Changing Lives Center

Clarissa received a priceless gift – a Father she can count on

A Gift Long Overdue

After three decades as an emotional hostage, Clarissa received a priceless gift – a Father she can count on

Clarissa had had enough. After three decades of putting up with the snide remarks, the jabs and emotional abuse; coming home to overhear an act of betrayal drove her over the edge. Enraged, she bolted toward the bedroom, a clear signal of what was going to happen next.

She was going for the gun. Clarissa was going to shoot her father.

Thankfully, God intervened. Even as they wrestled over the firearm, He gave Clarissa what can only be described as a moment of clarity and grace.

“I was so angry and I couldn’t control it,” says Clarissa. “But I found myself praying to God, ‘Don’t let me win this and shoot my father.’ I knew I was fixing to throw everything away.”

The moment passed. Her father wrestled away the gun and Clarissa ran. She hit the cold Memphis night air with nothing but the clothes on her back knowing she couldn’t return. With no money, no ID and no idea where to go, she reached out to God for direction. He gave her one word.


After Clarissa’s mother passed away in 2017, she dropped everything – her job, the house she was ready to purchase and her friends – to leave Baltimore, MD to take care of her dad in Memphis, TN.

“The relationship I had with my father was always imbalanced. Dysfunctional. He’s been pulling his pistol on me since I was 7 or 8 years old. But he was alone and the way I was raised was to go home and see about your dad. And that’s what I did. I drove 2,000 miles with a U-Haul truck telling him we were going to fix him up. We were going to live as a family.”

But it wasn’t to be.

“Within two weeks that man started putting his pistol on me again. I didn’t know what to do. Then I came home one night and heard him talking on the phone to his niece asking her to pick him up and take him back with her to Mississippi. After everything I had left behind for him, everything I sacrificed, he was going to slip out the back on me?”

A few heated minutes later, wrestling over the gun, Clarissa was homeless and penniless with little idea what to do next – but pray.

“I told God, ‘I’m old, I’m tired and I ain’t got no run left in me. But if you think I’ve got more, you give me what I need and I’ll do it.’ I didn’t know what He was going to do, but I knew that I needed to find a Christian place where God could put things right.”

Thanks to friends like you, God had just the right place in mind.

“The Holy Spirit put in my mind, ‘Phoenix.’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know nothing about Phoenix, I don’t know anyone in Phoenix. I don’t know about that, God.’ But I said, ‘Lord, if you say so, I’ll go.’ I heard Him tell me, ‘Phoenix Mission’ and when I Googled it, Phoenix Rescue Mission came up.”

With help from her cousin, she took a Greyhound bus to Phoenix with one goal in mind.

Clarissa shares her testimony and her hopes for the future at her graduation from our Women’s Recovery Program. After receiving her Peer Support Certification, it’s her desire to help others avoid or overcome the kinds of trials that she’s been through.

“I came here because I knew I needed to be changed. I wanted to stop being that foolish person that kept letting the same person destroy me time and time again. I’ve never let anyone treat me like my father has. Why did I always go back for more? What was I looking for? That was the question.”

Answers like those don’t come overnight. Transformation takes time – it takes wrestling with uncomfortable feelings, confronting your past and uncovering who you really are in the light of a holy and merciful God. You gave Clarissa the time and the space to do just that.

“I’ve been to a lot of programs – some a week, others six weeks – but this program here truly gives you something to work with. It’s individualized. But I had to get honest. Uncomfortably honest,” she remembers.

“No one had ever asked me why I act like I do, why I say what I say, why I feel like I feel,” she continued. “People don’t like people who tell the truth. Then they told me to stop trying to be like someone else, and just be who God created me to be.”

It was through that process that Clarissa discovered her answer.

“I thought I had left daddy and all that behind me in Memphis, but no. I was still craving his approval because I admire him so much. Ever since I was little, I wanted to be like him. Realizing that started opening my eyes.”

Discovering the truth meant that, for the first time in three decades, Clarissa could move past it. She was free. With her life no longer tied to her father’s approval, Clarissa started rebuilding.

She began working on her anger, learning techniques to take back control when things got hot. She learned how to diffuse confrontations, how to set boundaries, respect the boundaries of others, and more. Slowly but surely, Clarissa found the change she was looking for.

In July, she graduated from our women’s recovery program – and God put her transformation to the test.

“A few days after I graduated, my daddy started calling me. He said he was dying and wanted me to come out there and get him. I agreed. I brought him back to Phoenix and he got better. Then, not a month later, I came home and found him packing. He told me he was leaving to live with his niece.”

“This time, I didn’t lose control. I had the tools. I helped pack him up as fast as I could and told him not to come back. Not because he wasn’t welcome in my house, but because he wasn’t welcome to mess up my peace. Never again.”

With that chapter of her life finally behind her, Clarissa began a new one – helping others receive the gift of freedom – just like you gave her.
“I got my Peer Support Certification here and I’m working towards becoming a Substance Abuse Counselor. I want to help others so that they don’t have to go through what I had to go through.”

Clarissa’s story is another link in a chain of love and mercy that stretches back 2,000 years – to a baby in a manger – and continues on through your generosity and support this Christmas season. Thank you for extending the love of Christ to the men and women we serve.

This place here, I’d recommend it to anybody who wants to change. It ain’t gonna be easy. You’re going to have to fight for it. But if you stick with it, you’ll change.”

From Memphis, TN to Phoenix, AZ, God directed Clarissa’s path to the Phoenix Rescue Mission, where she found the friendship and support of staff like Detra Auzenne (left), Food Service Coordinator, and Coral Griswold (right), Case Manager.