A boy leaves his father in pursuit of worldly pleasure, only to be swallowed by it – eventually finding himself penniless and alone. The story of the prodigal son is one of the most amazing parables in all Scripture, both for how accurately it describes our situation as sinners and for the beautiful depiction of God’s overwhelming love, mercy and grace. It’s a story Rob knows by heart. Not because he’s studies it. Because he’s lived it.
Rob’s father was the musical director for Church in the Wind in Phoenix. So naturally, Rob spent many weeknights and Sundays in God’s house and among His people. But in the neighborhood he grew up in, the fact that he was a “church kid” set him apart from the rest of his friends. “When I was 15, to be a part of the crowd, to be cool, I started smoking marijuana. I loved it so much that it wasn’t long before nothing else mattered. All I wanted to do was hang out and get high. I barely graduated 8th grade and when it was time to go to high school, I didn’t want any part of it.”
Rob missed 90 of the first 120 days of high school. The administrators recommended that, rather than try to catch up, it would be better for Rob to get a job and return to school next year. “That’s what I did. At 16 I got a job entering medical records. To my surprise, I found out shortly after I started that the staff there all smoked marijuana as well. Now I had money in my pocket and it was easier than ever to do what I loved to do the most.” Needless to say, Rob’s paychecks went up in smoke. Eventually his father found out what was going on and kicked Rob out of the house.
That’s when things went from bad to worse. “Fortunately, I wasn’t homeless for long, I found some friends whose parents were willing to take me in, provided I kept a job.” What Rob didn’t know was that his friend’s mother who had graciously given him a place to live was also addicted to methamphetamine. “I eventually lost my job and when she found out, she had me start running drugs for her. I didn’t like it, but I had no choice. To keep a roof over my head, that’s what I had to do.” Misery loves company and it wasn’t long before Rob’s new employer had him sharing in her meth habit in addition to running her errands – leading Rob down a path that would ruin his chances for a normal life.
“I wasn’t a normal person anymore. I’d become this lost soul, trying to get clean and disappointing myself again and again.”
The next 18 years of his life were a blur. For every step forward, his addiction seemed to drag him two steps back. He found success as a truck driver, before losing it all to a DUI. He found happiness in building a family, before addiction destroyed his relationships with his wife, son and daughter. Near the end, he found that his health was slipping away. “I started having seizures, I couldn’t sleep and I was shaking all the time. Sometimes my body would curl up by itself and I couldn’t do anything but lie there and wait for it to end. I ended up at the hospital. Eventually I had enough.
I told God, ‘I’m done. Lead me in the direction that you want me to go.’
Just like the prodigal son, Rob had lost enough to make him turn around and head for home. After being released from the hospital, Rob found himself at the door to his father’s home. “I was a mess. I knew I needed help and I told my dad as much. I remembered seeing a news story on Jesse Rivera, a graduate of the Phoenix Rescue Mission and figured if he could find hope there, so could I I asked my dad for a few dollars to catch a bus to the Mission, but he knew better. He knew that I would take that money to the closest Circle K, so he told me, ‘Son, I’ve got something better in mind. I’ll drive you down there.’ Rob found out later that his father never gave up on him, that he had been praying for him all along to find a way to turn his life around. Now that the opportunity presented itself, he wasn’t taking any chances.
Thanks to the support of friends like you, Rob was able to find the kind of help and transformation he needed to start over, right when he needed it most. “Thanks to God and to this place, I’ve been clean for 14 months now, which is the longest I’ve been sober since I was 15. Jesus pulled me out of that hell that I was in and is even restoring what I lost on the way there! I’ve got my high school diploma now, I’ve got a job lined up at Goodwill, my dad trusts me again and I’m even getting weekly visits with my children!” With the help of our staff, Rob is on track to earning back custody of his two children. All he needs now is a place to call home.
Rob is just one of the 22,233 men, women and children in Phoenix you reached out to with love and support in 2016.
It’s your prayers and financial support that make stories like his possible! “I still can’t believe there is a place like this willing to help someone like me. His Word says, ‘I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me.’ It’s true! I’ve never had so much peace. Thank you, Phoenix Rescue Mission for guiding me in transforming my life.”