Removing Chains live chat victim support site is dedicated to Michael “OneVoice” Hawkinson; “The best friend I never met.” In the tribute I wrote for Mike, (below), you will see how RemovingChains.org, oddly enough, had its start through CHAIN.org 20+ years ago. Chain links that we saw then as uniting a core of caregivers, we now see as that which we are breaking to set captives free.
The CHAIN.org site is still live, but inactive, more as a memorial to what once was. It is our hope that it may one day become active again as part of the continuing work being carried on here on Removing Chains using what we learned there on CHAIN.
I dedicate Removing Chains site to;
- The lessons learned by loving people we could not see, or touch;
- The faith made strong through hours of listening intently to the broken heart of another;
- The way God used the most unlikely of broken vessels to reach the hurting thousands of miles away;
- Not become a theological rule house, what Jesus would call a “white washed tomb,” but be a healing place of mercy, grace and unconditional love, that draws in the victimized without fear of judgment.
It is, therefore, our mission through Removing Chains live chat rooms to provide this free site to reach, listen to, partner with and renew hope within victimized people young and old. We are committed to allowing the power of humility and selfless love to both freely flow and be multiplied well beyond Removing Chains through the equipping of others.
Co-founding member - CHAIN.org
Founder, Executive Director - Ark of Hope for Children
Lead Survivors Coach, site builder - Removing Chains
Tribute to Mike Hawkinson, August 22, 2003
Mike truly embraced the value of being “A man after God’s own heart.” To speak about how thankful I am for Mike Hawkinson is really to speak of how amazing and loving of a God we have. God put Mike and I in each others paths in a most remarkable way, and just when we each needed it.
We originally met online in 1992 before any of us even knew that there was such a thing as the Internet. The “Sierra Network” began the first online gaming community called the Imagination Network”, or “INN.” I was in the tail end of a very troubled marriage and Mike was happily working for Discover Card. But we both joined up to find some people we could play some card games like hearts with in a safe environment. We had no idea what God was really setting us up for.
Mike, “OneVoice,” lived in Arizona and I, HeCares, lived in Illinois. We actually met in a Christian chat room a young man from Daytona, Florida had started. Soon we were not only playing cards but praying together, ministering to hurting people and praying with others from around the United States. We met a few really great people there including Shawn Richards, “HisHeart” and Joshua Wolford, “LionsDen”.
INN soon became too expensive and it seemed we would lose what we had found in each other because most of us couldn’t afford it. Mike heard of the Internet so we tried meeting in a few different places but never felt very welcome, or that it was a good fit. We discovered the IRC, Internet Relay Chat. There were hundreds of people online in hundreds of different “chat rooms”. Unfortunately much of what was going on in those rooms was extremely negative and often perverse. In other words it was perfect for us to challenge ourselves to continue what had already been started! That small handful of us, Mike, Blair, Joshua and Shawn, set up a Christ centered chat room there and called it “CHAIN,” which was an acronym for Christ’s Hands Across the Interactive Network,” (soon changed to Internet by Mike even though I often got on his case for changing it.)
As CHAIN progressed so did many deep struggles for both Mike and I. Mike had already been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and began struggling physically, while I was heading for an inevitable divorce and losing my business at the same time. In January of 1996 after heart-breaking struggles my divorce became finalized, I became a single father of three young children and the next day I handed over the keys to my business.
Mike was now fully disabled with multiple problems and was homebound. Both of us, however were closer to God than we ha ever been. We talked often with each other about how we hated the positions we were in, but that we were totally surrendered to God. I had fallen under the pressure many times, but God provided Mike to pick me up, and I did the same for him. Mike and others from CHAIN saved me from a suicidal depression during this period. Mike constantly reminded me that God had His hand on my life and hand a unique plan that only I was made to carry out. I hung on and surrendered more deeply to whatever that was, as did Mike.
Being that Mike was homebound I knew it was God’s design that Mike should take full control of CHAIN. I took a back seat administratively as I searched to discover the path God had for me to follow that would achieve both and income for my family and allowing me the ability to be an Ambassador in His kingdom.
Leaving CHAIN in Mike’s capable hands brought out his giftedness even more. CHAIN thrived. People were ministered to almost daily, fellowship was happening not only with people from the United States but now in many other countries as well. We were part of an amazing plan God had to use the Internet, a tool that many said was a tool for evil, and use it for the good His children all over the world. We never envisioned that would happen, and it was never our plan, but we watched in amazement as God was shrinking his world. Ministry to people seeking God, mercy and compassion for those who were hurting, and even love for those who openly bashed Christ was happening every day. This truly was an “ACTS” church.
In 1998 I remarried and now had my wife, Verna, also known as He4gives, five children and two disabled adults to care for, (one of whom is Verna’s ex-husband). We moved to Florida so I could accept a position as a manager of a business I was familiar with running. I was made to work six days a week, and soon lost my connection with CHAIN so I could be a good father with what little free time I had. Mike always stayed close though. He would call or get me online and we would talk long into the next morning.
In 2000 I walked away from my job to pursue a mission God had put on Verna’s and my heart to start a community of homes to house abused children. Having known us so well, as only a close brother could, Mike knew that Verna and I were suited for this. We were no strangers to struggle, faith and persistence. We now have ten children, five that we have adopted from foster care. We have moved to a smaller community in Florida called High Springs. We have begun purchasing a large property where we planned to build six homes for these abused children and minister to them in the ways that they deserve.
Mike knew that this mission was right for us and what we were called by God to do all along. Mike was always extremely in tune with us. He intuitively knew when I needed him, whether for confirmation or just to talk. He never treated me like I had abandoned him, but told me that I had followed obediently the design God had for me. He stayed closer than a brother all the time. Once he called me late at night, which was Mike’s trademark, and sang a song over the phone to me that he had written with me in mind. The song was about friendship. All I could do was cry.
Mike left quite a legacy with me. He taught me to never bother arguing Biblical doctrine with people. I came to agree that there were plenty of people for arguing, but that God was seeking people who would be Ambassadors for Christ. I always described that as to mean, “Being Christ with skin on for someone.” That made Mike laugh and I loved his laugh! We would joke about how God used to have to “hit us over the head with a 2x4 to get our attention!” Other times we laughed about times “when we didn’t follow God’s lead and God had to swallow us up by that “Big Fish to wake us up!”
God humbled us both almost in unison it seemed as He grew us up. We both came to the place where we would see a need and jump in without hesitation and with both feet knowing God was taking care of us. We felt God’s hugs and Christ’s love and our main desire was to lovingly guide people to Christ. Mike taught me that to do so in love was to inform them about who Christ and God are and simply offer people the choice. If they didn’t choose to right then we didn’t beat them over the head with our Bibles. If they chose to follow Christ we partied with the angels. If not, we continued loving them right as they were, with no judgment. We fully expected that someday God would make the seed we planted within them grow, so we didn’t need to over water and feed it until it was choked out and they were running the other way.
God is an amazing God. Through this online church called CHAIN God taught me how to “love people from the inside out.” He taught me how to ignore all appearances and patiently seek out their heart. God treated me to a little more than a decade long friendship that was more loving, more accepting, more caring, more sincere and more Christ-like than any I have ever had. What makes that statement so incredible is that Mike Hawkinson and I never got to meet in person! Oh we tried, and we planned, but through our struggles with time and finances it never worked out. I write this with tears in my eyes because if there is a regret that is my only one. Mike and I joked saying, “We’re not going to meet each other until we get to Heaven, are we?” Nope, we’re not.
On August 15, 2003 God took Mike’s pain away. I know he is checking out all the great places to go and he excitedly awaits my arrival so he can show me around. I wait longingly for that time, but I go on with the mission; to bring the broken and hurting children, to know the amazing love of Christ, through this humble vessel. **
In addition I commit myself to doing whatever I can to be sure that CHAIN goes on without becoming political, church-ish or just a hangout place. Because of the love God showed us through this willing vessel we honor today, Mike Hawkinson, his legacy will be that CHAIN goes on, lives continue being changed and Christ-like fellowship WILL continue to happen in the form of live chat on the Internet.
Thank you God,
** Note; the following omitted from this reprint of Mike’s eulogy from me;
"Our community for abused children, called Ark of Hope For Children,” my wife and I lovingly dedicate to my brother Mike. It is still vacant land and we still struggle to make it a reality, but one day in some way, Mike’s memory WILL be immortalized there.”
After severe complications with a surgery in 2009 that was to save my wife Verna’s life, her life was almost taken multiple times over the next 1 ½ years. I devoted myself to her, and our family of 12, in full in keeping with my vows of “in sickness and in health, for better or for worse.” Verna is alive and walking some again, but the property was lost to foreclosure in 2011, along with most of our volunteers and donors. Another surprise was to come from God, this site and other amazing adventurous plans for Ark of Hope for Children.