It’s dark, just after 5 A.M., as Kyoko begins her ascent up Camelback Mountain. Behind her is a group of men who hope they have what it takes to follow her. With each step, the rough terrain challenges their resolve to reach the top. They are led by a single headlamp, meant to symbolize the guiding light that God provides. It’s a test of endurance. Those who
eventually reach the summit will find a new sense of strength within themselves and tangible proof that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
This is the Soldiers of Jesus Hiking Club. It’s a mentally and physically challenging, growthoriented hiking ministry started by Kyoko Hope two years ago to enrich the faith and spirit of those in our Men’s Recovery Program. The club’s purpose is not only to build perseverance, it’s the latest iteration of a promise Kyoko made to God 10 years ago. You’d never know it by her jubilant attitude, but Kyoko is a domestic violence survivor. In the midst of those dark days, she cried out to God for help, promising that if He would get her through, she would share the love of Christ in return.
God answered. Later, during the divorce hearings, a judge referred her to Phoenix Rescue Mission for help living out her promise. Kyoko has been ministering as a volunteer in our Men’s Chapel ever since. But in 2016, God inspired her to do more. “The more I ministered in the chapel, the more I gained a relationship with the brothers [men in our recovery program] there,” says Kyoko. “Then one day I felt it.” Kyoko had a vision. She saw a way to encourage our men by exposing them to their own physical limitations, to help them learn to rely on God’s strength when their own strength had run out.
She called it Soldiers of Jesus Hiking Club, after 2 Timothy 2:3: “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” “Hiking is a journey like life,” says Kyoko. “Finding a way up the mountain helps to engrain in them a spirit to never give up.” In the past two years, over 200 “Soldiers” have already made it up Camelback Mountain to experience the sunrise, and celebrate their victory through worship and prayer at the summit. Although Kyoko will be taking a ‘safety break’ during the sweltering summer months, she hopes to increase that number to 300 when she resumes the hikes in September. “Camelback is tough, it’s very steep. I always tell them, ‘Don’t look at the top. Just follow the light and that will get you there.’” Whether you’re a hiker or not, there’s a lesson there for all
There comes a time in our lives when people cross our paths and we are never the same.
Several months ago, at our volunteer event where we feed dinner to our homeless friends at, Thankful Sundays, I heard the most beautiful music coming from the piano. I walked over and sat down on the stage next to the woman and asked about her story. She was homeless and in an abusive relationship and was struggling with staying away from alcohol because it became easier for her to medicate, to numb the physical and emotional bruises. I knew she wasn’t ready for change yet that day but prayed that the day would come when she would be ready to leave. So, I gave her my cell phone number to call me when she was ready.
The day arrived this morning. I received the call from Barbara that she was on the street and was just discharged from the hospital after her boyfriend beat her up pretty badly last night. I scooped her up off the street corner, and with the help of Clifford Danley and Michele from the Phoenix Rescue Mission, Barbara is now safe. Barbara is now among beautiful, positive and inspirational women and staff at Phoenix Rescue Mission's Changing Lives Center for women and children. Tears flowed down my face and I hugged Barbara, saying goodbye to her.
A life was saved today and I believe that Barbara is an Angel among us, that by telling her story, she will change and save the lives of countless women.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to the Phoenix Rescue Mission, I will be forever grateful for all that you do for countless men and women like Barbara.
From a Long-Time Volunteer,
Teresa has been homeless for more than four years in downtown Phoenix. Now 43, she started living on the streets after being unable to pay rent for her trailer at a nearby trailer park. With no friends or family able to take her in, she felt she had no other alternative but to figure out how to survive on the streets.
Today, as local Phoenix Rescue Mission Hope Coach workers talk with her, she mentions how she struggles with dyslexia and severe depression, both of which make it hard for her to find any consistent work. She attempts to get what little she can by doing occasional cleaning jobs around the valley.
For Teresa, today can be a day where she finds a brief light in the midst of the dark, homeless, and hidden world she resides in. Each and every day, thanks to your support and partnership, Phoenix Rescue Mission is working to give people like Teresa a source of hope and change to take them from the dark, hidden Valley of Shadows she and many other Phoenix homeless residents find themselves trapped in.
Through God, we will continue to bring a light of hope and freedom to these darkened areas and to truly be a Valley of the Sun for the hopeless and homeless throughout Phoenix.
Teresa receives a thermal coat, water bottles, and toiletries from the Hope Coach workers. This is all a small part of what the Mission offers daily to those living on the streets.
Here at the Phoenix Rescue Mission, hope begins with a meal. But dignity begins with a shower and a fresh set of clothes!
It's not something that immediately comes to mind, but the homeless men, women, and children we serve need new underwear, bras and socks just as much as they need nourishment and a safe place to lay their head.
Most of the clothing we give out is used and there is nothing wrong with that. But we think you’ll agree, things like underwear are best given new.
It’s hard to imagine what it feels like to live in the same set of clothes, day after day, week after week – especially undergarments. But our homeless certainly do. Together, we can give them a “fresh” new start!