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Longtime downtown fixture Willis Jordan is thriving and helping others

“Everybody on the street right now, keep your head up and trust in the Lord with all your mind body and soul. I know it’s hard out there to try and survive, but always pray and have faith in the Lord and he will see you through your hard times and trouble.”

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Willis Jordan
Willis Jordan, 62 and alive.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

For almost 2 decades downtown fixture Willis “Kung Fu” Jordan struggled with alcoholism and homelessness.

His early life

“I was born in Meridian, Mississippi. I went to school and started studying martial arts when I was 12,” explained Willis Jordan. In his soft and smooth southern voice, Jordan went on to say that at a young age, “I moved to Houma, Louisiana by myself, didn’t know nobody there. I was working on ships in Houma and worked on oil rigs.”

At 19 Jordan moved in with a family he described as Christians. “I started staying with them, going to church, studying the bible. Then I moved to Chicago, by Foster Beach, and I stayed there at a place pretty much like the River City Rescue Mission. I learned a little bit more about Christ and I got Baptised when I was 19 years old in Lake Michigan.”

After that, Jordan moved back to Mississippi and, “Started staying with the same people I was staying at before I went to Chicago.” He eventually found work as a roofer. At 28 Jordan moved to Vicksburg with a lady friend.

“It seemed like a nice town for me to stay in at that time and we had a good Sheriff here. His name was Paul Barrett, one of my friends, and I met Eddie (Wilson) when I was young.”

Another relationship

Jordan went through another relationship and then got saved again and started going back to a church. At that church, he met another woman. He was working and building a life with her but, after 10 years, the lady, “Lord bless her soul,” passed away. “My life was pretty good. But in some kind of way I took a wrong turn thinking about what happened to her and I went back to drinking. I was drinking, but it wasn’t heavier drinking. Then I started drinking heavier and heavier and it felt like I didn’t even have nothing to live for so I just kept drinking.”

Staring into the past, reliving it in his mind, Jordan looked up and declared, “I guess the Lord wasn’t ready for me at that time.”

15 or so years later an ice storm hit Vicksburg in February of 2021. The homeless guy everyone downtown knew as “Kung Fu” was approached by Wesley Storz from the River City Rescue Mission. Storz explained to Jordan that a bad storm was coming and he needed to get off the street.

By the Grace of God

Jordan explains it this way, “Last year, by the grace of God, I don’t know how it happened, peoples come from this place, got me off the street. Trying to save me from the snow and I’ve been over here ever since, sober and clean. Never had the thought cross my mind about going back to that lifestyle or taking another drink or anything like that because Mr. Earnest and all of them have been real nice to me. I try to do the best I can.”

Willis "Kung Fu" Jordan and Earnie Hall. Photo by David Day
Willis “Kung Fu” Jordan and Earnie Hall. Photo by David Day

Earnie Hall with the mission chimed in to mention how much Jordan has meant to the mission since he joined. “He talks to all of the new ones. They know him and see how he is now. He is a tremendous testimony of what God can do if you will let him.”

“Thank God that I’m living to see another birthday and get on with my life the best I can,” said Jordan. “I’m doing great and I thank God for saving my life. I’m alive.”

Random acts of kindness

Jordan mentioned that during his time of homelessness downtown a couple of people were especially nice to him. Miss Wendy at People’s Drugs and Mrs. Rantisi at On Time Fashions looked out for him. He expressed his gratitude for their constant acts of kindness.

He went on to say he has known Earnie Hall for 30-something years. “I was downtown one night and used to come to where he worked at, he was a cook. If I didn’t have nothing to eat Earnie would make me something to eat. He was always a good fella to me.” Moving to the present day Earnie Hall, Jordan said, “He talks to me real nice. He’s a good teacher. He explains things to me in an easy way, a way that I can understand. He takes the verses in the Bible and breaks them down real smooth so I can understand it.”

Earnie Hall and Willis Jordan. Photo by David Day.
Earnie Hall and Willis Jordan. Photo by David Day.

He also advised that people on the street will sometimes take your offer of kindness as weakness. “But, if you can, help them anyway as the Lord willed. You can give them help, but they also must help themselves.”

For the people currently living on the street, Jordan offers, “Everybody on the street right now, keep your head up and trust in the Lord with all your mind, body, and soul. I know it’s hard out there to try and survive, but always pray and have faith in the Lord and he will see you through your hard times and trouble.”

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