It was so hot, I thought I was going to die.

Amanda was born with hearing loss, a disability that made her self-conscious around others. It led her to become a people-pleaser, as a way to overcome the difficulty of making friends. Later in high school, when pleasing others meant experimenting with drugs, Amanda eagerly traded sobriety for acceptance.Amanda Cover

"I did whatever it took to be accepted," remembers Amanda. "As soon as I started doing drugs, all of a sudden I had friends and I started fitting in."

To Amanda, it seemed like a minor compromise. The drugs didn’t get in the way of the important things – she still managed to graduate and even found a steady, well-paying job at a law firm. But when she was 25, her boyfriend turned her on to something that would quickly eclipse all her priorities.

“Once I tried heroin, all bets were off. Everything up to that point had been recreational. This was different. I loved it. After two weeks I started to become physically dependent on it. Within two months, I lost my job at the law firm because all I wanted to do was get high.”

Over the next 12 years, Amanda would continue to cede ground in her life to addiction. Relationships, possessions, her home, even her freedom, were slowly devoured bit by bit until June of 2017 – when she finally had nothing left to give. Amanda found herself homeless. But worse than that, she was homeless in the worst possible time and place – summer in Phoenix.

It didn’t take long for Amanda to realize she was in trouble. She didn’t need anyone to explain to her the dangers of braving the summer heat day in and day out – she was living it.

“It was so hot, I thought I was going to die. I would go inside stores to get cool, but they would kick me out. I tried to stay hydrated the best I could by sneaking water from McDonalds, but I was still walking all day, trying to survive. It was exhausting.”

One hot day, the exhaustion caught up with Amanda. When she lay down to rest, she didn’t realize how close she came to never waking up.

“I woke up on a bench with paramedics around me. They said I had passed out from the heat. That was pretty scary.”
If God hadn’t intervened, it could have easily been the end of the story for Amanda – as it is for an average of 180 others who don’t survive the summer every year in Arizona. Thankfully, God had a better plan.

Shortly after, Amanda was caught with drugs by her probation officer and was given a choice – prison or recovery. She chose recovery at Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Changing Lives Center – but she wasn’t happy about it.

“I came here kicking and screaming. When they told me I would be here for a year I said ‘No way! Are you kidding me?’”

One thing each of our graduates can attest to – the enemy doesn’t give up ground willingly. It took time, but slowly, the sobriety, the love and encouragement of our staff and our counselors and some prompting by God Himself, helped Amanda to see her situation for what it truly was.

“I was crying every day for two weeks, but then God told me, ‘Look, you cannot control this situation. So why don’t you make the best of it?’ I was finally just like, ‘Ok, let’s do this.’”

This July marks two years since Amanda walked through our doors – and thanks to God and to the support of our friends – the change has been amazing.

“This program really let me know who God is and how to have an actual relationship with Him. I had always thought; I’m just going to be a junkie for the rest of my life. I didn’t really think there was any hope. But coming here and seeing all the transformation God has done for others, and witnessing my own transformation, it’s an indescribable feeling. I know who I am in Christ and know what I’m worth and what I deserve.”

Through your prayers and support, Amanda is spending this summer safe from the deadly heat. Even better – she’s encouraging others to do the same!

After graduation, she was accepted into our Servant Leadership program and currently works in our R.A.P. (Rescue-Assess-Place) Unit, helping women and mothers with children find freedom from life-controlling problems.

“I just get so excited to share the love and the grace of God with these ladies when they come in. They’re ashamed, they’re scared, they’ve done things in their life, and I get to help them realize that God loves them no matter what and can use their story for amazing things. I just love to be a part of that, being able to give people hope! If I can be out there, doing drugs, shoplifting, sleeping in alleys, pushing grocery carts everywhere I go, and now I can be doing this? They can do it too – there’s hope in recovery. It’s possible.”

Amanda is just one example of the thousands of men, women and children on our streets, right now, who are in danger from the summer heat. Thank you for the support, whether it comes in the form of time, talent or treasure, that continues to provide hope to those caught on the streets this summer. God bless!

Our Graduate, Graduates!

Five years ago, Jesse Dalla Riva wandered into a detox center, homeless, addicted and without hope. A young woman who worked there named Blake, a graduate of our recovery program, referred him to Phoenix Rescue Mission. And his life has never been the same.  

Jesse enrolled in our recovery program. He found Christ and sobriety, and never looked back. His original story was featured in our August 2015 newsletter, where he thanked the young woman at the detox center. Amazingly, Blake heard about the article and drove to the Mission to grant his wish. Sparks flew and they were married a few months later.

But God wasn’t finished blessing Jesse. Later that year, he was selected as the recipient of a full-ride scholarship to Grand Canyon University, which he accepted. During that time, he’s managed to juggle being a husband, a new father, his full-time school schedule, and a full-time position at the Mission as our Solutions Supervisor.

We’re excited to report that last month, Jesse completed that scholarship, earning a degree in Counseling, with an Emphasis in Substance Abuse Disorders!

Jesse is more than an example of the transformation possible through Christ; he’s a model for how far God can take you when you give Him the reins.

A Victim of Abuse

 

Andrea was a victim of abuse when she was little. She survived acts perpetrated by a family member too  horrible  to  describe.

"I always felt, how could there be a God if He let this happen to me and my sisters? I harbored a lot of anger. But I never realized how much all those things that happened as a child impacted my choices."

It was when Andrea stepped out on her own that the problems began. She found a good job; she bought a nice car and rented a place of her own. But even as she began to gather the trappings of a normal life, she knew deep inside that something was wrong. Despite her success, she was empty... hollow, and she didn't know why. Not knowing what to do with this feeling, she started to fill the void with alcohol.

It was a decision that almost cost Andrea her life.

It wasn't long before bottles started stacking up. Andrea's alcoholism was rapidly consuming the success she had managed to achieve-and it scared her.

"I called my mom and told her what I had been doing - that I had lost both of my jobs, my rent check was gone and I couldn't stop drinking. I didn't know what to do. She got really stressed out."

Andrea's family was supportive at first, but the cycle kept repeating. The requests for financial help, the overdose scares, detoxing on her sister's couch in full view of her school-age nieces, occurred with increasing regularity. Soon, family members began to tell her to stay away, that her decisions were damaging the family.

"My sister said, 'You're going to kill our mom.' That got me thinking. I'm the problem, so if I get of that, it'll hurt, but only for a little bit. I can't hurt anyone if I'm dead."

Thankfully, she was unsuccessful. Paramedics saved Andrea's life. But while all of this was going on, God was working behind the scenes. A year earlier, her dad Jorge, who had been homeless and an alcoholic himself, had enrolled in our Men's Recovery program.

"The Mission saved his life. And he told me, 'Go to the Mission, they have a women's center [Phoenix Rescue Mission's Changing Lives Center] there.' So I said I'd give it 30 days. The joke around here is that after day 15, my timer broke. I've been here 15 months now."

It was a decision that not only saved her life, it transformed it.

"There's so much love being poured in here [The Changing Lives Center] that you can feel it. I've learned that I'm not alone and that I'm not a burden. Talking about my past and presenting it in front of the other women made me realize that I'm not the only one who goes through this or has these thoughts."

Working with our staff, she's also discovered the missing piece that was always meant to fill the hole in her life.

"I actually understand the Bible for the first time in my life and I have a close connection to God. I know that everything is going to be okay because He has a plan for me. It's given me the courage to do something hard."

Your support not only helped save Andrea, you helped give her the drive to reinvent herself and follow a dream she's had since she was little.

"They are very big here on, instead of just getting a job, getting a career. I've wanted to be an EMT [Emergency Medical Technician] for a long time, but I never had the courage. I was broken, taken advantage of, I was weak.

"But Yvette [Program Assistant in our Job Attainment program] encouraged me and helped me get the scholarships I needed. Now I've made it - I'm an EMT as of May 8th! This place and Yvette helped me get there."

Not only is Andrea sober, a recovery graduate, and a graduate of the EMT program, she's looking forward to continuing her education to become a paramedic.

Like so many who walk through our doors, Andrea was meant for more. Today she's walking that path with God by her side.

From being saved to saving others, Andrea has come full circle - and she has you to thank for it.

A Mother’s Day Miracle

 

 

 

This Mother’s Day will be a day of joy for Cassie – thanks to the support of friends like you. Cassie, a mother of six, was caught in an abusive relationship a few years ago that made for an unhealthy home for her children.

“I told myself everything was fine, but deep down I knew it wasn’t.”

As things got worse and the bills went unpaid, everything came to a head on a single day – all at once, her children were removed and she was evicted.

Cassie did her best to comply with DCS [Department of Child Safety], in hopes of receiving her children back, but restoring custody when you are homeless is all but impossible. As a result, her youngest four children were adopted out.

“We were living out of a car for a few months and it was obvious I couldn’t do what they {DCS} were asking of me until I fixed my situation. One day a voice told me, ‘you need to get out of the car and start walking.’”

“It was God talking,” explains Cassie’s son, Patrick.

Her journey both ended and began here at Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Changing Lives Center.

"It was life-changing. I never had any confidence in myself or my abilities. Phoenix Rescue Mission changed that. I’m working now, paying bills and saving up for my own place.”

We advocated for Cassie in family meetings and before the judge. Five months after she arrived, her oldest son, Patrick, was allowed to come live with her on campus. She is currently in the process of receiving her oldest daughter, Chloe, back as well.

“I was very excited, very happy, and a little nervous because it had been so long since I had them with me. There’s no way I would be where I am today or have my children back if it hadn’t been for Phoenix Rescue Mission.”

“For others in my shoes, I would tell them, don’t be afraid to ask for help. God is there for you – there is always hope!”

The Main Thing – Real love isn’t like a box of chocolates

 

When the world talks about love, you never know what you’re going to get. Especially during the season when chocolates are flying off the shelves, there are plenty of counterfeit ideas contending for the title of real love. If people are nice, if they’re honest, if they’ve done us no harm, if they contribute, if they benefit us, if they’re attractive and fun to be around – these are all reasons the world “loves.” 

Isn’t it a relief that God offers us something so much better? His love, the love He calls us to share, transcends any of these qualities, because it’s unconditional. It’s the love that reaches out to the lost, time and time again, that brings hope and joy to the underprivileged, the same love that picks us up and dusts us off every morning.

It’s the only thing in this world that can take a wounded life and make it new again – and with your help, we’ll share it with thousands more this year. Thank you for the privilege and the partnership, and God bless!