In memory: James E. Wilborn, 1953-2015

James E. Wilborn died in MSDF in 2015 due to heat exhaustion

Here’s his story, from the Table of the Saints

James E. Wilborn Was on the board of directors of the Table of the Saints, Milwaukee, and its Intercessor/Prayer Warrior. He was born in 1953 in Mississippi, grew up in Chicago, and came to Milwaukee at age 45 in ’93 as a member of a Christian ministry of bible disciples, Victory Outreach, a world-wide organization. But, he said, he was a member only intellectually, with his head, not his heart. Feeling unfulfilled by his work, he quit and wound up living in the streets for five years, succumbing to drug addiction. He was arrested and convicted for delivering illegal substances and ended up in prison from1995 to ’98. Once free, he fell into old habits, again a full-blown addict. Two years later, he committed a “strong-armed robbery” to feed his habit and received a six-year prison sentence, 2000 to 2008.

For two years after this release from prison, he managed to deny the temptation of drugs and alcohol. But this time, when he fell, he took himself to the alcohol and drug treatment program at the Network Recovery Rehabilitation Residence, where he remained for two years. Upon leaving in 2010, Wilborn moved to the Miracle House, and met William Harrell, who invited him to join the Table of the Saints. February 18, 2010, was the day that Wilborn says that he was saved from using drugs because that day, he received Christ back into his life, became a prayer minister and overcame his addiction to drugs. This time, however, his heart was involved, not just his head.

A change of mind and heart and understanding

James Wilborn said that he never expressed himself to God before joining the Table of the Saints. He said, “There has to be a willingness to change your mind and your heart and understanding to make it on the outside. The Lord changed my mind and heart and understanding. I was fortunate: instead of being sent back to jail, I was sent to Alternative to Revocation treatment, which I see as God’s doing. But I had to be broken before God could fill the void in my heart.

“When people say, what kind of God would let bad things happen, in some cases, they don’t realize that they have choices, or that free will is a gift from God.”

Escaping death three times

Wilborn said that at age 16, he was shot six times. The operation to save his life took 18 hours; the medical team didn’t think he would make it.

At 21, he needed a tonsillectomy. The surgeon cut an artery in his throat by mistake and the nurses ignored him when he said that he was having trouble breathing. Imagine struggling for air until a second shift nurse respected him and examined his throat: She discovered that he was choking on his own blood and rushed him back into surgery. The surgeon failed again, forcing James Wilborn into a third operation. This one repaired his artery, but the medical staff doubted that Wilborn would make it through the night.

The third time a medical staff believed that Wilborn would die before dawn was the time that he was 27 and began to have seizures. He was in prison at the time and was sent to a civilian hospital with a policeman stationed at his door. Tests showed that severe ulcers had perforated his intestines. Internal bleeding was cutting off oxygen in his brain, causing the seizures. In surgery, they patched him up and returned him to his room. Because the doctors doubted that Wilborn would be alive by morning, the police guard was dismissed.

Wilborn asked to see a minister. The minister told him that the Lord told him that Wilborn was not going to die. The minister “laid his hands on” Wilborn and prayed. James Wilborn greeted another dawn and found his brother by his side. They hadn’t seen each other in years after Wilborn’s brother joined the Navy. The Navy gave James’ brother a leave of absence and paid for his transportation to attend his brother’s deathbed. When Wilborn didn’t die, he was sent to an institutional hospital. This medical team repeated the same tests, but these result showed that Wilborn’s intestines had healed. He was sent to a maximum security prison to serve out the last four months of his sentence.

Upon his release, Wilborn returned to Milwaukee. Because he was tempted to use again and wind up in prison again, he checked himself into the Network Recovery Rehabilitation residence and got the help he needed. Meeting William Harrell and joining the Table of the Saints played a huge role in his triumph over addiction, because doing good to feel good works.

From the Table of the Saints

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