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!

The Ripple Effect

One way or another, God's work leads to new life.

Ken was a success story in progress...

It had been a whirlwind couple of months for Ken. First, he had reconnected with his estranged brother, Randy, after more than 10 years, only to discover Randy had been homeless for a while. Then a few weeks later, Ken was evicted from his apartment and became homeless himself. When the brothers decided to pool their resources and rent an apartment together, Ken showed up on move-in day but Randy was nowhere to be found. Sitting in front of his new apartment bewildered, he was approached by a stranger.

“This guy comes up to me and asks, ‘What’s up?’ and I don’t know him from anybody so I say, ‘I don’t know.’ And at that point he says, ‘I take it that you don’t know what’s happening.’”

The man was our recovery graduate Rich Heitz, the driver of our newest Hope Coach. He explained that he had met up with Randy on the streets and that Randy was currently enrolled in Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Men’s Recovery Program. Randy had asked Rich to meet up with his brother and explain what happened.

“I was in shock. It sounded to me like my brother had abandoned me. So I took my stuff and told Rich, ‘Goodbye! I’ve gotta walk.”

Ken went to live in the river bottom in lower Buckeye, but Rich continued to keep in contact, hoping to convince him to leave the streets. Nothing Rich said seemed to have an effect, until he approached Ken one day with sad news – Randy was in hospice.

“I got to talk to him one last time. He told me that he was sorry for leaving, but that he had to do it. He passed away shortly after.”

At Phoenix Rescue Mission, we believe God’s work never returns void. This was a perfect example of the ripple effect of God’s love in action.

“That was a wake-up call for sure. I knew in that moment I needed to turn a corner, find something better. I called Rich and told him to sign me up.”

Ken enrolled in our Men’s Recovery program. He accepted Christ and was baptized on June 18th!

Ken wasn’t the first to benefit from the ripple effect and he won’t be the last. You may have heard about a young man named Joshua Staggs. He had been homeless in Goodyear for five years, until a partnership between Phoenix Rescue Mission and the Goodyear Police Department started a ripple effect of its own.

“He was a heroin addict and used meth,” says Officer Martinez. “We had many prior encounters with him. He was one of our frequent flyers.”

But that soon changed. In September of last year, Goodyear PD formed a special “Homeless Outreach Team,” comprised of Officer Martinez and Sergeant Ward, designed to offer resources to the homeless.

“We go out and look for individuals on the streets or in camps. Together with Phoenix Rescue Mission, we offer them hygiene kits, water, shoes, and clothing. The ID vouchers are the most popular, that’s a door-opener. Once we started the homeless outreach and began offering Joshua resources, he decided to go to the methadone clinic to try to kick the drugs.”

Nine months later, Joshua was back on his feet, off the streets and living in his brand-new home.

“Phoenix Rescue Mission helped him a lot with transportation, with bus passes and actually driving him to get his ID. From what he tells me, it was that feeling that somebody cares that helped him decide to make the change.”

That’s more proof that when you meet people where they are, there’s no telling what God can do or how many lives you’ll transform. Thank you for the support that’s making big waves in our city!

Help Stock the Pantry!

We're running low on food - our neighbors need your help!

It’s 110 degrees outside. Turkey dinner with all the trimmings is probably the furthest thing from your mind right now. But the holidays are right around the corner – a time when so many hungry souls find their way to the Mission and our Hope for Hunger Food Bank, first for food, then for transformation.

The bad news is: our pantry is almost empty!

This summer has stretched our resources close to the breaking point. That’s bad news for the men, women, and children we serve. We need your help today to replenish and restock our pantry in time for the Thanksgiving rush!

It’s not just the homeless who benefit. Your gift this month will mean a world of difference for hard-working families on the edge like John’s:

“No matter how much my family plans financially, things happen unexpectedly,” says John. “Places like this help us out a lot.”

We can’t possibly turn our hungry neighbors away – not during the holidays, not ever. Together we can provide nutritious food and slip an arm around every famished soul that walks through our doors this coming season.

Thank you for your support as we gear up to give the chance to chow down and choose new life to as many hungry and hurting families as we can.

Dback’s Nick Ahmed hits it out of the park for PRM!

The Mission was honored to have Diamondback’s shortstop Nick Ahmed host the first annual Topgolf Swing for Impact event on June 23rd. It was a huge success! All totaled, Nick helped raise more than $10,000! All dollars raised for the Phoenix Rescue Mission went to support children living at the Changing Lives Center.

“We had so much fun raising money for good causes,” said Nick in a video posted on Twitter. “We’re not just donating money, we’re changing lives. We’re changing families. We’re changing generations. We’re treating and helping the whole person–mind, body and spirit.”

Nick and Amanda are touching lives both locally and internationally. In a press release, Nick said, “Amanda and I are committed to restoring and developing communities here and abroad. Thanks to the generous support of fans, we’re continuing to support the great work we started last year in the Dominican Republic. This year, we’re also supporting Phoenix Rescue Mission in their incredible effort to help the homeless and hurting here locally.”

Thank you to Nick and everyone who participated for making a HUGE impact in the lives of the children we serve!

Removing Fear from the Future.

In todays’ always-on, 24-hour news cycle, we’re never short of new things to worry about. It feels like the world is on fire, and fear hangs in the air.
But we don’t need to let fear rule over us.

The scriptures outline the remedy to anxiety and dread in four simple steps:

  1. Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46) – Reminding ourselves who God is not only corrects our perspective, it allows us to unload our worries on the One who is truly in control.
  2. If anything is Excellent or Praiseworthy, think about such things (Philippians 4:8) – By taking our thoughts captive and using our minds for something positive, we can actively replace our worries.
  3. Those who help others are helped (Proverbs 11:25) – When we focus on helping others, our worries are replaced with blessings. For instance, a Charitable Gift Annuity can benefit you, your family, and Phoenix Rescue Mission. Your gift gives you:
    • An immediate tax deduction.
    • Capital gains tax deferral.
    • Increased income stream for life.
    • An opportunity to put “good” in motion for generations to come.
  4. Who knows… you may be alive today for such a time as this (Esther 4:14) – Maybe God placed you in a unique position to change the life of someone you know.

We are all put here for a purpose. By contemplating our purpose, we can shift the focus off our own worries towards the hurting world around us.

If you’re unfamiliar with Gift Annuities, let’s chat! Call Adele at (602) 346-3323 or email at ADietrich@PhoenixRescueMission.org.