More Than Child Care

There’s no denying that the Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Changing Lives Center lives up to its name. We see God intervene in the lives of our women on a daily basis. But the truth is, their tales of transformation only account for half the story. The rest of the miracles on campus happen literally right under our noses.

Nina Mills, our childcare supervisor, has a front row seat to the transformation God works in our littlest residents. “We’re more than just childcare. Because of where these children have been and what they have been exposed to, we have to be.” Many of the children come to the Changing Lives Center with delays in their social and emotional development, with trust issues, and a predilection for hitting or biting over problem-solving. Most of these behaviors stem from a broken relationship with their parents and a lack of effective parenting.

But the good news is, by God’s grace and with the hard work of our staff and volunteers, all of these things can be overcome. “They are still little enough that if they are given the opportunity, they catch right back up with their peers,” says Nina. “It’s amazing to watch. Usually in one to two weeks we see huge differences in the children in our care.” But to keep the progress going, the parent must be willing to change as well. “Many of the parents here have unrealistic expectations when it comes to the behaviors of their children, because in many cases, they have never been parented themselves. It’s really hard for a mother to admit ‘I don’t know what I’m doing.’


Our  responsibility is to pass on what we do to the moms. We work really closely with them to give them the resources and encouragement they need to become great parents.” Your partnership does more than heal the lives of the women we serve – it’s transforming our future by touching the lives of these little ones. The love you give makes all the difference in restoring these families torn apart by addiction. “It’s always such a blessing to see the kiddos start to lose the fear and the anxiety they came in with and begin to trust again. Then to see that healing extend to the relationship with their mother… it’s a miracle every time.”

Catering to a New Life | April 2016 Newsletter

Catering to a New Life

Mission Possible Catering

Chicken Caesar wraps. Quinoa salad. Fresh baked bread. On their own they make for a healthy, tasty lunch. But combined with the power of the Phoenix Rescue Mission they are a part of something so much more.

They’re vital ingredients in transforming lives.

It’s called Mission Possible Catering and it’s the next step in changing lives and building new futures here at the Phoenix Rescue Mission.

The goal is to give the women and men who have earned their ServeSafe certifications in the kitchen through our vocational development program the opportunity to exercise what they’ve learned in a professional environment – serving real customers, handling all the problems of a real business while earning valuable on-the-job experience at the same time.

Mission Possible Catering

At its head is Michelle. You may remember her from our November newsletter – a young woman who had learned valuable culinary and management skills through our vocational training course at the Changing Lives Center. When we last visited with her she had graduated our recovery program, finished her certifications and was on track to earning back the custody of her son that addiction stripped from her life.

Today she has full custody of her son; she has applied for and has been accepted into Ministry Training, our most rigorous and demanding leadership training program, and is spearheading the creation of our new Mission Possible Catering social enterprise program.

Monday through Friday, Michelle and her staff are working hard to perfect each item on their menu, tirelessly practicing their technique, their bake time, tweaking the recipes and making sure everything turns out as delicious as they’ve planned. But even before their catering service opens for business, the recipes they’ve poured their hearts and souls into are already making a difference.


Brandi, one of our women in recovery currently working under Michelle, tells us, “I love what I do here. I’m learning new things every day. I feel like God was calling me to the Changing Lives Center for a long time. Now that I’m here, He’s blessing me in ways I never imagined – emotionally, spiritually and now with new skills and abilities.”

Michele, not to be confused with Michelle with two l’s, was addicted and contemplating suicide before her Aunt suggested finding help at the Changing Lives Center. It’s a decision that saved her life.

Michele explains, “I had this attitude and this demeanor about me that was so self-destructive. This place has changed me. I’m not angry, I’m not bitter anymore. I look at myself now and I just shake my head. I don’t know who that person was. At Mission Possible Catering I get to be a part of something exciting. I see all the wonderful dishes and I can say ‘I made this.’ It makes me feel important… something I’ve never really felt before.”

With your partnership, we’re taking simple things like chicken and tofu and using them to transform lives.

“The beautiful thing about this program is that you not only gain the skills restaurant employers are looking for, you have the opportunity to put those skills to the test and build our resumes at the same time,” says Michelle.

“Where else do you get the chance to do all this? For women who were lost and broken and whose self-worth was non-existent – it’s something we can be proud of. I love this place. The Mission is opening the doors for so many women in so many different ways.”

But it’s only through the prayers and support of friends like you that these life-changing programs are possible – a fact that is not lost on the women we serve.

“It amazes me how much the donors care – they genuinely care.” says Michele, “And that’s what most of us never had was someone who cared. The fact that people who don’t even know us care that much about us… it’s amazing!”

We’ll have Mission Possible Catering up and running soon! For more information, give us a call at 602-688-6220!

The women we serve can’t wait to serve you!

A Bizarre Meeting... Unexpected Hope

Twenty years old and homeless. Addicted to a $100 a day habit. Mixed up with the Mexican cartel. There are a number of reasons Austin shouldn’t be alive today. But instead of cutting his life short, God instead used an unlikely messenger to save it.

His dealer.

Austin had been living without a home for about a year and a half. His daily routine consisted of waking up, finding some way to make money, buying heroin, getting high and going back to sleep. But it wasn’t because he enjoyed the feeling. He was trapped.

“When you withdraw from heroin, you wake up freezing cold, you’re sweating, you’re throwing up, it feels like your bones are breaking and that you pulled all your muscles.” Austin explains, “A day without it and that’s where I was. After two years, my habit wasn’t about getting high for fun any more, I needed it just to survive.”

Traveling from drop house to drop house, Austin’s life was a blur. Then one night he got caught without a place to sleep and found a dugout to hole up in. At three in the morning a group of thugs happened upon him and beat him severely. Fortunately he managed to get away – but not before they broke his jaw and his cheek bone in three places.

But even a scrape with death wasn’t enough to motivate Austin to get help. Then something miraculous happened.

Austin explains, “I got into debt with my dealer. I owed her $30 and she confiscated my ID and my social security card as collateral until I could pay her. I convinced my mom that I owed a friend some money and she agreed to help me out so I could get my cards back. But when my mom handed her the money, instead of taking it, my dealer handed it back, told her all about my drug problem and that I needed help. She gave my cards to my mom and that was that. My mom had heard about the Phoenix Rescue Mission from a family friend. So the next day I checked in.”

Today, Austin is a graduate of our recovery program. He is sober, and thanks to our vocational development program he has a steady job at Subway with the goal of working to become a phlebotomist.

“Even though I grew up in a Christian home, it was here at the Mission where I experienced God for the first time,” admits Austin. “When that happened, I completely lost my desire to get high.”

Instead of traveling down a dead end road, Austin has a bright future ahead of him – and it’s because of the friendship and support of friends like you. Thank you!

Gone Astray | March 2016 Newsletter

Gone Astray | Shannon's Story

Unlike most livestock, a sheep that wanders away from the fold will never return. Instead, it will wander the hills and the valleys of the field until it finds a shady spot. It will lie down, and if no one comes to its rescue, it will remain there until it dies.

Like sheep, we’ve all strayed in life; we’ve all found our shady spots. If it weren’t for the sacrifice that we celebrate every Easter, the marvelous gift that made our rescue possible, that’s where we would still be.

But unlike most who find a way out, Shannon wasn’t ready to be rescued. Just four months after starting her journey at the Changing Lives Center, she left, convinced that God didn’t have the right answers.

It was a decision from which she almost didn’t return.

Shannon’s journey began when she was just 10 years old. Her mother was an alcoholic and she found that the best way to connect with her was by sharing a drink. Unlike her mother, Shannon became a functioning alcoholic. She graduated high school, went to college and soon after began a promising career in the aerospace industry.

But when she was 22 years old, her mother suffered a spine injury that required the use of powerful prescription pain medication. Suddenly the old tradition of sharing a drink with mom took on a new twist. One taste of prescription pain pills and Shannon lost all control.

Shannon tells us, “I was instantly hooked. I couldn’t get enough pills and my life slowly started to fall apart.”

For the next few years, Shannon and her mother would visit doctor after doctor across town, obtaining and filling prescriptions for her mother’s recurring sciatic nerve condition. But then one day, her mother had enough. She left town to get sober and Shannon was left in a lurch. Alone and without a way to obtain more pills, Shannon’s search for a new way to get high led her down a dark path.

“Words can’t describe how lucky I am to be alive. For the sake of my addiction, I put up with a man who broke my bones, blackened my face, held a knife to my throat and had me beg for my life… I stayed away from home for days, sometimes for weeks when he got in his moods, doing whatever I could to survive. While I was away, I was safe, but I was also separated from my supply. So I started to rob homes in the middle of the night. Then I got caught.”

Shannon was arrested and sentenced to three months in jail and a further four months in prison. When she was released, her parole officer directed her to the Changing Lives Center.

“I know now that was God knocking on my door. While I was at the Center I met some wonderful people and made some great friends but I didn’t want to surrender. I was a control freak. I didn’t think God could give me the right answers… so I left. That was a huge mistake. Within days I was back with my abuser, back on the streets, back on drugs, and back to robbing homes. I was more miserable than ever. I didn’t want to keep going. Thank God I got arrested when I did.”

Back in jail and severely depressed, Shannon was at a loss for what to do next. But two weeks before she was released, Shannon received some surprise visitors.

“I walk in thinking maybe it was my parole officer come to see me, and there they were, Mimi Page, the CLC intake coordinator, and Cierra Pena, one of the CLC graduates I had made friends with while I was in recovery. They were sitting there with big smiles on their faces. They said, ‘We want you to come back. If you want to make a change, you have to come back.’ I couldn’t believe they sought me out. Nobody called them; they came to me on their own time. It saved my life.”

Shannon returned to the Changing Lives Center and graduated from our women’s recovery program. But she didn’t stop there. She wanted to give back and has since completed our Servant Leadership Training program and is serving as one of our case managers. She’s currently finishing up the Ministry Training Program, our most rigorous discipleship program, with the goal of becoming one of our permanent staff.

“I love it here; I love these girls because I’ve been where they’ve been. Not only have I been there, I’ve been there twice! They look to me for guidance and I hope that’s what I give them. I get to show them what’s possible when you put your trust in God.”

Today there’s one more sheep back in God’s fold, thanks to His grace and your support that makes this work possible. From all of us here at the Phoenix Rescue Mission, we wish you and your family a wonderful Easter celebration.

Of Tacos and Transformation


With Easter right around the corner, we thought it would be a good idea to catch back up with one of our latest examples of transformation and see just how God is continuing to change her life.

You may remember Rita. She went from living in a box on the corner of 35th Avenue to finding transformation and new life through the Changing Lives Center. When we last left her, she had just completed the Servant Leadership Training program and was looking to begin her life anew. We’re happy to report that she’s not only on her way to success; she’s taking others from our program with her!

“Right after I graduated, the judge gave me two weeks to find a job or be incarcerated for back child support. Fortunately, I had already received my ServeSafe certification working in the kitchen at the CLC. That, combined with help from Rhonda in the vocational development program, landed me a position as general manager of America’s Taco Shop just three days later!”

Since then, Rita’s used her newfound position to bless others.

“So far I’ve employed eight women fresh from the recovery program at the Changing Lives Center. Some of these women have never worked. Some are felons; others came from addicted families and know nothing else. With that kind of history, it’s tough to find a way to support yourself. But you can’t change who you were, only who you’re going to be. This is their shot to move forward.”


Brandi, a recent graduate of the CLC, says it’s a huge blessing to have someone like Rita as her employer. She tells us, "I look up to her as a role model because I’ve seen her life transformed first hand. I know if she can do it, I can do it."

For Margarita, Rita’s help meant that she was able to regain custody of her child. Margarita says, “It was the last thing I had to do, get a job. But I hadn’t worked in over ten years. Thanks to Rita and the CLC, I’m here and I got my daughter back in July!”

“I’m so proud of these girls, and I’m glad that God has given me a way to give back.” Rita confesses with a smile. “He’s helped me open the door for them, but they are the ones who keep it open by working hard and continually proving themselves. They are fabulous women; I love them all like they were my kids. As long as I’m here, I’ll continue to hold the door open for those men and women looking for second chances.”

"You can't choose who you were, only who you're going to be."

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A Perfect Love | February 2016 Newsletter

A Perfect Love

A perfect God who demanded perfection from His creation wasn’t a God that Charity could follow. So from an early age, she struck out on her own path.

But when a lifetime of doing it her way had left her broken, addicted, and at risk of losing her daughter forever, Charity found hope in an aspect of God that she never considered. His love.

Charity remembers, “I had the idea that to be a Christian you had to be perfect and I knew I never could be. I have always been an all or nothing kind of person and afraid of failure. So I thought if I just stopped trying I wouldn’t be able to fail at anything.”

It was that mindset that made drugs so attractive to Charity.

“For that moment when I was on heroin, all my anxieties disappeared. My fears were gone. I wasn’t disappointing anyone anymore; everything was at peace and OK in the world.”

When Charity became pregnant at 23, she found something better than drugs – her daughter Savannah. For her sake she left her habit behind for as long as she could. But around the time Savannah turned six; the pressures and anxieties of life caught up and drugs took over once again.

“Soon the cops were looking for me all the time,” says Charity. “At first it was for drugs and possession, but heroin is expensive, so later it was for residential burglary. Eventually my mom called Child Protective Services and I lost custody of my daughter.”


Then she lost her freedom.

“I got caught shoplifting and was arrested. Because of my history, I was looking at 10-15 years of prison time. The only bright spots in my life were when Savannah would come and visit me in jail,” Charity pauses to wipe away a tear. “They would tell her that she couldn’t touch me and she would use her feet to touch my leg under the table… it broke my heart.”

“It was really hard not being allowed to hug my mom,” says Savannah choking up, tears running down her cheeks.

Charity continued, “If I had gone to prison, they would have severed my rights for sure. I would have never had a chance to get Savannah back. But I never got the 10-15 years I deserved. I couldn’t explain it at the time, but now I know it was God’s love that brought me though that. Instead of punishment I got mercy.”

Charity didn’t know it, but while she was in prison, her mother had met our Partner Relations Officer, Anna Sosa, through her women’s bible study. When she shared Charity’s story, Anna connected her to our Changing Lives Center. In lieu of prison time, Charity’s lawyer asked if she could attend our women’s recovery program instead.

Charity couldn’t believe it when the judge said yes.

“The CLC had everything that I needed,” says Charity. “All the classes I was required to attend, the transportation to and from, even my meals and housing were provided for me. I didn’t have to think about anything other than just getting better. It’s a good thing too, because doing it on my own wasn’t working.”


“All of a sudden I was able to visit my mom,” Savannah remembers with a smile. “We played hockey and we got to watch a movie on beanbag chairs and snuggle. The best part was I got to give her hugs and kisses and hold her hand.”

Today thanks to your support and the hard work of our counselors and staff, Charity is not only sober; she’s a new person in Christ. She’s earned back the custody of her daughter, has a steady job and is looking forward to a bright new future with Savannah.

“Before the CLC I saw God as someone different than who He is to me now. He expects me to try, but will love me regardless of the outcome,” explains Charity. “Knowing His love isn’t conditional… it makes all the difference. It’s given me the peace I was looking for all along.”

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What God has brought together...

You may remember Jesse from the cover of our August newsletter. He is the young man who found himself homeless at 19, but found hope when he ran into Blake, one of our Changing Lives Center graduates. Her story of transformation moved him so much that he immediately checked into our men’s recovery program.

“After giving my life over to Christ, successfully completing the program, and enrolling in the Ministry Training program I was awarded a full-ride scholarship at Grand Canyon University. I thought I had seen all that God had to offer,” says Jesse. “Boy was I wrong.”

When Jesse’s newsletter hit mailboxes, Blake’s mother read his testimony and asked her daughter if she was the women in the story.

Blake remembers, “For three days after reading Jesse’s story I could not stop thinking about him. I had an unexplainable joy and a quiet voice in my head telling me this is the man I am to marry and spend my life with. I had envisioned my future husband for years, but I never expected him to come to me through the mail!”

A few days later Blake was helping teach a class at the Changing Lives Center. She was about to leave when she heard God speak to her soul again.

“He said, ‘Drive to the mission, and pray with Jesse.’” Blake remembers. “When I heard it I swore it was a mistake and I didn’t want to go. But before I knew it I was pulling up to the men’s mission. I asked the safety officers if Jesse was available to speak. They asked who I was and I sheepishly replied… ‘I’m the girl from his story?’”

A startled Jesse listened to her story and suggested that they pray.

“I felt God’s presence and I knew that He had brought us back to each other for a purpose,” Blake explains. “I prayed with Jesse for strength and perseverance to step into his new journey. Later that day Jesse asked me to go to coffee with him and we have been inseparable ever since.”

Jesse and Blake married on September 11th and are receiving new couple counseling at Scottsdale Bible Church. We will continue providing ongoing support as they build a future together. This is another powerful testimony to add to the long list of what God has done at the Mission. Let’s keep them in our prayers as they begin their journey!

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Heart for the Family

Cierra’s addiction was out of control. She knew she needed help, but finding a recovery program that would allow her to bring her four kids with her was next to impossible.

Cierra was losing the battle when God led her to a recovery program with a heart for the family.

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The Gift of Family | December 2015 Newsletter


Everyone has their favorite Christmas story – the time it snowed on Christmas morning... Aunt Ethel’s rock-hard fruitcake... or just gathering around the dinner table. What makes these memories so special?

It’s family. For those of us blessed to spend time with family during Christmas, it’s a precious moment. It’s one where the cares and the worries of the world are allowed to fade into the background for a bit, while we pass mashed potatoes around the table and spend time with our loved ones around the tree on Christmas morning.

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It had been many years since Augustina had experienced anything close to fellowship with her family at Christmas or any other time. In fact, when she walked through our doors last year, family wasn’t just something that was missing from her life – it was something she was at risk of losing forever.

Augustina was a broken woman. She was the mother of six children, four of whom were no longer hers. A lifetime of addiction and run-ins with the law had permanently severed her rights and she was dangerously close to losing her two youngest children as well.

Living in Las Vegas with a boyfriend who shared her addiction, Augustina was managing to stay off the streets by making drug runs for the cartel. It was dangerous work, but it kept her family fed and supplied her and her boyfriend with the drugs they needed to survive.

It was working until she was stopped by police during one of their drug runs. Augustina went to jail and lost custody of the only two bright spots left in her life – her two little girls, Rihanna and Zariah.

“I told the police to call my mother because she would take them in,” Augustina tells us. “But when they did, she told them that I was homeless, involved with drugs and that the kids were in danger. When I got out of jail, I didn’t get them back.”

Losing her two remaining kids devastated Augustina. She fell into a deep depression and started using stronger drugs as a way to escape.

“That’s when I overdosed on heroin. The paramedics brought me back to life, but I was so upset and angry when they did,” Augustina remembers with tears in her eyes. “I did not want to live.”

Not knowing what else to do, Augustina cried out to God for help.

“I fell to my knees and said ‘God, just please take this pain away, take it all. I don’t want anything; just give me my kids back. I don’t want this life anymore,’” says Augustina.

That’s when God started her on the path to receive the greatest gift of all – a chance to become a member of His forever family.

She called her mother to let her know that she was ready to change. Her mom referred her to a detox center that would eventually refer her to the Changing Lives Center.

“I know that if the Changing Lives Center wasn’t around, I would be dead,” admits Augustina.

"I felt worthless, but here I found a God who said I have worth. Not only to I believe in Him, I trust Him with all my heart."

With the love and support of our counselors and staff, Augustina graduated from our women’s recovery program in June. She’s earned her high school diploma and is in the process of applying to college to become an addiction counselor. She’s just received custody of her two daughters again and has repaired her relationship with her mother who is the adoptive parent of her four older children.

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For the first time in a long time, Augustina will be experiencing the precious gift of family this Christmas. Not only that, her kids will receive the gift of a mother who is healed and sober, and Augustina’s mother will have her daughter back for the first time in decades!

But Augustina’s is only one of dozens of families you’ve helped reunite this year with your support. I want to take a moment to thank you for the time, treasure and talent that makes such precious gifts possible in the lives of the men, women and children we serve. From all of us here at the Phoenix Rescue Mission, I wish you and your family a very blessed and Merry Christmas!

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This holiday season, you can help families in need, and in the process, receive a dollar-for-dollar credit on your Arizona state income taxes!

How does it work? You can make a donation to Phoenix Rescue Mission of any amount (up to $200 if filing singly or $400 if filing jointly for your Arizona state tax return). When you file your Arizona taxes, you can claim a dollar-for-dollar Arizona Charitable Tax Credit that will either reduce your tax liability or increase your refund.

Click here to learn more and make your tax-reducing donation!

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It’s the conventional wisdom behind countless Christmas plays, movies and TV shows. But does it hold up in the real world?

William “Willy” McMullen would contend that in his experience, it’s the exact opposite.

You see, Willy knows all about giving. For 12 years he gave nothing but heartache, strife and brokenness to the world around him by operating a methamphetamine lab in South Phoenix.

“The people I served… they’d lose all common sense,” remembers Willy. “They’d give up their children, lose their home, lose everything they had… and I was a part of the problem. I wish I could take all that back.”

Even Willy himself wasn’t immune to the destruction caused by his “business.” He gave to himself right along with his customers and fell victim to the same downward spiral.

He was arrested in 2007, spent a year in prison, only to go back to using as soon as he got out.

“I was still addicted, but I knew I couldn’t keep doing this. It was an insane way to live and I was tired of always looking over my shoulder. I went to 1,000 addiction meetings, checked in to a secular recovery program, but nothing stuck.”

That’s when Willy remembered a chance meeting he had with our Hope Coach Coordinator Chaplain Cliff years ago.
Willy remembers, “He told me about this Christian recovery place called the Phoenix Rescue Mission. I figured it was my last shot.”

That’s when Willy received a gift that changed his life forever.

“I always knew there was a God, but I never knew Him personally,” admits Willy. “It was here that I found the solid relationship with Jesus Christ that made all the difference.”

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And what a difference it has made! Today Willy is a graduate of our men’s recovery program and a new man. He’s completely sober; he’s even quit smoking, and is currently working through our Ministry Training program. But what gives him the most joy is his position at the front desk of our welcome center, where he’s able to guide men and women fresh off the street to the services they need to start a new life.

“As men come into the program, I get to speak life into them by telling them what Jesus has done for me. I let them know that there is hope. I aim to spend the rest of my life doing that, if not here at the Phoenix Rescue Mission, then somewhere else where God can use me.”

The truth is, while it is better to give than to receive, none of us will ever be able to give enough to match the priceless gift God gave to the world more than 2,000 years ago. Thank you for the prayers and support that allow us to continue to try anyway and see lives changed because of it. Merry Christmas!

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