“I didn’t want to live anymore,” says Rita. ”I would cry out to God ‘Why? Why do you take people every day who have responsibilities, who have kids and families who depend on them? Why do you take them and not me?’”
In 2005, Rita was 37 years old. She had been married for 14 years, had three beautiful children and owned a nice house in Arrowhead. She ran a successful child care business with a staff of 20 employees and every Sunday you could find Rita and her family attending service at Christ’s Church of the Valley.
To the outside observer, it seemed like she had it all figured out.
But inside, Rita was dying.
The previous year, she discovered her husband had had an affair. For months she held the pain inside, burying it with work and alcohol. But when a minor surgery also gave her access to prescription pain pills, the tight weave of Rita’s life began to unravel.
“I was a mess,” admits Rita. “I was not functional, my life was chaos. I went from having… what I thought was everything, everything I needed to complete my life, everything I ever wanted, to living in a box on the street.”
Rita had a nervous breakdown. Her husband moved out with the kids, she lost her business and her home, and tried to commit suicide. The attempt landed her in a mental institution for a month. When she left, Rita turned to drugs for help.
“I didn’t care anymore,” Rita says. “I let everything go. Over the next 10 years, I was in and out of jail and prison for unpaid child support. I spent the last three with a dope dealer who was abusive. He would shave off my hair, pistol whip me, sometimes beat me to within an inch of my life. But I didn’t leave because, deep down, that’s what I thought I deserved.”
In between trips to prison, Rita was sent to recovery program after recovery program.
She tells us, “I would go into recovery expecting that once I was sober, all the things that I had lost; my family, my home, my life, would come back. When it didn’t happen I would use that as an excuse to drink and soon I was right back where I started.”
Then Rita found real hope when the judge sent her to the Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Changing Lives Center.
“None of the other programs had a spiritual aspect. Here I discovered that without God in my life, there was no way I was going to change… it was an incomplete recovery. Now for the first time in so long, I want to live. I wake up every morning and thank God for another beautiful day,” says Rita with a smile.
Thanks to the grace of God, the work of our counselors and staff and the support of friends like you, Rita is no longer wishing for death. Instead she’s sober, living a redeemed life, and looking forward to helping others find that same hope.
“This place gave me all the love and support I needed when I needed it most. It saved me,” says Rita. “I had given up on life, but this place gave me hope… it gave me – me. And I’m going to pass that on. If I’m flipping cheeseburgers for the rest of my life, that’s ok, because every spare moment I have I’m going to give back and I’m going to do His work. If I can touch one person the way this place touched me, it will all be worth it.”
See Rita in our new Mission video by going to "The Mission" page.
You may remember Richard. Just 16 months ago Richard was homeless, addicted to alcohol and sleeping in the bushes behind a church. He had lost ties to his family, his own daughter considered him dead… his life was in total shambles.
Then one day in a search to find food, Richard heard about the Phoenix Rescue Mission.
We reported that thanks to the hard work of our team of counselors, chaplains and support staff, Richard found sobriety, reconnected with God, he got his own place, a truck and even rekindled his relationship with his daughters.
But Richard’s story didn’t end there. Since we reported on his recovery he’s been using the second chance you helped give him to Pay it Forward.
Today he’s working as a Behavioral Health Intern at Banner Heart Hospital, helping men and women attain sobriety and find their way back to wholeness. In his spare time, he volunteers at the Mission, signing up families who come for help. He’s even become a financial partner to the Mission, supporting the work that changed his life and allowing others the same opportunity to find transformation.
Richard tells us, “I believe in giving back to my community because of all the help that’s been given to me. It’s not something I have to do; it’s something I want to do.”
But the best thing about Richard’s story is that it’s not unique. The truth is, the life change God produces in the men and women here at the Phoenix Rescue Mission doesn’t end at the door. Each new life is another opportunity to touch and transform countless others. Scores of graduates like Richard have gone on to make it their life’s work to do just that.
One meal represented a turning point, not just for one man, but ultimately for many. Because someone cared enough to Pay it Forward and purchase a meal for Richard, today he is a changed man. But more than that, he is a man who is giving back. Through him, countless other lives will also be changed…. some of them forever.
Visit us on social media @phxmission and share with us the ways you are Paying it Forward. Use the hashtag #payitforwardphx to join the conversation.
Contained in the pages of this newsletter are stories of lives burnt to the ground by addiction, loss, illness, and misfortune. Their beginnings reflect the heartache and desperation we find behind the eyes of so many who walk through our gates. But thanks to your prayers, countless volunteer hours, and your financial support, these adversities only represent the beginning of each story.
Here at the Phoenix Rescue Mission, the weary and the downtrodden find rest, nourishment and healing, but most of all, they find hope. Like the namesake of our city, every man and woman who pass through our doors discover the chance to rise anew from the ashes, transformed, confident, walking in faith, and better than they were before. We love to share these stories with you every month through our newsletter.
To better reflect the amazing transformation we see in lives every day here at the Mission, we’ve changed the name of our monthly newsletter. We chose this new title, Rising!, because it’s the perfect summary of what effect your support has on the lives of those we serve, what happens to each of these lives, and what effect all of it has on our city as a whole. Since Phoenix Rescue Mission updated its look we thought that should extend to our newsletter.
We hope you enjoy reading Rising!