Before coming to faith in Jesus Christ, Jim Cottrell’s early years were grim in a broken home filled with fears and bitterness. He watched alcohol and gambling ruin his family. Drunken, violent outbursts and then fights, filled with battering and screaming made it clear that his father and mother were leading their family into deep, lonely years of poverty and separation. The final break up of their home and marriage through divorce came and went, leaving three small boys wondering who loved them and would take care of them. Being the oldest, Jim felt a bit overwhelmed to know how to help take care of his two younger brothers. Living in this unstable home environment had removed so much of the fun and happiness usually associated with childhood years. It became much easier to deal with life by simply straying away from home for many miles and hours at a time. Even though he watched the alcohol and gambling destroy all that was good, he chose to run the streets with other young rebellious kids, stealing cars and getting into trouble with the law. Jim spent his Jr. and Sr. High School years living in an institution, a home for (problem/unwanted) boys. The desire for a “normal” upbringing and home life was a continual torment felt within. Soon, self-pity, anger and confusion took control. Alcohol in college and drug use in the military increased the sin-sick condition of his soul. “In the Army, other “dope fiends” taught me to use and deal drugs… so I would get loaded and pack dope back to the barracks after staying out all night. I became quite an “acid head” hippie in the process. I can say that there are very few as lonely and messed up as a doped up hippie in the military. The heavy use of hallucinogens, warping my mind and emotions made me feel like a very old man in a young person’s body.”
In 1970, Jim was living on the streets of Hollywood, CA, sleeping on floors and running from the law. These were the early years of the “Jesus Movement” and revival fires were hot. One night, during a drug deal, the Lord used a street preacher to confront him with the gospel. That encounter led him to a “hippie church” where he heard a challenging message. “All through the service the Holy Spirit was speaking into my heart, assuring me that Jesus Christ alone is the one who understood all my hurt and He would heal my soul.” The altar call came and Jim responded, stepping out in faith to receive forgiveness and surrendering past, present and future to the Lord. “I really felt the horrible weight of sin and loneliness lift off my soul and I knew that I was set free from the bondage to drug use, sexual pursuits and street life.” He went on to devote the next eight years of his life to reach out to others on those streets through the same Hollywood, street work. Jim says, “When Jesus Christ set me free, I had a real chance to start over, and the born-again experience gave me freshness in my spirit, soul and body that I’d longed for. I was finally free from sin and right with God. By His power at work in my life, I’ve seen deep character flaws and attitudes change within. Today I enjoy a whole new way of living, as a godly man. I can readily,openly and unashamedly praise God every time I remember the pit He dug me from and I thank Him for this new life of faith, filled with His blessings and eternal promises.”
Jim has held several pastoral positions in the Portland Metro area during the 1980’s. From 1988 to 2005 he pioneered and directed the Portland Teen Challenge ministry centers for men and women, which focused on building consistent Christian character and a strong relationship with Jesus Christ in the lives of hundreds of people through out 18 years of service. Jim also served on the National Board for Teen Challenge and left the Portland center having seen it develop from scratch into a 70 bed, residential discipleship program. In the fall of 2005, he established a new ministry in the Portland area called “Freedom House.” Freedom House provides a full one year long, residential discipleship recovery format for adult men. He currently directs a committed staff in their day to day development and operation of this highly structured and accountable, program, placing great emphasis on personal intimacy in relationship with Christ. Students who come to Freedom House often have a long history of heartache due in large part to personal struggles with life-controlling problems such as drug addiction, alcoholism, gang involvement, pornography, gambling and street life.
Jim has been both host and guest on numerous radio and television talk shows both regionally and nationally. He is an ordained minister and a motivating speaker, ministering regularly in churches, mission conventions and seminar workshops, sharing from over 36 years of active Christian service. Together, he and his loving wife Geri, live in Portland, Oregon. They have been blessed with 5 children and grandchildren.