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.
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."