Stories of Transformation: Gabe

Abandoned at birth… alone most of his life… Gabe has been on a quest to quench his thirst for a forever Family

You can’t live in the desert without knowing what “thirst” feels like. But “parched” is altogether different. It means “dried out with heat” – describing the process of literally cooking the water out of something. Gabe knows what it’s like to be parched. Living behind the public library in Chandler, he’s fortunate to have survived our streets when summer temperatures were at their deadliest. Today, he returns to pound the pavement for Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Code:Red initiative. He’s a new man with a new purpose – to hand out bottles of life-saving cold water to the parched. But Gabe’s motive goes far beyond just saving lives. For him, each bottle represents a special invitation. You see, Gabe recently tasted what it’s like to have a forever family for the first time in his life – and he’s thirsty for more.

It was 43 years ago that Gabe was found abandoned on the steps of a police station, his umbilical cord freshly cut. Although he was adopted seven months later by a woman in Oregon, it wasn’t a forever home. After suffering a mental breakdown, she kicked him out of the house when he was just 12 years old. “From that time on, I was always bouncing from different friends’ houses. I’d stay a week here, a week there, sometimes a month, but I’d always end up getting in some kind of trouble. I was never truly a part of anything. I was always someone else’s problem. Then, when I was 15, I discovered meth. Everything else in the world took a backseat to that.” With nothing connecting him to his “hometown,” he took his newfound passion and hit the road to try and make it on his own. “It was a transient lifestyle,” Gabe admits. “I would always find jobs that would keep me on the road, living out of hotels. All my life, everything I owned could fit in a couple of bags.” The years passed and Gabe found out the hard way that his addiction was leading him to a dead end. He wound up in Chandler, homeless and living behind the library. Depression set in. “I realized I wasn’t going anywhere. I was always starting over, always losing everything, always disappointed in myself. It was a dark time.” Gabe started to entertain thoughts of suicide. But then life took a turn when he was arrested and sent to Tent City for possession of a large amount of methamphetamine.

While inside, he encountered something that would cause him to rethink his position – Phoenix Rescue Mission’s BRIDGE Program. “I’d never been a Christian; I didn’t really know what I believed at that point. If someone talked about God, I would shut myself off to it. But for whatever reason, the genuine way they spoke started sticking. I kept going back week after week over the course of three months. God really put them in a place for our paths to cross when I needed it the most.” Daryl Burkes and John Humphries, who were teaching the class at the time, invited Gabe to the Phoenix Rescue Mission when his sentence was up. He wasn’t prepared for what he would find. “It [Phoenix Rescue Mission] was another world from what I was used to, coming out of jail. The guys here were happy, they were smiling, it seemed like they cared about each other! I didn’t know what it was. It was new to me.”

But he did know one thing: “I wanted to stay! And I really haven’t looked back.” The first chance he got, Gabe signed up for our Men’s Recovery program. Today he’s a new man, a graduate of not only our Recovery Program, but our Servant Leadership program and our rigorous Ministry Training program. Even better, he’s not alone anymore. He’s found his home in Christ and regularly tags along with the Hope Coach in an effort to expand his new forever family! “With each bottle of water, you’re planting a seed, you’re telling someone they are cared about who may not have anyone to tell them that. You have a lot of repeat contact out there. Slowly people start to trust you. You begin to see their faces light up when they see you. Little things bloom into something great.” Gabe has applied for a staff position and hopes to become a part of our community outreach program. To God goes the glory, but Gabe also has you and friends like you to thank for his newfound transformation. “This is a special place and a special program. You would never know it driving by. But God is in this place. God is on this campus. I’ve been given a direction, I think, for the first time ever – to serve the Lord. Something greater than me has given me a whole new outlook. It’s changed me.”