By God’s Grace: Rejected No More [Nicole’s Story]

Kids are full of wishes, hopes, and dreams – especially around Christmas time. Many of us can remember staring at all the brightly colored presents under the tree, hoping against hope one of them was that special gift.

That wasn’t the case for Nicole. Her heart’s desire couldn’t be found under a tree. It wasn’t something that could be purchased and wrapped in a box.

“I would see other kids who had moms and dads,” she remembers, “and that’s all I wanted – a family that was stable.”

Every year she was disappointed. Every year, the decisions that were made for her and eventually, the decisions she made for herself, pushed that dream further and further from her grasp.

That is, until God’s grace and your support converged to give Nicole a gift she had long given up as impossible.

Nicole’s family was torn apart from the get go, long before she had a chance to experience the meaning of the word.

When she and her brother were still small, their mother was murdered in a domestic violence situation by an angry boyfriend. Her father, who was in prison for selling drugs, couldn’t offer any support.

“We were shifted from one family member to another,” remembers Nicole. “We didn’t know what was going on, but we knew enough that we felt the rejection.”

Time and again, she remembers suffering physical and emotional abuse at the hands of distant relatives. It was incredibly painful. But she did her best not to let it show. She wanted to be strong.

But stuffing all that emotional hurt inside turned Nicole into an angry, rebellious young girl. During her teenage years, she was in and out of jail for fighting and truancy. Her home life was a train wreck. But it was at 18, when she turned to drugs for support, that Nicole checked out completely.

“I just couldn’t stop. There was this craving, this phenomenal craving that was so powerful. I told myself, I’m going to get over this in a week or a couple of months. Just let me enjoy myself for now. But it didn’t turn out like that. I ended up running around in the streets. I was couch surfing, living in hotels, doing drugs, drinking every day.”

The desire to keep the pain at bay was so overwhelming that when she had her first kids, two daughters, she abandoned them with their father to continue to chase the party lifestyle. Years went by. In her mid-twenties she had two more children, this time two sons. Both were taken by the Department of Child Safety [DCS] at birth because of her addiction. Nicole had another daughter in 2016, Madison. Yet again, DCS took her child.

“I went back to doing drugs and a couple months later I was pregnant with my youngest son, Ray, from a different guy. My life was out of control.”

But there was something different about this pregnancy. Nicole soon began bleeding. Small amounts at first, but eventually it was enough to send her to the emergency room.

“I ended up having Ray at 26 weeks. When it happened, my bladder burst, my body went into shock, I needed blood transfusions, I thought I was going to die. I reached out to God and repented for what I had done, I told Him I wanted my kids to live a happy life. I asked him to forgive me. Then I felt the overwhelming presence of God. I woke up three days later.”

When she woke, she felt changed.

“I saw Ray fighting for his life in the hospital, connected to all the tubes and everything, and I knew I couldn’t be selfish anymore. He was fighting for his life… why couldn’t I fight for mine? The only people I had to go back to outside the hospital were my old using buddies. I didn’t want to go back there. So I reached out for help. One of the counselors pointed me to the Phoenix Rescue Mission.

Thanks to your support, Nicole’s life turned a corner that day, and she’s never looked back.

“It’s changed my life! I was able to work through the trauma from my childhood. Phoenix Rescue Mission helped me get my kids back. They advocated in court for me and wrote letters. It took a year, but I finally got them back!”

I’ve learned how to be a good parent here, how to create routines for my kids, how to pray together and have family dinners.

"We plan out family activities once a month. We go to church together. It’s a lot different from what I grew up with. Everything is centered around God.

Today she’s sober, a graduate of our recovery program, and a graduate of our rigorous Servant Leadership Program. And she’s busy! In addition to taking care of two adorable children, she volunteers her time as a table captain for Celebrate Recovery and she has a position at Community Bridges, helping the homeless find housing. But that’s not all.

“I’m going back to school in January, I’m enrolled at Phoenix College to start doing my general studies in preparation for either nursing or counseling, where I can apply my behavioral health training and my peer support specialist certificate I received while I was here.”

Nicole has a bright future ahead of her. But even better, she finally has what her little heart desired all those years ago, thanks to friends like you – a real, stable, and healthy family she can call her own.

Thank you for the support that makes stories of transformation like this possible. On behalf of us all at Phoenix Rescue Mission, we wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

HOPE for a whole family

The destructive effects of addiction aren’t limited to the individual. The children who witness their parents struggle, who suffer abandonment, neglect, who must weather domestic violence and survive homelessness, are very nearly devastated by it.

Rebecca knows it first-hand. She grew up in a home filled with all of the above. In fact, it was so toxic that she felt she had no choice but to run away from home at 13, never to return.

Growing up in such a broken home was an experience she never wanted for her little girl.

Thanks to your support of the Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Changing Lives Center, she, and hundreds of kids just like her, never will.

Drug life, violence, gangs, all of it, was a part of my life ever since I ran away,” Rebecca admits. “I begged for food, sold drugs, committed crimes, I did whatever I could to survive.”

For 20 long years, Rebecca never had a place of her own. When she couldn’t find a couch to crash on for the night, the streets were her home. Over the years, her addiction led to multiple run-ins with the law. She was sent to prison four times. The last time, she went in pregnant.

And that’s when everything changed.

“I gave birth to my daughter while I was incarcerated and they took her. My DCS [Department of Child Safety] worker took me aside and told me, ‘I know you’re used to a certain way of life, but there’s this place, some of my other clients have gone there, and it’s literally changed their life. If you decide to go and you get through the first part of recovery, I’ll give you your baby back and close your case.’”

Rebecca had been on her own for so long, she didn’t trust anyone, especially a free recovery center. She knew there had to be a catch – but she didn’t want to lose her daughter.

“I definitely wasn’t thrilled about coming to the Phoenix Rescue Mission. I actually told Pastor Will while we were in foundations class that I was going to get my baby back and I was going to leave. I never thought I would stay for two years.”

It took some tough love, but Rebecca found a hope here she never thought she was good enough to receive.

“In one of the classes, I told the class that ‘I can sit here and tell you that Jesus died for you guys, but he didn’t die for me.’ Pastor Will called me out on it. He said, “I’m going to challenge you on that. Are you God? If God can forgive you, who are you to not forgive you?’ That’s what it took. I’m very hardheaded and independent, so I needed someone to call me out and challenge me.”

It was at that point that things started changing for Rebecca.

“You know how they tell you that when you read the Bible, things are just going to pop out at you? I was always like, ‘Yeah, ok, you guys are full of it.’ But then it started happening for me. The first one that jumped off the page was Exodus 14:14: ‘The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.’ God was telling me, just be still and let me do my work. So I let go and things just started falling into place.”

But Rebecca admits none of the transformation she’s experienced would have been possible without having her daughter by her side.

“If I couldn’t have my daughter with me during recovery, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. The whole reason I wanted to change my life was because of her. What is life without your child, y’know?”

Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Changing Lives Center (CLC) is unique in that transformation is possible for more than the individual – it’s available here for the whole family.

“I’ve never done the first time parenting sober, so it was rough, it was hard. Thankfully, I had a lot of help from our amazing counselors and childcare teachers who worked with me. They helped get me through a lot of moments when I felt like giving up.”

While their parents find hope, children receive daycare and counseling as well.

“A lot of the kids here have issues. They’ve seen the drug use, the domestic violence, parents removed from their homes, a lot of things that they’ve had to suffer through. That comes out as behavioral issues, and insecurity. Not trusting that your mom is going to pick you up after school, that hurts. It’s intense.”

But it’s not just emotional issues. On the streets, healthy meals and proper care and attention just aren’t possible. To restore the children who call the CLC home, the Phoenix Rescue Mission partners with Dental Home Concepts, Canyon Pediatrics, and Parsons Family Health Care.

We have a lot of kids with bad teeth. Others have been malnourished. They come in underweight, unable to thrive. “My daughter gets to see Mrs. Mickey [Dental Hygienist at the CLC] every month for cleanings and a checkup. And she sees Canyon Pediatrics for her well-child checkups and her shots.”

Today, Rebecca and her daughter are well on their way to a bright future. Rebecca has found sobriety as a graduate from our recovery program, she’s completed our rigorous Ministry Training program and was even hired in August as our new Work Therapy Coordinator!

“Other recovery centers don’t give you the love, support and the biblical principles that make all the difference. Here they really help you to dig deep and get to the root of the issue. This place has changed my life – both of our lives!”

What is Love?

What is love? A difficult question for most people, let alone men and women who have experienced a a fair amount of trauma and abuse. Yet, these men and women are learning what love looks and feels like when God is a part of their lives. Some are early in their journey. Some are deep in their truth of what the Bible says about love. February, and every day, we celebrate God's love for us and how we can walk that out in our own lives by loving like Jesus loves.

"Love is an action. God IS love. God sending his only son to die for us .. is love. Something as simple as a smile can represent love."

Michelle - Graduate of Phoenix Rescue Mission

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Tom - Graduate of Phoenix Rescue Mission

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"I didn’t know what love felt like. All I knew was hatred, shame and guilt. I didn’t realize until I came to the Phoenix Rescue Mission and actually received Jesus Christ, my personal Savior, and turned my life over to God, what love feels like. And now its like a feeling in my heart all the time. It’s amazing. I care about myself again, I care about everyone around me. The way the Mission and the staff adopted me as family. That feeling you get, it’s crazy. I don’t have problems anymore. It’s a good feeling."

"Love is selfless, and takes a lot of sacrificing of your own desires."

Tiffany - Graduate of Phoenix Rescue Mission

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Stephen - graduate of Phoenix Rescue Mission

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"This is a good week to talk about love. When I think of love, I think of 1 Corinthians 13. What is love, what is the picture of God's love for us? Love is patient , love is kind. Love keeps no record of wrongs. It does not boast, it is not envious. And looking at 1 John also, perfect Love casts out fear, if we don’t know God, we don’t know love."

"Past experience with love hasn’t been the greatest, but a lot of that is because I didn’t have a relationship with God. Now that I do, it’s kind of re-learning everything through His eyes, His perspective. That’s where I’m at right now. I’m still learning a lot."

"Love means home. With my kids, it’s home, family, my babies. That’s love to me. Here at the Changing Lives Center, my kids aren't here with me. So I often go to our daycare on campus, and spend time with the kids. I feel an abundance of love there. It’s unconditional. This is my home right now, I feel safe and I feel love from Christ. Love from God is overpowering, just all-consuming, joy, smiling, happiness. It puts me at peace. My relationship with God now is the strongest it’s ever been. I feel God’s Spirit, that’s love."

Michelle - Client at Changing Lives Center

Michelle-Love

Brandon - Graduate of Phoenix Rescue Mission

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"Love is an unconditional acceptance and a yearning to be with someone or something. Love has no bounds, there are no stipulations as to how I can give it to someone or something."

"This is what I have sought for in love. When I think of love, I think of my mom. She showed me the most love, forgiveness, encouragement and just enjoying the company of others. That’s where I learned what love is. Enjoying and wanting to invest all of yourself regardless of cost."

"Love is to be fully known, yet accepted. Unconditionally."

Sala - Graduate of Phoenix Rescue Mission

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Mission Possible Cafe Celebrate One Year Anniversary


We just celebrated Action Hunger Month, which precedes the first anniversary of the grand opening of Mission Possible Cafe, a social enterprise owned and operated by the Phoenix Rescue Mission - a non-profit dedicated to ending hunger and homelessness.

It's a special time for all of us at the cafe because of what the restaurant has done to change the lives of all our employees, each of whom have struggled with homelessness, addiction or trauma.

For me, Mission Possible Cafe has made life possible again.

I would have never thought when I took my first painkiller that I would ever end up homeless. I never would have thought a decade of my life could be lost to drugs. The worst part about taking that first pill was the effect it would have on my two children.

You see, it's difficult enough living out of a car, not knowing where you'd end up or how you're going to survive the day. But pales in comparison to knowing what it's like to watch your kids sift through the trunk of the car, desperately looking for clean clothes for school. It pains me to this day that they know when to tuen their heads while I put a needle in my ar,.

I nearly lost everything to my addiction. My house. My belongings, My kids. I was in and out go haul several times. It almost took my life. Thankful, by the grace of God, my probation officer took me to the Phoenix Rescue Mission's Changing Lives Center for women and children August of 2015.

As part of my treatment, I helped the Mission open and run Mission Possible Cafe, a Mexican-American restaurant in the downtown Phoenix area that serves breakfast and rich. Besides offering delicious, original recipes, the goal of the cafe is to change the lives of the men and women in trcovery at the phoenix Rescue Mission.

The cafe provides, real-world culinary-,amazement experience tot this in trvobery and also provides funding for the Mission vocation training program, which is part of a long-term recoevery program among to end the cycle of homelessness and addiction.

 

I am now 34 years old. I am a graduatee of the Phoenix Rescue Mission's long-term recovery program, and I just celebrated my third year of sobriety. For many who've had a history like mine, getting clean is half the battle. THere's still an entire world our there that wasn't made for people who have court records instead of diplomas. But because of Mission Possible Cafe, I completed my recovery treatment with real-world, on-th-job experience while earning a high school diploma through the services available at the Mission.

When I graduated the Mission's program, I landed an assistant manager position at a doughnut and coffee chain, I have a stable home for me and my children and I was asked to come back and manage the front of the house for Mission Possible Cafe.

So, this year means a lot to me and my Mission Possible team. For our one year anniversary, we invited the community and our neighbors to come have lunch on us! A special thanks to Nathan's Hotdogs, who provided 200 hotdogs to share to hungry guests who came through our doors. We enjoyed cake together and Mission Possibbe Cookies baked fresh by women going through the progaram at the Changing Lives Center for women and children.

It is only through your support that the Cafe is able to function as a place for our community to break bread together, and support men and women working towards new life at the Phoenix Rescue Mission.When you eat at the cafe, know that 100% of proceeds at Mission Possible Cafe go directly to those in need. The very men and women that take your order, make your coffee, and prepare your food, you are liftin up and saying, "we care."

Thank you, Phoenix, for supporting those of us who just needed someone to show them that anything is possible.

 

-Seanna Perry

Mission Possible Cafe - front of house manager

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spinato’s Pizza Serves Community for Hunger Action Month

For women, once broken, homeless and addicted, now sit at a upscale pizzeria on 7th Street and Camelback Road in Phoenix. As a Spinato's staff member came by to check on the women, and mothers with their children enjoying their meals, Christina a mother of two going through the program at the Phoenix Rescue Mission is holding back tears. "They opened up their doors to us, they sat down and spoke with us, we prayed together." "I will be talking about tonight for a long time."

Spinato's Pizzeria in Phoenix has a community based mindset, and giving back to their community is part of their Mission. "We have such a big family, our staff is family, our restaurant is a place where we can bring in people and make them feel at home as well," family of owner, Nicole explains.

Spinato's closed their restaurant down to serve the 100 women and their children currently residing and transforming their lives at the Phoenix Rescue Mission Changing Lives Center for women and children. "We told our staff, 'take your time, sit down and get to know these men and their stories.'" "They are who we are serving tonight.

"Going out to eat with children is difficult, Christina explains. They [Spinato's] welcomed it, and even gave our children goodie bags to take home on top of this amazing night out. To sit down at a beautiful restaurant and be catered to was so special."

Spinato's gave each woman, as well as their children the opportunity to order "anything and everything," from their specialty pizzas, pastas, calzones and even dessert! Tables were full of delicious food, smiles, and full bellies were seen throughout the restaurant. "This is the best pizza I've ever had, 5-star!"

September is Hunger Action Month, and Spinato's has stepped up in a big way. Thank you to the staff, family, and friends that made this incredible night possible. "It was heaven, a night I won't forget." Christina and the other 100 women and children invited to a closed restaurant just for them, finished dinner, and were given goodie bags to take home.  The women and children from the Phoenix Rescue Mission left Spinato's with a renewed spirit, full bellies, and full hearts. "Tonight reminded me people care," Christina said as she walked out with left over pizza, a goodie bag, and a smile that will impact others for days to come.