From Hurt to Hope: How Jim Kaponikolos Found Himself through Bible Study and Struggle
By Lauren Bongard Schwarz
In the space of one year, Jim Kaponikolos’ life had been turned completely upside down. But thanks to a connection with Pastor Eddy Johnson, former manager of the ADRA Community Care Centre at Blacktown and current honorary chaplain there, he found a new path full of hope and joy.
“I’d lost my health, job, wife, kids, house, and freedom,” he shares. “And that would have been enough—if I didn’t have someone like Eddy guiding me, helping me pump up my tires spiritually, and making sure I was ok—that I may not still be here today. But he helped me gain enough power to thrive as a human being and walk out the other end a better person than I was walking in.”
When Jim and Pr Eddy first met, Jim was a married father struggling to communicate with his wife after making some big changes in his life. He’d worked in the liquor industry for more than 20 years, but after choosing to give up his drinking and recreational drugs habits, cracks in his marriage started to appear. “We were looking for someone to help us communicate and reconnect,” he says. “I was very much in love with my wife and loved my two little girls. I wanted my family to succeed.”
The couple found Pr Eddy and started counselling. Unfortunately, the marriage didn’t survive. Jim found himself on a downward spiral, struggling for the right to spend time with his children and restart his life. After an altercation with his former father-in-law about seeing his young daughters, Jim spent seven months in jail before being acquitted.
But rather than spiralling further, his time in jail gave him a new perspective. “I’d never been in trouble with the law before, but fortunately God only gives us what we can handle,” he shares. “Pr Eddy was writing me letters constantly while I was in jail, and the letters he wrote helped me changed my life around. He gave me verses in the Bible to read, especially Job, and I listened to what he and the Bible were telling me. I felt I was unjustly in there, but it was good for me. It straightened me out completely and humbled me.”
While in jail, Jim started AA meetings and decided to go back to school. Now, he’s two years away from becoming a drug and alcohol counsellor. “I’ve been involved in the AA and NA fellowship for more than 10 years now because of my recovery,” Jim shares. “I always had an interest in helping others, but my life used to be about getting excited when a big deal came across. Now I get excited when I get a call from a mother saying that I’ve helped her son overcome addiction. That high is better than any drug I’ve ever had. I look at my mentor, Eddy, and I want to be like him. I want to touch people like he does. I want my life to be more about service than getting served.”
Although his path was tough, Jim is thankful for the experiences. “I found myself through the process,” he says. And his connection with Pr Eddy helped him immensely. “We clicked straightaway,” he confirms. “He could read me, the way I was feeling and what was going on and put the right words in the right place and knew when to call me when I needed it.”
Jim explains that often when he was dealing with issues in family court and feeling very down, he’d get an unplanned phone call from Pr Eddy offering support and advice. Pr Eddy also called and offered support to Jim’s parents and sister, giving them peace and comfort while they worried about Jim’s predicaments.
When he was released, the judge strongly recommended continuing counselling, so Jim and Pr Eddy kept meeting. “[This is] ongoing sponsoring in the sense of having someone reliable to turn to,” Pr Eddy shares. “The benefit of being a sponsor is the joy of seeing concrete positive change occurring over time.”
Now, with the end of his struggles in sight, Jim has pledged to support Pr Eddy and his ministries in every possible way. “I’ve joined his Bible studies and groups, and I’ll do everything I can to help his organisation,” Jim explains. “Anything they need, I’ll jump in and do it. It changed my life, and I want to help them change other people’s lives.”
One of the biggest areas of cooperation is the Saturday afternoon Bible study group that meets at Blacktown ADRA offices. Pr Eddy hosts the gathering, which begins with a Bible study and ends with a potluck supper and socialising. The group has become a second family to Jim and other participants, giving them a social circle that’s dedicated to learning more about God and each other.
“Before, I was an angry man,” Jim recalls. “I would hit challenges head on with an angry attitude. But now, I hit them with the understanding that God gives you certain challenges so you can grow as a human being. If you embrace that and work through it, you can become a better person.”
Jim describes his struggles and life through an analogy that Pr Eddy taught him. “A Samurai sword is the strongest steel in the world. It cuts through everything,” he says. “But to get to that, the amount of beating and fire that this sword gets—heated super-hot, bashed flat, dipped in cold water, back into the fire, in and out—makes it a polished piece of steel that can destroy anything. That’s what happened to me. Life absolutely pounded me, but rather than break and become brutal, I had a really good blacksmith that knew [how] to craft me beautifully.”
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