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.
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.
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.”
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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