A Return to Recovery | Brandon’s Story

Three years ago, Brandon was running amok in Show Low, drinking and doing drugs with abandon. It wasn’t until he ended up in prison that he realized he had been caught by the same trap as his cousin Danny.

“I remember hearing from my parents about Danny growing up. Sometimes we would overhear them saying, ‘Danny messed up again,’ and we all knew what that meant. But then I found out that he was doing really well. (So well in fact that he’s managing our Hope for Hunger Food Bank, see cover story.) And I wondered what happened. That’s how I found out about Phoenix Rescue Mission.”

After nine months, Brandon was released into rehab. Figuring that what had worked for his cousin would work for him, he enrolled in our Men’s Recovery Program. But he soon found out that recovery is more than just going through the motions.

“When I graduated, I left campus and pretty much fell flat on my face. I went back to drinking and taking pills almost immediately. That’s when I realized that I hadn’t been honest with anyone during recovery. I just told the counselors and staff what they wanted to hear.”

“I was honest with them. I told them I had relapsed and they recommended I start the program over from square one.

Looking back, it was the best decision I’ve made.”

"But there was something different this time. Even though I was back to doing drugs, God convicted my heart each time I did it, and it just got worse each time. I knew I had to go back.”

Recovery is a long road, full of ups and downs. Just as Christ grants us all the grace to return to Him time and time again, every graduate knows the doors are always open to them at Phoenix Rescue Mission if they stumble.

During his recovery, and before Covid forced us to close our Mission Possible Café temporarily, he found that working in the kitchen both complemented his studies and gave him a new perspective.

“I had a lot of animosity in my heart toward authority figures. I didn’t like them telling me what to do. As I worked in the Café, my attitude began to change. I started seeing how it wasn’t them versus me, it was us working together. They showed me how criticism can be constructive and to not take things personally. They basically helped me become an adult, to see the bigger picture, and I started loving going to work. Once you begin putting God first, everything changes and you start to transform.

Today, Brandon has completed recovery for a second time, but for the first time with an openness and honesty that has given him a real foundation for a new life. He’s found a steady job and is looking forward to graduation in October. He’s saving for a car and his future is looking bright, thanks to the grace afforded by friends like you.

As COVID Continues, So Does Hope

Safely Reopening Hope for Hunger Food Bank

With the numbers of cases continuing to rise in Arizona, it doesn’t look like COVID is disappearing any time soon – but neither is hope!

Phoenix Rescue Mission is taking all recommended precautions to keep our guests safe on campus, as we give more men and women a chance at transformation. As a part of our new intake process, masks are mandatory, hands are thoroughly washed, and temperatures are taken at the door. The safety of our guests and staff are most important, and we’re doing all we can to protect and care for our people during these challenging times.

At our Hope for Hunger Food Bank, impacted families are finding boxes filled with nutritious veggies, meat and other produce ready and waiting. Surfaces are carefully cleaned and sanitized after use and safety is key. Families can rest easy knowing that the same recommended procedures that keep our guests safe in recovery are doing the job at Hope for Hunger as well.

Innovative procedures and systems have made it possible for us to open intake to our recovery programs again at a limited capacity.

Of course, it’s your prayers and partnership that keep hope alive, even during a pandemic. Thank you for your support that shines like a beacon in these trying times!

Tactfully reopening intake to recovery programs

Meet the Staff: Nathan Smith, Our CPO

Ever wonder what fuels the fire in the hearts of our staff for the homeless and hurting? Starting this month, we’ll be introducing you to the outstanding men and women who work tirelessly to see lives transformed – to get a peek into what brought them to the Mission and what keeps them going.

Ask anyone on campus and they’ll tell you: Nathan Smith has a huge heart for the homeless. But it didn’t start out that way.

“I wasn’t necessarily callous to helping people with great needs,” Nathan remembers. “I just never paid any attention to that as a kid.” It wasn’t until his first missions trip to India that his life, and his heart, changed forever. Nathan not only found his calling while he was in India, he found his wife – who was serving in the medical clinics of the same missions’ field.

“Years later, I was having trouble getting out to India to continue my mission work because I was building a family here. That’s when I was challenged by my grandmother-in-law to do more work locally. I started working with the homeless, which blossomed into a church ministry. From there, I met Jay Cory (former President and CEO of Phoenix Rescue Mission) who got me started at an entry-level position at the Mission.”

At the Mission, Nathan flourished. In just six short years, he’s risen through the ranks from Project Coordinator to Project Manager to Director of Community Engagement. During that time, he was instrumental in the expansion of the Mission’s reach into regions like Glendale, where he and his team saved the city’s largest food bank from closing for good.

Nathan’s team reopened Hope For Hunger Food Bank and increased the output of the previous ownership by more than 50% – serving more than 160 families per day under his watch. He was also a key player in the formation of Glendale Works, an integrated workforce development program aimed at reducing homelessness in Glendale by providing homeless individuals day-work cleaning city property.

In May, he accepted the position of Chief Program Officer!

God has put me in these different spots to expose me to what it means to be a leader, what it means to work with people who are really, really down and out and it’s prepared me to take that on at a higher administrative level. I couldn’t be more thankful for the path He put me on to get here.

Congratulations on your promotion, Nathan. We can’t wait to see how God uses you next!

Recovered 5 Years Ago: Where Are They Now?

It seemed like Lance and Dawn had been running from their problems all of their lives.

“We knew we had a problem with alcohol,” says Lance. “It got to the point where I was making sure we had vodka in the morning to avoid the shakes and the withdrawals. When it got too bad, we’d move somewhere else, thinking we’d be able to stop drinking.” It was an idea that they tried over and over again.

“We lived in Idaho, Utah, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, California… but the whole time, we were the problem. You can’t move away from yourself!” Lance laughs.

It was during a move to Oregon that they reached the end of the road. Their car broke down. Reaching out to friends and family, they formed a plan to head to Phoenix. But only one of them would get there.

“We got as far as Vegas where we got into a fight and separated. I called my sister, who got me a plane ticket to Texas, and Lance continued on,” says Dawn. “I didn’t know it at the time, but he ended up at the Mission.”

I got in and it was just what I needed,” Lance remembers. “I was able to put the world on pause and study the Bible. The great pastors here helped me through. The whole time I was praying that my wife was okay. One day, out of the blue, Pastor Gabe found me and said, ‘God put this on my heart. We need to find your wife.’” Working together, they found Dawn through an old email account.

“When we got to talk on the phone, I told her, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but I found what we were searching for. I found the answer.’ And she took her last paycheck, flew to Phoenix and we got her into the Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Changing Lives Center.”

But that was five years ago. Did the transformation take? Or was Phoenix just another stop on a long road of addiction?

We’re happy to report that both Lance and Dawn have been clean and sober for the past six years! After being baptized and graduating from our recovery program in 2015, they moved back to Texas for a bit, but are back in Phoenix and planning to stay.

“Coming here was the greatest decision we ever made,” they say. “We should be dead or in jail. I mean both of us have been hospitalized before because of alcohol, but here we are. It changed our lives! Sobriety is just a fringe benefit of the relationship with Christ that we found here. We’re doing great, our marriage is great, and it’s because of the Mission.

Things May Look Different, but the Work Goes On

News of the coronavirus forced us to cancel the groundbreaking ceremony of our new, 4-story Life Recovery Building which will house our men’s program and increase available beds from 170 to 360, allowing us to have greater impact on many more lives. But the work goes on! Construction is underway, and all throughout Phoenix Rescue Mission, we’re still bringing help and hope to the homeless and needy.

At the Mission, we’re staying abreast of the COVID-19 situation and making decisions in real-time regarding how to best care for and serve those in our ministry family. Our leadership team has developed plans for each area within the organization, so that we can responsibly continue our ministry with care and compassion, especially at this crucial time of need in our city.

We’ve adjusted our outreach in creative ways. Our Hope for Hunger Food Bank has been transformed into a drive-thru style so we can continue our normal hours (M-F, 8am-12pm). There are no zip code restrictions on who can receive food at Hope for Hunger, so anyone can receive food assistance so long as they show an ID and proof of residence (typically a utility bill). Healthy volunteers are still needed each weekday. If you can help, sign up at prm.volunteerhub.com.

We will also continue our Community Markets and Mobile Food Pantries around the Valley, all with redesigned procedures to minimize or eliminate personal contact.

In times like this, we’re given an opportunity to display God’s love, help build courageous people, and engage in the welfare and comfort of our communities.

With your faithful support, we will continue to reach out to the hurting and homeless with hope and help. In times of darkness, the light shines brightest – thank you for the partnership that gives a path forward to the men, women, and children we serve, even in the midst of the current crisis.