He had a rough start to life, born with a disability that made even just walking a challenge. Through different procedures and lots of support from family and friends, he overcame though, and incredibly went on to play sports, although he still experienced a good deal of pain from time to time. As he got older, his love for baseball and football grew tremendously, despite many injuries, and he became very serious about a career in football. He was accepted onto the NSU Riverhawks football team and was off to an impressive start. He was crushed when his dreams for the future had to change.
Sports are a ton of fun, and if you have any bit of a competitive bone in your body, sports feeds it like crazy, but for all the fun and games, people get hurt all the time. In fact, a whopping 90% of college athletes report being injured during a game or practice, and 24% of competitive athletes are forced to retire after a career-ending injury. After a severe neck injury shattered his dreams of playing professionally, Billy unfortunately became another sports injury statistic. It was a devastating blow.
On top of the constant pain he already faced from his disability, and the pain from other injuries causing arthritis and swelling and a slue of other symptoms, he wasn’t sure where to go from there. He continued going to school, got a job, and did his best to move on. After 6 months, he decided to drop out of school, and focus on working full time instead. At his job, he developed new friendships, maybe not the smartest friendships he realized later, but it was a distraction from the physical and emotional pain of what he was going through. The more he hung out with them, the further he seemed to stray off the straight and narrow path he had been on. He started drinking and then got into drugs, although he was still at functioning level. After dropping out of school, he moved back to Muskogee, closer to work, and tried to tackle life on his own. It wasn’t long before he went from bachelor life to steady relationship, but this girl wasn’t the best influence on him either.
She was a drug user, and heavy into her addiction, she caused trouble for him eventually getting him evicted from their apartment. They broke up, and he was back to life on his own, but he was really struggling with the housing part. Because of the pain, he couldn’t work, and he ended up on disability. He bounced from apartment to apartment, but the debt he was building for himself was dragging him down hard. He had some fines that needed taken care of, hospital bills, student loans, and it was getting harder and harder to keep up with the daily bills and pay for these. Eventually, the bottom fell out, and he found himself without a home, and he came to Gospel Rescue Mission.
Since being here, Billy has proven himself to be an incredible asset, doing well in all areas of our Work Start Training Program. He is working on paying off his debt so that he can be more stable when he leaves here and working on a plan for his pain. He hopes to one day have a family and be able to live life to the fullest, despite his disabilities. He’s learning more about God and more about himself and what he’s really capable of. We are excited to watch him continuing to grow!
Most of the men and women we serve at Gospel Rescue Mission are here because they’ve made some mistakes in life, and they’re ready to own them and overcome them. That was where Robert’s story started the first time he came to see us. He worked hard, put his feet to the floor, and was blessed with an amazing opportunity all the way in New Jersey to become a truck driver. He was ecstatic, and we were so happy for him! The day he checked out was so exciting as we watched him begin the next part of his life journey. Never in a million years did we expect to see him back.
Before we get to that, let’s go a little further back into Robert’s story. When he was a young man, all he dreamed about was comics. Writing them, drawing them, reading them; he loved it all. He was constantly doodling and drawing the most incredible characters. Even his wife was into the comic book lifestyle, being an artist herself. Eventually, his work was recognized, and he landed a job at DC Comics as an inker. His job was to embellish and fine tune the artwork of the character’s drawer. He truly loved his work. He went on to start publishing, writing, and drawing his own comic book collection and even owned his own publishing company. One day though, he came home, and all his drawings had been destroyed, ripped to shreds, with divorce papers laying on top of the rubble. That was the day he had given up comics. The thing that brought him so much joy was now just a thing that reminded him of one of the most painful days of his life. He left all of it behind him and never looked back.
Life led him down some twists and turns, and fast forward several years into the future, and that was when he came to GRM for the first time. After he left to pursue truck driving, life took another devastating turn. He had been having some problems. First, there was an issue with his ID. Because of COVID tying up all of our DMVs, when his license came up for renewal, he was in a pickle trying to get in before it expired. The new Real ID required that he have a birth certificate or passport to renew his license, and he had neither. To make matters worse, Robert was born in Germany, so it wasn’t as simple as running to Tulsa or Oklahoma City to get a copy of his state-issued birth certificate. The red tape was impossibly thick.
Since his license hadn’t quite expired yet, he was still driving, but the stress was starting to weigh on him. He was feeling very ill, like something terrible was about to happen. He could feel it settling on his chest like a huge elephant just weighing him down. He was on the road driving, contemplating his predicament, when that feeling of dread came over him again. He suddenly felt his chest tightening, and he felt that something bad was about to happen. He quickly put on the brakes and took the truck out of gear, heading for the shoulder. And then it suddenly went completely black.
When he awoke, he was in the hospital and was told that he had went into heart failure. Although he did his best to get to the shoulder, he blacked out before he made it, and the truck careened off the side of the road and went straight into a grove of trees. It was a miracle from God that no one else had been hurt, and that he sustained no serious injuries from the accident. And for that, he was grateful, but now it was time to figure out what was causing this. They ran multiple tests and scans and blood work, and there were pings all over the place. Heart issues, brain issues, blood issues, but what was most urgent? The doctors went for an MRI first, and while he was being scanned, he suddenly went into heart failure for a second time.
The medical staff worked diligently to save him, and after he was revived, they were able to see the cause. A blood clot at the base of his skull, an aneurysm, was on the verge of a rupture and causing his heart much stress. He needed brain surgery and right away. It was a 10-hour surgery requiring him to be fully awake and alert. “I’ve been through a lot of crazy procedures, but nothing was as scary as that,” he said, looking back on his near-death-experience. He might’ve cheated death, but the ramifications of the surgery were far deeper than he realized. Once he had recovered, the blow hit him hard. He lost his medical clearance for truck driving. His new career, one that he had loved and that was giving him the fresh start he had worked so hard for, was no more. He lost his job, lost his home, lost his CDL, lost everything. He was crushed. He What was life if he couldn’t support himself?
He didn’t think he had the strength to start over for a second time, so he returned to Muskogee and decided to drink himself to death. For a week, he did nothing but drink; no food, no water, just alcohol. But at the bottom of a gallon of vodka, he realized one truth: “I did not want this to be the end of my story.” So, in his drunken stupor, he called 911 to get the help he needed. Once he had sobered up, he came to Gospel Rescue Mission, and hasn’t had a drink since.
It’s been tough and overwhelmingly frustrating, especially with the lasting memory and speech issues from the blood clot and surgery, but he knows that he is capable of picking up the pieces one more time. We find our strength in Jesus in these dark times, and He gives us the power to keep pushing forward, even when it hurts, and we don’t think we can. I’m reminded of the Footprints in the Sand. When life was at it’s hardest, and only one set of prints were in the sand, the author wasn’t walking alone, he was being carried. And right now, Jesus is carrying Robert through one of the toughest times of his life. Things are already turning around for him though.
Bored, he decided to get back into reading, so he strolled through the aisles of our local library in search of work from his favorite author. And then he saw it. The comic book isle. That was all it took, and the spark was ignited. Now Robert is working on fanning the flames of his old passion and hopes to one day re-open his publishing company and return to his own comic book series. The goal this time around? Earn the Comic Book Certification Association Stamp for his comic book so that his work can be more globally recognized. In the meantime, he wants to get back into the work force and get back on his feet so that he can realize this amazing dream. Thanks to our generous donors and volunteers, we are working hard to make sure that Robert has plenty of opportunities to make his dreams come true, because at GRM, Opportunity is Guaranteed.
Mechanic to the bone, cars were James’s life. He had worked on just about every make and model American and German car in his 40 plus years of automotive work. With a passion for custom fabrication and restoration, James had worked at some of the most sought-after auto shops in the country, rubbing elbows with major players in the automotive world, like Chip Foose. His resume was incredibly impressive, chalk full of degrees and certifications, plus long term job experience with heavy hitters in the auto industry, but as the resume was updated with his most recent employment history, his employment experiences started to get shorter and gaps were longer in between. What happened to cause this change? And why was he here at Gospel Rescue Mission with a resume like that?
He sat in the interview, looking thoughtfully out the window, his face worn from the sun and harsh weather, as he pondered those questions. The old armory building, now the Teen Center, was in his line of site. “You know,” he smiled thoughtfully,” I remember when that ol’ building was still the armory, and this building was the ol’ day nursery.” He folded his hands, completely relaxed, as he traveled down memory lane. “And there used to be the Carnation place that my daddy would take us to and sell the milk from the farm. They had the best ice cream,” he assured me with a wink. His memories of old Muskogee seemed so rich and vibrant like he could almost see the town in its old beauty. He thought back to his childhood, remembering the farm he grew up on, his religious upbringing, the Heavenly Father he came to know and love, the hard work, the huge family, and the choices he made in his youth that shaped his adult life and were still impacting him today.
He made do for years, drinking at night and on weekends, and was functioning fine in his role as a mechanic. Despite his after-hours activities, he soared to the top of his game, landing incredible opportunities and enjoying the life he had made for himself. It didn’t take long before the late nights and hangovers started catching up to him financially though. Even in these dark times, he felt God calling to him, and felt so close to the Lord, but the addiction was just too strong and overpowering. He soon found that motel-living, with no long-term obligations like a mortgage or a lease, affordable, and all bills paid, was a life he preferred, and so he had been surviving like that for the last 20 years. In more recent times though, as age combined with alcohol took a further toll on him, he found it harder and harder to balance the drinking with work. He knew it was time to get back on track, and he needed a change of scenery. The farm that he ran from in his youth seemed to be calling his name. After 30 years, it was time to come home.
Back in Muskogee, James was eager to reconnect with family and friends and get back to work in the industry that he loved. And he knew, once and for all, he’d have to leave the liquor behind to get ahead. James was fully aware that motel-living wouldn’t give him the accountability he needed to make the serious life changes he felt ready for, so he opted instead to come to Gospel Rescue Mission, where breathalyzers are part of every meal and where God was the center of the program. The systems we have in place might sound harsh to some, but for recovering addicts who are truly ready to leave their past behind, structure, stability, faith-based curriculum, and accountability, are the keys to success.
Although James suffered from serious alcoholism, he grew up in church, loved the Lord, and he shared some really profound thoughts on how God always was, and is still, moving in his life. “I been gone from this place for 30 years, but He’s brought me back for a reason.” While James chose to exit the mission recently, he found employment, he’s working on reconnecting with family, and he is staying sober. He came back to visit and was in great spirits about the future.
Coming to Oklahoma from Arkansas, he found himself depressed and drinking himself into homelessness and hopelessness. He was completely separated from those he loved, and loneliness was a scary place for someone suffering from depression. He felt that the world was closing in on him and with no way out that he could see, he attempted to take his own life.
Drunk, covered in blood, and yet by the grace of God, still alive, he felt he needed to get back home, the only place he felt he could recover his life. So, still disoriented from the alcohol and loss of blood, he started driving, but it wasn’t long before God intervened in the form of police officers pulling him over for drinking and driving. He was arrested, and it was during his time in jail that he started connecting with people again and the loneliness started to fade. As his release date approached, he was referred to Gospel Rescue Mission, since he had no place to go. After coming here and being motivated by homelessness and newfound friendships, it didn’t take a lot of time for James to pick himself back up and put the pieces together. He felt confident and ready to go at it on his own again, so he decided to check out, thinking he had it all together. He didn’t.
Life on the outside was tough for James without the true support team and mental health help that he needed. He quickly fell back into drinking, leading to anxiety and depression all over again. After two stops in jail and a stint in prison, he knew it was really time to get it together. So, he came back to the place where he at one time felt whole. Gospel Rescue Mission.
Today, James is sober, happy, and free. He is part of a program called Mental Health Court that is comprised of a team of people who are dedicated to recovery through sobriety. Working closely with Green Country Behavioral Health Services, he is learning new coping skills to help tolerate, minimize, and deal with stressful situations in life without resorting back to drug and alcohol abuse. He’s working on establishing a solid support team so that he knows he won’t have to go it alone.
Because recovery from addiction and depression is a daily struggle, his goals for the immediate future are simple: “deepen my connection with God and everyone around me so that as my recovery progresses, I can offer the same kind of support I have received.”
James might not see it in himself right now, but he is an amazing individual! Always so kind to others, polite, hard-working, and a natural leader, if he can stay the course this time around, and let God work in his life, he is sure to go places in this world!
“Hi, my name is James. I’m currently a guest at GRM Center for Life Change because this is exactly what I need in my life right now. Change. Serious Change. After a long history of drug abuse, alcoholism, anxiety, and depression, I have found myself, yet again, with little more than the clothes on my back and a strong need for the transformation that comes only from faith in Jesus.”
Despite her mental health disability, Tonya has fought for years to be an independent woman. She’s lived with family most of her life, but a couple times she managed to get a place of her own where she could be free to live her life on her own terms. As a Christian, she struggled in a family that didn’t share all of her same convictions, and she felt isolated from those who loved her most. She had been in and out of a few mental health hospitals, and it was after her last stint at one in a nearby city that they brought her here to Muskogee and dropped her off on our doorstep.
She’s far from home, but she feels more at home here than she has any other place in years. We encourage her spirituality, embrace her uniqueness, and we are working to help her get connected with local agencies here that can help her to become that independent woman she knows that she is. She isn’t without challenges though.
One of the reasons her attempts at life on her own failed is her gambling and shopping addiction. Just as she starts to get on her feet, her money ends up in the cash register of a mall or in a slot machine at the casino. During a church service recently though, she was prayed over, and she could hear God telling her to just lay those addictions down, and He would carry her burden. As she moves forward here, she is working toward getting settled into an addiction recovery program and is already working with Green Country Behavioral Services.
Because of her addictions, she has tons of debt, so while she might have the money right this moment to move out on her own, she understands that she needs more than just an apartment. “I have to live my life fully for Jesus,” she said. “We might slip up sometimes, but we just need to pick ourselves right back up and keep trying.” She is re-establishing her spiritual foundation, in fact, she rededicated her life and was baptized during our Celebration Event, but she also needs counseling, budgeting help, and financial advice. Moving out will actually set her further back from resolving the root issues that caused her to be here at GRM in the first place. Now she is ready to take a step back, clear her unstable foundation, and start fresh with solid materials and good structure. She loves to work, and since she is allowed to work up to 20 hours a week, she is anxious to get into a job that will work with her disability so that she can pay off all her debt. Tonya is a bright little ray of sunshine here, and we are so happy to be working with her to help her achieve her life goals.
Like many of our guests, Dean is no stranger to GRM. However, like many of our guests, it takes a time or two, or five, or even ten before they are fully ready to leave their poverty mindset in the past and move forward, making good sound choices that will lead to the incredible life that God wants us have. For Dean, this is his second go-around, but the things he learned from his last stay has stuck with him, even after he hit rock bottom. Here is Dean’s story.
After suffering the loss of a loved one, Dean developed an alcohol addiction trying to numb the pain of his loss. It’s this addiction, combined with a debilitating health condition which effects his ability to walk, that ultimately led him to Gospel Rescue Mission the first time. Upon checking into our program, he was doing great initially. Following through with most program requirements and doing his best to keep his addiction in check, he was really starting to thrive. He was able to get some testing done for his leg condition through Good Shephard and was feeling very positive about finally being able to get his ailment diagnosed, treated, and resolved so that he could eventually get back to work.
However, addiction is a crazy thing. Just when you think you’ve got it beat, it gives you nasty little reminders to say, “Hey, I’m still here.” After having been here three and a half months, his willpower failed, and Dean fell off the wagon. In order to protect our guests who are in recovery, Gospel Rescue Mission has a strict no tolerance policy for drugs or alcohol, so as not to trigger those who are trying to overcome their cravings. It’s a daily battle for them, and one person walking through with a faint scent of alcohol on their breath could be enough to pull others off the wagon too. It was a hard decision for our Rescue Staff, given Dean’s progress, but the choice to drink resulted in exiting the GRM program. Dean was devastated.
Back on the streets, and without the breathalyzers before meals to hold him accountable, he was spiraling further into the darkness. One day, he woke up throwing up blood, and had to be taken to the hospital right away. He received 3 units of blood and a unit of plasma. His doctor assured him that had he waited even an hour longer to call 911, he might not have made it. He was hospitalized in Tulsa for a week before they eventually sent him back to Muskogee, actually dropping him off right next to Muskogee Beverage. He went in, got a beer, and next thing you know, he was vomiting blood all over again. Rushed back to the emergency room, they discovered that he had an ulcer, no doubt, aggravated by Dean’s drinking problem. His doctors urged him to put the bottle down. Dean knew he had to do something, because he just couldn’t fight it on his own. He needed structure, and he needed that system of accountability. He knew he needed to come back to Gospel Rescue Mission.
As you might know, no guest is ever permanently exited from GRM, and when Dean showed up for orientation, we were happy to see his smiling face ready to give it another try. Since he’s been back, he has over a month of sobriety under his belt. He also has an appointment with Good Shepherd to review the results of the testing he had done there during his last stay. He’s hoping that with God’s good grace, they’ll be able to help him literally get back on his feet so that he can go back to work. In the meantime, he’s working with his caseworker at Green Country Behavioral Health to get the ball rolling on disability in case the issue with his legs is more permanent than he is hoping. He’s optimistic about the future, despite some challenging obstacles with his record, his health, and his addiction, but he’s believing in God for a brighter future. And we’re believing right along with him!
When mass chaos strikes, it’s timing is never convenient. It’s not like the plague calls you on your cell saying, “Hey, there, Jan! It’s me, Coronavirus! I thought about striking mid-March. Does that work for you?” Boy, we wish! Instead, we’ve heard stories of people who were on vacation when the pandemic struck and left stranded; people that had decided to change careers and then BOOM! Here comes COVID to wreck the day! And stories of people who thought we were coming out of all this, launched a business, and then everything in their city was forced to shut back down again due to increased positive cases. Through it all, all we could do was just pray. That’s exactly where Eric found himself when his CDL expired smack dab in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was November 2020, and Eric realized that his license to drive his truck was coming up for renewal at the end of the month. Unlike a regular license requiring only a quick trip to the Tag Agency, Eric’s CDL required a medical card from his doctor, due to his sometimes-high-blood-pressure, which had to be renewed annually. He also had to bring that paperwork into the Department of Motor Vehicles, and trying to get in there was like trying to thread a camel through the eye of a needle. He set up appointments for both locations, but neither could get him in before his renewal date. He was stuck.
When his license finally expired, he wasn’t able to work anymore, and his funds quickly depleted. Without money, he wasn’t able to get his license, or his medical card renewed, so he looked around for quick employment to put a little cash in his pocket. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful in his attempts, but then the stimulus checks started coming in. He was now able to pay for the medical card renewal, however, now he was up to another challenge. His blood pressure was too high for his doctor to pass him. It took some time, but he diligently worked at getting his blood pressure under control until finally, he received a passing score! Now with his medical card good for another year, it was time to tackle the driver’s license. With winter setting in and frigid temperatures making outdoor activities brutal, standing in line at the DMV in the early morning hours was like torture. After some unsuccessful attempts, Eric ended up getting sick from the weather, and he decided to put it off until he felt better. As things tend to do though, it seemed like it was one thing after another, and several weeks went by before he was able to get into the DMV.
We wish we could say that here’s where the story has a shiny rainbow at the end, but sadly, it didn’t work out that way for Eric. When he finally had his temporary card in hand, one that would work until his real card came in the mail, he used his stimulus to buy a new pair of glasses which he desperately needed to get back on the road, and the rest went as far as it could to pay his bills. It just wasn’t far enough though. His stimulus ran out, and eventually, so did his good graces with his landlord, and he was evicted. He asked one small favor: “can you hold my driver’s license when it comes in the mail?” His landlord refused. When the license arrived, it was sent back with no forwarding address. And he was almost right back where he started.
Eric came to Gospel Rescue Mission, shocked at his predicament. His attitude, though, is one of humbleness and obedience. “When I checked in, I asked Him [God], what lesson do I have to learn here?” Used to, he would brush past those needing help, or not take the time to really hear them. Now, he wants to share his wisdom as he feels led to. Currently, he’s working with the DMV on the next steps that he needs to renew his license so he can get back to work. Armed with a great job offer once his affairs are in order, he is anxious to get back on the road. “GRM is heaven-sent,” he said as he organized his paperwork neatly. For now, he is taking advantage of his time of rest to get his high blood pressure under control and spend some time in fellowship with the other gentlemen here. He stands firm that his faith will carry him through this, and he hopes to be a positive light to others as he is walking through this valley.
There’s a fine line between mental health issues and the spiritual world that surrounds us. The reality of things like ghosts, spirits, angels, and demons, is a widely debated topic between believers and unbelievers alike. But how do you react when someone tells you that they have been regularly taking medications to assist with a mental health condition for quite some time, and they’ve had visions of spiritual warfare, seeing and hearing demons and angels, since they were a child, and even still as an adult? We’ll let you hear the case and decide. This is the story of James.
From as far back as he could remember, James felt he could see the world for what it was. Before he even knew about God and the Devil, he could see the war between the two forces happening all around him. Literally. He had prophetic visions of future calamity that eventually did come to pass. He was just a child when he had the vision, but he remembered it clear as day. In this vision, he had found a gentle animal and was taking it to his family to show them. As he got closer, the animal turned into a large, fiery beast and started consuming his entire family. Seeing what was happening to them, he ran and hid so the beast couldn’t find him. As he sat by watching from his hiding place, the beast made his way to his uncle. His uncle, as if something out of a movie, had become this incredible superhero and with what seemed like spiritual superpowers, killed the great beast that had ravaged his family. There the vision ended. It wasn’t until a day much later in life that he understood what the vision was trying to tell him.
Fast forward several years, drugs and alcohol had taken a hold of James’s family. All were deep in their addictions, and it was a pretty hopeless situation. James had dabbled in drugs and alcohol here and there, but for the most part, he lied low, and it was nothing compared to what his family was going through. He was able to live a relatively normal life, consistently worked, and had a few really great jobs. He was the only family member who had mostly seemed to avoid that treacherous path of destruction, other than one other person: his uncle. His uncle, who had become a pastor, was a real light in the darkness for James. As he was trying to find his way in life, getting lost from time to time, it was good to have one steady family member. And as he pondered this truth, he was reminded of that vision he had as a child, and it was then that he knew. Addiction was the fire beast. It started soft and soothing, promising to relieve their pains and hurts, but in the end, it was a like a raging beast, consuming everything around it, save James, who escaped addiction, and his uncle, who had the God-given power through to fight it for others. It was in this realization that he understood, his whole life, the dreams he had, sometimes even while he was wide awake, was not just thoughts from nowhere and coincidence when they became reality. He felt he had the gift of prophetic vision.
Having that gift, unfortunately, didn’t allow him to be able to change the things he was seeing happen. All he could do was be a witness, a testament, to what he saw coming, including nuclear war and the story of Revelations playing out in real time. While all these things were going through James’s mind, he was still living his own life here in the present and having to balance both worlds was very overwhelming. Despite his faith and conviction, he relapsed after he had wrecked his girlfriend’s car. The stress of their situation sent him over the edge, emotionally. He was finding it difficult to hold a job, and with their car totaled, money was tight, and the relationship was tense. She ended up kicking him out, and he wound up on the streets with nowhere to go. The addiction that he had always been running from was trying to take hold of him, but he knew that he just needed to trust in God to help him get back on his feet. Things were going to get worse before they got better though.
He was in a sticky situation. He had been in the wrong place at the wrong time and found himself being set up and investigated by the Federal government for his drug activity. He had people coming at him from both sides: drug dealers on one side and federal agents on the other. Not trusting either way to be the right way, but knowing that running wasn’t the answer, he finally was arrested. While in jail, he met the most incredible pastor, and he was so inspirational, really helping to steer James back on course with his faith. When he was released, he went to stay with a friend from school, but things didn’t work out, and he was brought to a different rescue mission. When he left there, he bounced around between sobriety and addiction, until he finally ended up at the Green Country Cares Unit. Since his visions had been plaguing him for quite some time, when he finally felt at peace, he was able to really sleep and catch his breath. When he was discharged from their facility, they brought him here to Gospel Rescue Mission.
Since being here, James told us, “Without Gospel Rescue Mission, I’d be on the streets.” He’s working toward feeling more comfortable with getting back into the work force. “I never had a problem holding a job until the last couple of years. It’s been really challenging.” His placement on the custodial team of our Work Start Program will help him build his confidence back up so that when he feels he is ready and finds a good employment fit, he’ll have updated skills to help him be successful. He continues to work with Green Country Behavioral Health and follow through with his treatment plan. He is doing great here, and we have high hopes for James!
In 1 Corinthians 12, we learn about the gifts of the spirit, and that God gives a number of gifts to people within the church: “To others He gives the ability to prophesy. To others He gives the ability to tell the spirits apart,” (1 Cor 12:10 NIRV). While James’s story is one of the most unique we’ve heard, as a follower of Jesus Christ, you can’t help but wonder… is this a story of someone who truly possesses the spiritual gift of prophecy, or is this a story of someone who is suffering with mental health issues, despite consistent and stable treatment that has proven to be effective in treating his mental health condition? Regardless because of the support of our community, at GRM opportunity for James and others is guaranteed.
She was only a toddler when her and her three other sisters were removed from her parents’ custody. There wasn’t too much she remembered about the whole ordeal, but she vividly remembered the feeling of responsibility for her two younger sisters. Her and her barely older sister were doing their best to take care of the two babies in place of her parents, washing bottles, feeding them, changing diapers, and being the mother figures that all the girls desperately needed. When DHS intervened, although it ripped the girls apart, it was really the best thing for them. At just three years old, Genia was about to embark on a new journey, but the sense of leadership and motherhood that they were forced to take on at such a young age would stick with them through their entire lives.
Fortunately, they were bounced around from foster home to foster home together, and when they were finally selected for adoption, Genia and her older sister were adopted out together, and the two younger girls were able to stay together as well. It was a little ray of sunshine in the midst of utter darkness. Now they could really be children, and hopefully life would at last become normal for these young ladies. Trauma, however, has a terrible way of haunting you.
Growing up, she did live a fairly normal life with her adoptive parents. Her and her sister developed a strong love for all things adoption, and her sister even went on to adopt children of her own, as Genia wishes to do someday as well. She did very well in school, graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, and eventually married. When she became pregnant, it was one of the greatest joys she’d ever felt. Sadly, that little slice of happiness was about to get swallowed by something much darker.
It started out slowly, as it always does. Phrases like, “No, I never said that, you got it wrong,” or “You really need help because that’s not how that happened,” or “you made me do that because you are so crazy,” started forcing Genia to second guess the reality of her situation. She was starting to feel isolated, relationships with family and friends were becoming strained. And by the time the name calling started, her support system had been sabotaged. When the real physical abuse set in, it had escalated so slowly, and she never even saw it coming. She had loved him, and from her broken childhood, love was something she desperately clung to, and she had hoped that he would change, but he didn’t. Eventually, for her and her child, she knew divorce was the only way out. But it was only about to get worse.
In the court hearing, her narcissistic and manipulative husband had the law and the judge eating out of his hand. He convinced them that her allegations of abuse were all lies, things that she made up because she was crazy and had mental health issues and was just looking for attention. The court bought it, hook, line, and sinker. Genia lost custody of her child and full custody was awarded to her now ex-husband. Her life was in shambles, and there she was again, that little girl being torn from her home and everything she loved. She wondered, could she pick up the pieces again?
And she did, however, the next guy wasn’t much better. She found herself in the same situation again. She had remarried, had a second child, and became the victim of another abusive husband. When they also divorced, just as before, the husband was awarded custody of her child, leaving Genia confused, frustrated, and completely overwhelmed. She knew the only thing she could do now was to turn it all over to God. Her faith was strong. It was strong enough to help her overcome her childhood trauma, her first divorce and custody battle, and she knew it was strong enough to help her get through this.
She wanted to share her faith with everyone. As a teacher though, she felt her ethics were compromised. On one hand, she had an obligation as a teacher to follow the rules, and that meant that unless a student initiated a conversation about religion, she couldn’t speak about it. On the other hand, asking her not to share that with others was in direct conflict with what the Bible teaches us about sharing the Good News of the Gospel. Her faith was such a large part of her life, the only thing holding her together, that not talking about her heavenly Father was like asking someone not to breathe. After spending a lot of time in prayer over the situation, she felt that she was being called in a different direction. She wasn’t sure what it was right at that moment, but she knew it wasn’t where she was currently, so decided to leave the teaching field.
She knew she was meant for something great, but now without a job, and feeling mentally fried from everything she had been through, she was stuck and wasn’t really sure how to move forward. She ended up here at Gospel Rescue Mission.
Since Genia has been with us, she’s had time to reflect on her past, and where she would like to go from this point. She’s still working on her mental health and getting the correct diagnosis. Her attitude is very sweet and positive, and you can just look at her and see her love for God in her actions and how she carries herself. Always trying to be a friend to others and with leadership written all over her, it’s clear to see she’s going places. She is just working on a plan to get her to where God wants her to be.
While she feels pulled in many career directions, she has a few clear things she’s building on: her love for music, her love for business, and her love for God and sharing Him with others. She one day hopes to own a Christian-based dance hall, similar to a modern-day club. It would be alcohol-free, with good faith-based music, and a focus on leading people to Christ through music and fellowship with others. From this venture, she hopes to be able to put her mark on the world by becoming a speaker and influencer about poverty and abuse and the victory she experienced through Christ. In the short-term, she is focused on her work in the GRM Work Start Program, helping her to strengthen her clerical skills so that she can find meaningful employment, not just a job, but a career where she is welcome to share her faith with others. Once she is steady on her feet, she is going back to the court system to fight for her children, who she still sees very regularly and has a wonderful and healthy relationship with. All in all, Genia is down right now, but definitely not out. Despite her past, she is moving forward in faith!
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse and needs help, reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. Chat and text options are also available. Visit their website for more details: https://www.thehotline.org/
As it is for most teenagers, hormones combined with high school stresses and an itch to get out and make their own mark, lead to all kinds of drama in their relationships, not just at school, but at home too. While some parents and teens have been able to work through this stage of life easily, others have found it more challenging and find themselves at a loss for how to resolve those conflicts when they arise. As Damian, freshly out of high school, and his parents tried unsuccessfully to work through their problems, it was becoming clear that the best option was for Damian to move out and spread his wings.
Unfortunately, with no job, his options were pretty limited, so a friend offered him his sofa to crash on for a while until he could pull himself together. Some bad choices put a pretty quick stop to his plans though, and he ended up sitting in jail for 45 days. Those days were valuable though, and while he contemplated the choices that led him to that tiny cold jail cell, he realized that he had no direction. And like most young men his age that are lacking that sense of purpose, he knew that as soon as he got out, he wanted to join the military. So, upon his release, he did just that, and joined the United States Army.
He became an infantryman and served for two and a half years. He began feeling targeted by some of his peers, to a point that made him so uncomfortable, he considered leaving. He wanted to stick it out though and see the journey through. It wasn’t long after that he was given a general discharge under honorable conditions. Feeling frustrated with his current state, and once again homeless and jobless, he couch-surfed with assorted friends and family members for a few months until one day, he found himself with no couch to surf and was on the streets, utterly stranded. He was devastated.
And as God does for us, when that door closed, and it felt like the darkness was completely inescapable, He slid a window open and turned this bad situation into something that could turn Damian’s life completely around. If he hadn’t been out on the streets, that American Legion officer never would’ve found him. And if he hadn’t found him, Damian might not have ever made it to Gospel Rescue Mission.
Now that he’s here, he has a chance to get a brand-new fresh start. A place where he can stay rent free while he begins to create a better life for himself. He also has access to the proper channels that can help him work through some of his mental health issues that he was diagnosed with while in the Army. Although his Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder) diagnosis was completely shocking to him, he is getting a better understanding of how it effects him. Dissociative identity disorder (DID) was formerly called multiple personality disorder, and it is a mental illness that involves disruptions or breakdowns of memory, awareness, identity and/or perception. Now that he’s partnered with us, the VA, and Ki Bois, he can begin counseling to address these issues.
He is also working towards getting his IDs, finding stable employment in the food industry (he loves to cook!), and getting into a place of own. As he works toward stability and independence, he hopes to one day get into acting, modeling, and singing. He has big dreams, and with all the opportunities that we can expose him to here at GRM, we can say that for Damian, Opportunity is Guaranteed!