Stories of Faith: In Memory of Nick Leiker (1958-2014)

In Memory of Nick Leiker (1958-2014)

After graduating the Academy in 2013, Nick Leiker was on staff with the Fresno Rescue Mission, first as a beloved Receptionist in our front office, then as our Shop Supervisor in the Automotive Department.


Nick passed away July 2014. He was deeply loved by all of us. We will miss his humor, his smile, and his open love of the Lord. Please pray for his family. 


The following article appeared in our May 2013 edition of Lighthouse News.


 

Having a Healthy Fear of the Lord


“There was a period of time in my life when I thought I knew the Lord. I read the Bible. I was married to a preacher’s daughter. I could easily reference Scripture because it was in my head. It was never in my heart. When I finally hit rock-bottom, having lost everything to my drug and alcohol addiction, God said to me, ‘Everything you thought you knew, forget! We’re starting over.’” At the time, Nick struggled to open the Bible and find words to pray, but the Lord addressed his random thoughts, those begging the question, “WHY?” It was in the Lord’s response that Nick was given the opportunity to find redemption — to recognize what had been missing. “He gave me a hunger for His Word.”


Nick is 53 years old. We first met him in 2007 when he initially enrolled in the Academy. He followed our program, he practiced measures of control, but he admits that his pride and his skewed perspectives kept him from recognizing the truth behind his addictions. “I was raised to believe you should trust no one — to keep emotions bottled — to handle everything with fists. Addictions in my family span more than three generations — brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts. Communication didn’t exist. The entire family was made up of functioning addicts with mental health and anger issues. So when I first came to know the Lord in 1991, after spending 5 years in prison, giving my life to Him seemed like a ‘done deal’ because I was speaking a new language. Yeah, I still had problems, but in my mind they weren’t a big deal.”


It wasn’t until Nick was fired from his job with the Mission’s Thrift Store in 2008 that he began to experience a slow fade to near-death. “I struggled with physical pain. I lost my job because I was using pain medication. I thought the Mission was being overly critical because I assumed I had control over the use of pills. I was wrong. The effects were never quite enough. Before long, I was using heroin again. At one point, I was so low that I attempted to overdose. I was furious when I woke up the next morning in the hospital. I wanted to die and God hadn’t let me.”


In 2011, word of Nick’s struggle came back to Mission staff. Jake Gonzales, a Certified Addictions Treatment Counselor for the Academy, started calling him. “Even when Jake’s first attempts to make contact and get me re-enrolled in the program failed, he didn’t give up on me. On the third attempt I was at a crossroad — I had to stick it out, regardless the pain, or I was not going to live. It took 14 days of insomnia, sickness and shakes before I had four hours of continual, restful sleep. I actually uttered the words, ‘Thank you, Jesus!’ when my eyes first opened. Then the realization began to sink in. It wasn’t just the heroin that had to go. Every addiction and habit that numbed me was an obstacle to freedom.”


When asked about his greatest fear, Nick choked on his tears. “I’m sorry. I sometimes wish I had been given the tools to communicate. Not having that has hurt me a lot.” Nick stopped — the pain was growing. “I am grateful that God allowed me to live. When He opened my eyes, He not only showed me what I had been missing in my life, but what I wasn’t giving Him… . Obedience isn’t just about the end result. It’s about putting God in His rightful place. I can’t walk in fear of the world, but in fear and honor of Who He IS. There are several verses I find comforting. They remind me:


‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;…’ Isaiah 43:1b-4a:” 



As Nick spoke, his voice trembled. His eyes glistened. His face strained and tears welled — These Words were more than verses committed to memory. They were now piercing his heart!


“… and 2 Corinthians 10:3-5: For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, …”



Nick will graduate the Academy June 17th 2013. He is in the transitional phase of the program, working the front desk, greeting those who come to the Mission seeking help. He is attending Fresno City College, achieving a 3.5 GPA, in an effort to become a Drug and Alcohol Counselor (This from a man who dropped out of school at age 14). “God has given me His vision for my future … I want to live my life for Him.” It’s fair to say that Nick is communicating just fine now. He’s letting the Lord speak volumes through him.