Early on Thursday morning, April 26, 2018, at 2:20 am, the Lord called home Roger Terrell Tucker, known by many family and friends as “Terry” and those closest to him as “Tuck.” For the last nine years he served as the “house leader” at “Mission at the Cross” in Laurel, Mississippi and a member of the Hellfighters ministry team.
I’d known him all my life because we were first cousins once removed. So I know the “Tuck Story” as well as anyone, an inspiring tale that showcases the redeeming power of Christ, what godly love and compassion can accomplish, and how Christian charities can do more good than government could ever hope to do in the lives of others. His is a story of an “unredeemable” finding redemption.
Those that knew Tuck could never forget him. Even though he was a large man – and I often thought he was a giant when I was a youngster – you would have never met a kinder, gentler soul anywhere, even in his party-hearty days. I never once saw him angry or belligerent, at least as far as I can remember, and even though he enjoyed picking on me as a youngster, especially for my deep affection for Terry Bradshaw, it was always in good fun. I fondly remember family outings and reunions, fishing with Tuck and my Dad (and the cottonmouth that nearly got in the boat with us), and even Tuck’s not-so-well-known fondness for roller skating back in the day.
In truth, I actually owe my very existence in life to Tuck. Tragically losing his father at a very young age, Tuck, along with his mother and siblings, lived with Grandma Holder in Ellisville, in a house just off Highway 11. Tuck and my Mom were first cousins (their mothers were sisters). My Mom, though, lived in Covington, Louisiana, but she would often come to Ellisville to visit Grandma and the rest of the family. And it just so happened that Tuck and my Dad were very close friends in grade school, and Dad also frequented Grandma’s house. That’s how he met my Mom, which never would have happened if he and Tuck had not been close chums.
As my Dad will tell you, Tuck had first-rate brains, most particularly in mathematics. Difficult algebraic problems in high school that stumped the “brainiacs” of the class were no match for Tuck. This made him a superb worker in the construction field and many of his bosses were often mystified at how fast he could work out the often-complex figuring that comes with building and roofing houses.
But sadly what Tuck came to be known for throughout most of his life was not his fun nature, his hard work, or his free-wheeling, fast-paced lifestyle, but his addiction to drugs and alcohol, which consumed most of the first six decades of his life.
After being found passed out at a bar in 2009, he had a long stint in the county jail, and it was then that he knew he needed serious help. Without a car, job, home, or any prospects, he finally took the advice of my Aunt Deb and went to the “Mission at the Cross” in Laurel, founded by Richard and Gina Headrick. They took him in, and it was there he got clean and sober. But most importantly he found Jesus and began his second life as a minister for Christ. The Mission became his life and those who were there became his family.
He wrote of his redemption in a Facebook post a few years ago: “When I came to the mission in 2009, my family had given up on me because of my history with drugs and alcohol. And I, too, had given up on myself. I thought the Mission would be just another rehab program—I didn’t think it would work for me. However, by the grace of God, I have not only overcome the debilitating hold that alcohol had on my life, my relationship with my family has been restored and I am now the house leader at Mission at the Cross-Laurel! It is my joy to now help other men who are struggling as I did and share with them what Jesus can do for them and how He can give them a new life.”
To those of us in his family, those who were the closest to him, this came as more than a pleasant surprise; it was long-awaited and very welcome news. But we had never given up on him totally; we just needed to see if he would actually stick to it this time around, and by God’s Grace, he did. In fact, my grandmother (Tuck’s Aunt Clara) kept a daily prayer list and Tuck’s name was always near the top. Come to think of it, I think it was above mine. She always believed God would reach him somehow, some day. And she proved to be prophetic.
Many members of the family, including my Mom and Aunt Deb, were overjoyed that he had finally overcome his past problems. As the Scriptures tell us in Revelation 3:21: “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” Tuck was certainly an overcomer.
One lesson from the Scriptures that should be abundantly clear to all is that God loves to use those that society has deemed “damaged” or “unredeemable.” Remember, Jacob deceived his father, Moses murdered an Egyptian, Matthew was a Roman tax collector and partier, and even King David was deemed a “bloody man.” And it was because of his former life that made Tuck a giant in the mission field for Christ. He could reach those who were in the same boat he once rowed.
As the “house leader” at the Mission, Tuck touched the lives of over 800 men in his nine years there, guys that were in as bad of a condition as he once was, for it was only from a man like him that could truly understand their plight. At one Thanksgiving dinner he attended at my parent’s home, he talked about how he could help these desperate men. “There’s nothing they can tell me that I haven’t done a hundred times,” he said.
As avid motorcycle rider, he was blessed to be a part of Richard Headrick’s Hellfighters and had his own Harley that he rode often. He was a frequent visitor to the Sturgis, South Dakota motorcycle rally and would walk around all day handing out tracts and Bibles to those in attendance, something most Christian missionaries might not feel too comfortable doing. But he waded through throngs of “Hell’s Angels” to share the message of Christ as only he could.
Tuck’s story was so compelling that it very much touched Richard Headrick, who once told him that he was an inspiration to him. That touched Tuck’s heart so much that he said to my Dad one day, “Here’s an important business man telling me that he admires me!” He couldn’t get over the fact that his life had changed so dramatically and that he could be an inspiration to anyone. But there were so many others that believed the same thing, including me.
A few years ago, Tuck was diagnosed with liver cancer and he fought it valiantly while continuing his work for the Lord. Just a few weeks ago, when the end was near, my Mom and Aunt cared for him, took him food, sat with him until we all knew time was getting close. When it finally came last week, we gathered around the bed and prayed for him, an affectionate appeal led by Richard. It was not a prayer for a miraculous healing but that the Lord in his graciousness would take him and end his chronic suffering. And within a few hours he went home.
His funeral in Laurel was a testimony to the wonderful service he conducted for the Lord. Hundreds of people filled the church last Saturday to pay a final tribute to Tuck. Men, some openly weeping, testified about how he had touched their lives and helped them overcome the same debilitating addiction that had nearly destroyed his. Hundreds of others from around the country wrote comments on social media in tribute.
Tuck’s life should be a first-class testimony to what the power of Jesus Christ can do in the lives of society’s “unredeemables.” Our old wretched world may see them as beyond reach but not Christ. There is no one He can’t reach, no one He won’t love, and no one He will abandon. If Tuck can be redeemed, anyone can. Just put your faith and trust in the only One who can reach the lost.
Roger “Tuck” Tucker (1950-2018)
If you know any homeless men, even those suffering from an addiction to drugs and alcohol, please consider Mission at the Cross in Laurel, Mississippi.