Stories of Transformation: Ben

The Ben you see here isn’t the same Ben who came to the Mission January of last year. Just 15 months ago, he was the picture of a broken man. Slumped in his wheelchair, harboring a mean streak a mile wide, Ben was homeless, hopeless and suffering from constant pain. Much of it stemming from the fact that he was a dangerous mix of alcoholic and diabetic – a condition that had left him paralyzed from the waist down by the time he was 58 years old.“I was in such bad shape they [Phoenix Rescue Mission staff ] weren’t sure they were equipped to help me,” says Ben. “But they took me in anyway. I was depressed, I had a bad attitude… I basically came here to die.”

Instead, Ben found new life and with it – a miracle neither he nor his doctors ever thought possible.

Ben was an accomplished mechanical engineer for much of his life, helping design, build and implement projects worth over $200 million for large corporations across the nation. He was also a functioning alcoholic. The constant drinking behind the scenes led to diabetes when he was 45, but that development didn’t slow him down. It wasn’t until it cost him his mobility that everything changed. “The diabetes caused severe nerve damage in my legs and gave me a condition known as neuropathy. I stopped working, I was in and out of rehab, but all it did was lead me to drink more.”

By the time Ben was 58, in addition to the use of his legs, his alcoholism had cost him his wife, his family and his home. He became homeless, living on the streets outside of the Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) in central Phoenix. With no money for food or medication, he was in and out of the emergency room, succumbing to life-threatening diabetic comas on a regular basis.

Then one day, sitting outside a Circle K at 51st and Dunlap, Ben heard about the Phoenix Rescue Mission as a place that gave out free hot meals and a place to sleep. He put in a call to CASS and they were kind enough to bring him right to our gates. After a week of being helped onto a mat at night and helped back into his wheelchair in the morning, Ben decided to sign up for our Transformations Recovery Program. In the condition he was in, no one expected Ben to make it through the rigorous Foundations stage of the program.

“When I came here I had no faith at all. But I found that the more I prayed, the better I felt. After a month, I started really getting into the Bible, started connecting with God and that connection got stronger and stronger.”

He passed Foundations with flying colors. Our Tuesday Health Clinic provided him with the insulin he needed to bring his diabetes under control. But it was during the second stage of our program that God did something in Ben’s life that blew everyone away. “One day I felt God saying to me ‘If you’re going to do My will, you’re going to do it on two legs,” Ben remembers. “So I got out of my wheelchair.”

The first time he tried it, Ben fell straight to the ground. But he didn’t give up. Day after day, Ben kept at it, determined to see for himself if God and His promises were real. “The pain was incredible. But eventually I was able to stand, then I was able to scoot around my wheelchair. Weeks went by and then suddenly, I was able to walk by myself. The whole time, I’m in prayer, I could feel God’s presence next to me. I eventually got rid of my wheelchair and started climbing stairs!”

Our staff was floored by Ben’s incredible progress, but cheered him on day after day. Today, thanks to the support of friends like you and care of our counselors and staff , Ben has not only graduated from our Recovery Program, he’s back on his feet again – literally! “I went to see the doctor shortly after and he told me, ‘I’m not sure what the heck you did. Your nerves are all shot in your legs… you shouldn’t be walking.’ All I could tell him was, ‘I found a better doctor, His name is God.’”

Easter is a celebration of the single defining moment in our history – the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through His sacrifice He invites all of us to die to our sins, to nail our worries and our failures to the cross and trust in Him. He promises that if we do, we will find new life in Him. Ben is a shining example that the power contained in that promise is alive and well.

“I was using narcotics for the pain in my legs, but the Mission showed me how I could deal with the pain naturally. Now I visit the naturopathic clinic at the Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Changing Lives Center and find relief through acupuncture and it been working great!”

Thanks to you, he is free from the crippling alcoholism that ruled his life and the wheelchair that was his prison for three long years. Thanks to the help of our medical clinic, he’s even cut back his need for insulin shots from three times a day to just one – and at a reduced dosage! For a man who came here, not only spiritually dead, but on the verge of physical death, Ben’s is a true resurrection story!

But his story is far from over. Ben has recently been accepted into the Mission’s Ministry Training program, the pinnacle of our recovery program at the Mission! His goal is to continue his education and one day become a pastor. His greatest joy is accompanying our outreach team on visits to homeless camps, soup kitchens and even his former home – the streets outside of CASS – to spread the word of God’s mercy and grace.
“I want people to know that God is real. He’s there to give you a future and with that future, a hope… that with Christ, you can overcome anything.”

It’s hard to argue with that. After all, Ben is living proof.