about incredible people who were starting churches across the world. While reading my textbook, I had a moment with God I will never forget that ended with me calling my agent and quitting my acting/singing career. God had called me to do full-time ministry.
You never know the path God will take you on. For me, He used multiple moments of sadness, hurt, success, and lack of success to bring me to this moment in my life. Now, I am paid to work for Christ and make Fishers of Men. I am living His dream for my life.
I would love to get to know every single one of the students at Redeemer, to talk about life and find out your story. Please do me a favor and send me an email, or shoot me a text!