The prodigal son had nothing on me!
Prior to coming to the Ventura County Rescue Mission, the state of my relationship with God was a broken one. I had a rough childhood, so I decided to rebel against my parents by depriving them of me! The prodigal son had nothing on me. I left home to start my own life, or so I thought. Five years later I was single with a great job with benefits and vacation time. I was a happy boy with money to buy my big boy toys.
I eventually got involved in a relationship but it turned
into a nightmare, and I could not manage it. Soon I lost my toys, my apartment, and finally my job and everything else in my name. Just like that, I was a homeless beach bum, but a very efficient one.
I eventually ended up in jail. The system viewed me as a nuisance, a danger to society, and wanted to put me away for a long time. On the last day of court, even after striking a deal at the last minute, they still wanted to put me away. But God had his hand on me. I was transferred to the Ventura County Rescue Mission by the public defender’s office.
Over the course of the last 9 months, the mission has provided me with tools to make changes and a difference in my life. I have also learned that God loves me.
I am a new man in Christ because I have turned to Him and confessed that I am a sinner in need of His guidance for the rest of my life. Now that I am graduating, I know I can make it because I am not living my life on my own, but my life belongs to God. ~ Luis L.
Several months ago, I was living a hopeless life. I felt like I was at the end of my rope, and that I was soon going to die. I kept thinking this is no way to live. Death or jail seemed to be the next likely outcome since I was homeless and living in a park. My future was bleak.
One day I started taking aimless walks with no destination in mind. Not even realizing I was praying, I began to ask God, “Talk to me. I have no direction or place to go. I can’t go on living this way. Open a door for me, point my feet in the right direction.” These walks and prayers went on for several days. One day as I was sitting on a bench in the park, a gentleman was approaching me as he was walking his dogs. We talked for a little while. When he realized the condition I was in, he asked me a question, “Do you know Jesus Christ?” Later that week he found me again and brought me to the Ventura County Rescue Mission.
Since coming to the rescue mission, my life has been pointed in the right direction. Jesus is here and the bitter emptiness of my old life has been filled with hope, dignity, promise, and love. I have found the way to measure success in life. In Luke 12:15 it talks about how a man’s life does not consist of the abundance of his possessions. I have learned success is measured by what you are willing to let go of to follow the Lord. After I had been at the mission for awhile, I was given the opportunity to go back to my old trade, but that meant I would have to leave the program. I am staying because I know that the Lord has better things ahead for me, as long as I follow Him and allow Him to finish the work He has started in my life. Watch the video of Guillermo's testimony...
Time goes by so fast. Christmas is supposed to be a joyous occasion when families come together to celebrate Christ’s birth. My past three Christmases have been happy, sad, and at times hopeful.
In Christmas of 2008, I spent the day with my 2-month-old baby girl and my 2-yr-old son traveling from Santa Maria to Oxnard. My husband was in a recovery program. Eating together, laughing, and opening presents at 6am made my family seem like the picture of perfection.
In 2009, Christmas was less joyous. I was working and living with my in-laws. However, I was using meth. I stayed up all night wrapping presents without getting sleepy.
I thought I was an okay mom. As long as I was working, no one would know my secret drug usage. Christmas was short and simple. My husband was in prison and sent the kids presents. I made goodies and watched Christmas movies all day.
By the time 2010 Christmas came along, I was sitting on a couch staring at a tiny Christmas tree in the window and my heart was sad. I was 4 months sober and I should have been happy.
I was clean, alive, and safe. I was in a rehabilitation program. My two beautiful children were in foster care. I had lost them because I chose men and drugs over them. I lost everything, my kids, my apartment, my truck. My life stopped, I thought my life would never go on. How could God love me after everything I had done?
I am happy to say, Christmas this year will be great! I have been clean and sober for over a year, and I have a very hopeful heart. I can’t let anything stop me from loving God and working on getting my kids home with me where they belong. I pray and hope the best for the days and Christmases to come. As long as I have God in my life, I will be alright.
To look at Nick you would not be able to guess that, just eleven months ago, he was addicted to heroin and living on the streets. Before Nick's addiction, he was a Resort Specialist, a Concierge making a good living and enjoying his prestigious job. Then he was injured and prescribed narcotics to relive his pain. After abusing his prescriptions, he attempted to purchase these drugs on the street, but found out they were way too expensive. Nick started on a cheaper drug that was much more accessible, heroin. It wasn't cheap for long. His addiction grew to over $2,000 a month. He soon lost his job and found himself arrested. The courts gave him a choice, three years in prison or go to a good drug and alcohol recovery program. Nick chose the recovery program. He knew that his estranged father, David, was at the Ventura County Rescue Mission, but he didn't know his dad was praying for him to come to the mission to be treated for his addiction.
Nick said, "Being arrested and coming to the mission was the best thing that has ever happened in my life. Because, I have learned that I am forgiven of all my sins. The guilt that used to drag me down was gone. I've also learned how much my dad loves me and that I can be totally free from my addictions."
Nick has done so well in the program that, after his graduation, he is being placed in the very important position of Volunteer Coordinator. Nick's final statement was, "I can now do what I have been trained to do. But, instead of doing it for myself, I am doing it with a grateful heart for the Ventura County Rescue Mission and for God."
"My life before coming into the Rescue Mission was a constant battle with heroin addiction. I was in and out of the hospital because of an abscess and I almost lost my arm several times. One time, I went in for stomach pain and I was rushed to the operating room for surgery, where I lost nine feet of my intestines and almost lost my life. These problems were because I was doing speed balls. The doctors told me that my body was not going to tolerate the drugs like it had before. Unfortunately, I didn't listen. At that time, I really didn't care.
The only thing that slowed down my drug use was going back to jail. Over the last fifteen years, I've been in and out of jail many times. I had two prison terms and multiple violations. I always ran right back to the very thing that put me there. Finally, the county and state commissioners said that I either do Prop. 36 or six years minimum in prison. With five felonies and two prison terms already, I think that I made the right choice by coming to the mission.
Ever since I can remember, I've known that there was a Creator and that is due to my mom. However, coming here to the mission, I've rededicated my life. I now say that I accept Jesus Christ in my life and I know that He "is" my Lord and Savior.
My time here at the mission has been a test, to say the least. About three weeks ago, I found out that I lost one of my sisters to a disease called Scudra Derma. Her name was Katrina Ann, God rest her soul. Around the same time, I had some blood work done and I tested positive for Lupus. How do I know that God is doing a work in my life? I am still here. I didn't resort back to my old way. I didn't cut and run. I'm going to face it and not run. My plans are up in the air. I'll know more when I'm finished with the Santa Barbara courts, God willing. I would like to intern at the mission and go back to school." ~ Joseph Swangler
Hebrews 13:5-6 — Don't love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, "I will never fail you. I will never abandon you." So we can say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?"
The first time I drank, I was only 13 or 14. All through high school, I hung out with the party crowd and the drinking progressed. I would try whatever was available, but my drug of choice was alcohol. After high school, I was drinking every day. I stopped the hard-core drugs around 2006, but kept on drinking.
In July of '08, I finally realized I needed real help. I went through the Salvation Army program. While I was there, my girlfriend got pregnant. My mom had given me one more chance and let me stay with her, but put me out when I started drinking again. Then my girlfriend decided she had enough. I straightened up for a while and was working as a client supervisor for a rehab program in Port Hueneme in January of 2010. Depression over not being with my daughter sent me back to drinking. I tried the Salvation Army again, but walked out on Christmas day. I broke in to my mom's house. She was really hurt and told me I had to leave. My brother had said, "You've screwed up for the last time. Mom and I are done; we can't help you anymore." I realized everyone was sick and tired of my games. I spent several nights sleeping in my car, found my last paycheck, and spent the next few days trying todrink myself to death. I thought of slitting my wrists. Thinking of my daughter saved me. I couldn't let her grow up without a father.
I remembered my mom and stepdad had pointed out the guys from the rescue mission when I went to church with them. So I called. I already know this time is different. I know I hit rock bottom and I will never drink again. When I was drinking, it never seemed life threatening. I always thought drinking was fun. The last time was miserable. I really believed I would die if I continued. My mom has always been there for me, even when she had to put her foot down. She didn't want to be the one to enable me, but she never shut the door on our relationship. I see her every week at church now. I know she is so much happier with me here. She says, "At least now I can sleep because I know you are safe."
I walked through these doors a broken man. Upon arriving at the mission, I was welcomed with open arms and love. Because of this place, I got cleaned up and found Christ.
Because of your help, support, donations, compassion, kindness, and love I am no longer that person who walked through these mission doors. Because of this place, I have found Christ who has freed me from my chains. And it is because of God and you that this place is here.
I now have freedom…freedom from drugs and violence. Thank you so much for your support and supporting this place. And for the donations that you have made to really help this place and the people here. Because Christ has freed me from the power of sin that leads to death…I now have hope. Thank you. ~ Jeremy Kerr
Romans 5:5 says, "Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us."
With warrants in two states, Gary Arnold was living inside a hollowed out bush with only the clothes on his back. Cold, hungry, and estranged from his family; Gary felt that a normal life was hopeless. One night, a buddy told him about the Ventura Rescue Mission where he could get a hot meal, a change of clothes, and maybe a warm bed for a night. Once at the mission, Gary not only got the meal he came in for, but was accepted into the recovery program.
Gary is no longer doing drugs. He has satisfied the outstanding warrants and can walk confidently down the street, unafraid of being seen. Gary is a student of the Culinary School where he is learning about food and working in the kitchen. He is in touch with his family, and they are very proud of him and the man he has become. This fall, Gary has enrolled in college; an old dream that has come alive with a renewed hope, thanks to the help he found at the mission.