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New Life Graduation Vignettes

Celebration of Transformation

Four times a year, we celebrate the amazing transformation of lives and the dedication of men and women who complete our year-long New Life Program. The NLP Graduation celebrates the culmination of a year-long journey, in which our graduates were reconciled to God, to self, to their families and now back into society.

As you read through these testimonies of God's faithfulness, please consider how you might partner with us to produce more testimonies just like these. With your help, we're helping the homeless, and changing lives!

“Before I came to the Lydia House,” Loretta recalls, “I was broken, emotionally and physically. I soon learned how broken I really was when I began the New Life Program.” But through various classes, Bible studies and counseling, Loretta says she was able to sort through the “muck” in her head, and realize that she is offered forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ. “I am no longer broken!” she declares.

Bob's drug and alcohol use had left him with very few options, one of which involved the California Department of Corrections, but through a referral from his sister, he came to Long Beach Rescue Mission a little over a year ago. “I got the time to learn about Jesus for the first time in my life,” says Bob. “Wow! What a difference!” Bob will celebrate this Friday in a ceremony at the Samaritan House with five other graduates.

At one point in his life, Adam had everything he desired. But when he lost his job, the substance abuse he turned to in his desperation resulted in the loss of everything he had, even his freedom. Adam says he turned his back on God many years ago, but says, “I found Him and much more at the Long Beach Rescue Mission.” Now that he's back on his feet, Adam is helping his fellows obtain their GEDs in the Learning Center.

Debby sat in the Lydia House, hearing words like forgiveness and love, but this time she was listening. “I wanted the unconditional love & approval that I was hearing, and reading in the Bible,” she remembers. Debby slowly realized she was lost. She surrendered her life to Jesus Christ, and with the help of Lydia House staff, continues to experience emotional healing she never thought possible.

Akeem came to the Mission seeking relief from the hardships of homelessness, but there was something else he wanted even more. Akeem longed for his life to have meaning. After several meetings with LBRM staff, he learned how our program could benefit him, and how Jesus Christ could give him the reason for living he sought. To his LBRM mentors Akeem says, “I thank you for your help in putting my life together.”

Miguel's escape from abuse and neglect to gangs and drugs was an escape from the frying pan to the fire. He says, “The doors didn't close on me; I closed the doors on myself.” He arrived at the Mission homeless and hungry, and was offered the opportunity to join the New Life Program, and has found that God was with him all along. He reflects, “I now have a bright future... I owe my life to God and Jesus Christ.”

Structure and guidance, two hallmarks of LBRM's New Life Program, were benefits sadly absent from Stephanie's childhood. In their place was a defiant attitude resulting in unwise choices and dire consequences. A year later, on the verge of her graduation, Stephanie takes comfort in structure and seeks guidance from the God whose love and grace has so powerfully transformed her. And she can't wait to share it with others.

After a year in LBRM's New Life Program, Keith will graduation this Friday—but it's been a long road. “The program was not at all easy for me,” he says. Instead of depending on drugs and alcohol, he had to learn to depend on others, and most importantly, on God. He now has hope for the future. “I have learned so many things about myself,” Keith says. “I also have more confidence than I've ever had.”

Transportation issues and a worn out hip made it impossible for Bob to continue working. “I was very depressed,” he remembers, but he received a referral to LBRM, where he was nourished, both physically and spiritually, as he learned to walk with God. “I became a responsible, alive, happy human being,” he declares. Bob is thankful for LBRM staff and his fellow New Life brothers and sisters. He says, “I love all of you!”

The substance abuse treatment programs Marbella tried before left her empty, alone, depressed and bereaved of her three children. She wasn't going to let that happen to her fourth. When Marbella heard about LBRM's Lydia House, she jumped in with both feet and has since developed the Christ-like character qualities of peace and patience, regained custody of her youngest child and has reunited with the other three!

“Somewhere along the way,” Kevin recalls, “I stopped going to church, attending Bible studies... praying, and putting God first.” Without these foundations in place, it wasn't long before he succumbed to temptations to return to his former drinking habit, which nearly destroyed his family. Kevin is extremely grateful for Long Beach Rescue Mission's one-year New Life Program, and for God's grace which led him there.

After many aimless years in and out of prison, Karlton came to the Mission, where he discovered Jesus—the Source of his life's missing purpose. For the first time in 20 years, he has completed parole. Karlton is now in good health, estranged family relationships have been renewed, independent housing prospects are good, and he gives all the credit to Jesus, who he says, “has given me a whole new outlook on life.”

As long as she can remember, Wendy's parents used drugs and alcohol. So it's little wonder that, by the time she was 11 years old, Wendy did the same; and still less wonder that she has been battling an addiction for the past 20 years. But Long Beach Rescue Mission is much more than a rehab. “The difference this time,” she testifies, “is I've accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and know He has helped me...”

Daniel's alcohol abuse cost him both his job and his home. His addiction so controlled his life  that he was in and out of shelters, unable to establish a firm foundation. On his third visit to LBRM, Daniel was accepted on the condition that he commit to the year-long New Life Program. Since then, he has realized the destructive end which awaited his former lifestyle, and the grace of God which has for so long lovingly pursued him.

A history of drugs and prison life left Chris hungry for the kind of change only God can bring. Through mentorship of New Life Program leaders, Chris soon began to sense, not only his immense value in God's eyes, but also his own usefulness in God's hands to be of help to others. “I am so thankful to all the staff and all my new brothers in Christ for being there for all my difficulties during this crucial time in my new life.”

Poor decisions, broken relationships and fear led Kelly to believe she was beyond recovery. “Little did I know,” she says, “God was preparing me to clearly see how much He really loves me.” During the past year, Kelly has learned to forgive herself as Christ has forgiven her, experienced restoration of family relationships she never thought possible, and gained the tools she needs to start a new life.

Andrew is thankful for the part Long Beach Rescue Mission staff has played in his recovery. “I consider all of you family,” he says. But not much more than a year ago, Andrew was completely without purpose or hope for the future. The change began when he committed himself to the biblical disciplines of LBRM's New Life Program, and trusted in God's grace to help him. He says, “I now have hope and direction.”

Picture a man who, having surveyed the seemingly irreversible devastation of his drug-induced, self-destructive lifestyle, concludes that hope is something for others, not him. This is the place to which John had come when he arrived at LBRM. But he has since learned that real hope begins in the God who knew him before he was even conceived, on whom he now relies for direction, and to whom he now entrusts his future.

“Without God in my life, I was literally waiting to die,” says Deirdre, as she recalls two prison terms and the health issues resulting from her involvement with drugs. But, since coming to LBRM's Lydia House, she is thankful for God's forgiveness, restored relationship with her son, peace with her mother's passing, and plans for her future which include prison ministry to women just like her. Congratulations, Deirdre!

“Two years ago, I lost my house, my car, my family and my dignity—all due to drinking. I found myself living in my alcoholism and sleeping in a park. I then began going blind. After several tries, I got into the one-year New Life Program and gave my life back over to Christ. After two eye surgeries, I now have 20/25 vision and 11 months of sobriety. I thank the LBRM and the Lord for giving me a new look at life.” — Barry

Alcohol addiction kept Jason homeless in three other states before arriving at LBRM in 2015. He successfully completed the New Life Program, but later relapsed. About a year ago, he was allowed to re-enter the program and says he's added a critical tool to his arsenal: increased reliance on God. Jason has high praises for LBRM staff “for their dedication to helping those in need; they do our community a tremendous service!”

The road to true success is replete with paradoxes, not the least of which is the relationship between dependence on God and self-sufficiency. Whereas Zaevon's drug and alcohol use made him “dependent and burdensome" with regard to his family, his personal freedom and responsibility has grown in proportion to his surrender to, and reliance upon, God—truly a lesson for us all!

In the years following high school, Chris felt uncertain, discouraged and lonely. He turned to alcohol to numb the pain. But it wasn't until he became homeless that Chris realized the gravity of his situation, and came to LBRM for help. Now he has new confidence, purpose and hope for the future. He says, “I just want to thank the staff and volunteers at the LBRM for showing me that I matter, and that I am not alone.”

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” This is the Bible verse Jerry says best describes how God has led him to Long Beach Rescue Mission. “We must be willing to let go of the life we had so as to have the life God has waiting for us,” Jerry declares. “Sometimes you just have to take a breath, trust the Lord, and see what happens.”

“In truth, I never thought I would make it through the full year,” Steve recalls, “but by the grace of our Lord Christ Jesus, I have made it to graduation.” He had been a temporary bed guest at LBRM before, and returned after a job assignment ended. Steve gives high marks to LBRM staff and credits them for instilling in him motivation to stay the course. In the next few months, he plans to move into his own apartment!

In the 39th psalm, King David speaks of the brevity of life, and the utter futility of living it without God. This most valuable of lessons is the one Ted began learning in his first “confused, hopeless, broken” days in the Mission's New Life Program. “Though today I am still a very much broken man,” says Ted, “through Christ, my Lord and Saviour, and through God my Father and Creator, I am beginning to understand why.

Drinking, drug-using, fighting parents; verbal and physical abuse; substance abuse by age 13; runaway by 14; anger, fights, jail sentences; homeless by 17; alone, desperate, nowhere to turn. Could LBRM help? Andre found the Mission and felt God had another plan for him. He saw the change in others' lives and was inspired. “I thank God for giving me a chance...” says Andre. I feel like God is whatching over me.”

By the time Eric arrived at LBRM, he had tasted the freedom found only in Jesus Christ, and a resulting freedom from his addiction. But he neglected those things which would have provided a defense against a return to his old ways. And return he did. However, with this hard-learned lesson under his belt, Eric will graduate LBRM's New Life Program this week, armed with a fresh, new dependence on God, His word and His people.

“I can't wait to see what else God has planned for me,” Tim ponders. But just over a year ago he was broke and broken, with a 13-year drug addiction as his only “friend,” and worst enemy. But God heard his cries for help and led him to LBRM, where he has gained true friends, family restoration, biblical guidance, even  full-time employment! He says, “This is the first time in my life I can say I feel loved, and that  I love others.”

Allen was referred to the Long Beach Rescue Mission by Long Beach's Multi Service Center over a year ago.  He was extremely ill and his doctors said he couldn’t survive living on the streets. Today, Allen has regained his health and is looking forward to a life of physical well-being and continued growth in his relationship with Jesus Christ.

Because of a language barrier, Bela, a Hungarian immigrant, was initially unable to connect to social services or obtain housing and other benefits. However, since his needs were assessed through an interpreter over a year ago, he has been able to receive food, clothing, showers and shelter at the Mission. Bela is very grateful and looking forward to transitioning to permanent housing soon.

Cindy says her prior life consisted of “drinking and taking pills and hoping I would not wake up to see another day.” But she reached out for help from a friend she calls her “angel,” who referred her to LBRM's Lydia House. Eighteen months later, Cindy says that Jesus Christ has filled the emptiness that no one or nothing else ever could, and has gained a hope she could never have imagined. 

“I was looking for a program that would bring me back in touch with God,” Frederick recalls. When he arrived at the Mission, he was weighed down with what he describes as “a vengeful heart.” But it wasn't long before his burden was lifted by putting his trust in Jesus Christ. His heart was softened, and his anger replaced with gratitude for God's love and “the extraordinary people” he met while in the New Life Program.

When Guy became homeless, he was soon drawn to the mutual respect and sense of purpose he saw in the clients of the New Life Program, and decided he wanted the same for himself. He further noticed that many of the staff who were helping him develop these character traits are graduates of the same program. Guy says his desire is to follow these men's example and inspire others in this same capacity.

If Joseph had it to do all over again, there are many choices he would make differently. But when it comes to his time in the New Life Program at LBRM, he wouldn't change a thing, not even the times of struggle. Joseph knows it is those times which have drawn him closer to God and forged in him strength of character. He can't change the past, but new, God-directed choices have given Joseph hope for a bright future.

Despite the urging of concerned family members, Kevin was extremely reluctant to face his addiction. Even when he did decide to give the Mission a try, he was doubtful it would do any good. But what began for Kevin as a hopeless cause developed day by day into a remarkable transformation as he learned to put his trust in Jesus Christ. He is very thankful for the compassion and leadership shown to him by Mission Staff.

It wasn't long after his father introduced him to meth at age 16 that Kurt became an addict. Eventually becoming homeless, he lived in his car for many months before coming to the Mission. Kurt applied himself to the New Life Program, including hours of private tutoring where he made significant progress filling in gaps in his education. After his upcoming graduation, Kurt looks forward to employment and permanent housing.

Pete's previous life was a mixed bag of emotional and spiritual instability, self-destruction and guilt. When he came to LBRM for help, he learned a truth that would become the foundation for his future: Jesus loves him and wants him to thrive. Since then, he has noticed facets of his character gradually maturing as he surrenders his life to God. He now realizes he is approaching opportunities he never dreamed possible.

Abdul came to the Mission a little over a year ago in need of shelter. After weighing his options, he agreed to commit to LBRM's one-year New Life Program. Now he looks back and recalls, “I had no faith whatsoever, no God in my life. I'd been trying to just do life on my own... Being here at the Mission gave me back what I had been yearning for—a new start, a new life.”

Addiction, abuse, broken relationships, darkness, madness, homelessness and emptiness: these are words April uses to describe her life before she learned about God's love. After a year in LBRM's New Life Program, she is full of nothing but thanksgiving for freedom from addiction, family restoration, Bible instruction, godly examples, mentorship, encouragement, education and hope for her future.

Jason has experienced victory over his former life of drugs and alcohol through LBRM's New Life Program. But he says, “I never could answer the question, 'What is your purpose in life?'” Now, having experienced the grace of God and life transformation through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, he knows his mission is to share the message of that grace and transformation with others.

A Sheriff's deputy observed an young man wandering along Shoreline Drive and asked him if he needed help. After some hesitation, John accepted and was brought to Long Beach Rescue Mission. John has learned much since then, even earning his high school diploma. “However,” he says, “the lesson that I learned the best was a lesson of grace. I did not study for it. I learned about grace by receiving it.”

As a result of caring for her ailing son, Maggie was let go after 10 years of service. Destitute and demoralized, they arrived at the Lydia House a little over a year ago. Since then, Maggie has found emotional healing, discovered God's plan for them to flourish, and her son's condition has improved. She says, “What a remarkable gift and blessing this last year has been for me and my son!”

Kevin is full of gratitude for the LBRM staff, who helped him to find what he calls “the building blocks of life.” Perhaps the most important of these is an understanding of the grace of God. This undeserved favor is not so much something he learned about in a class (although he did that!) as something he experienced through living examples of the love God makes available to all who turn to Him.

Mayra graduated from the Mission's New Life Program in January 2018. How much difference a year can make! She has overcome issues with alcohol; her relationships with her daughter, son and grandchildren have been restored; she has grown in humility in her interactions with others; she now has hope and faith where before there was none. Mayra is well-equipped to face her future with optimism.

The Lord is the God of second chances, and that is what Raul is most grateful for as he looks back on his year-long journey through LBRM's New Life Program. When others had given up on him, Raul was offered, and took advantage of, another opportunity to rebuild his life. “I owe a lot to them,” he says of the Mission's outstanding staff. “It took a lot for me to complete this program, but it was well worth it!”

For the longest time, Scott was either homeless or in jail. When he came to LBRM for help, he was excited to rebuild his life through the New Life Program, and took his assignment to serve his Long Beach neighbors seriously, gradually developing a love for those still trapped in the life he had so recently escaped. “It made me proud of myself,” he says. “I get so much joy by giving back!”

Vince turned to alcohol as an escape from the pain resulting from an abusive upbringing, and in exchange suffered the loss of relationships he held most dear. But God heard Vince's cries for help and led him to the Mission. “I now know that I belong to Christ,” he declares, “and I am looking forward to a future that has value, purpose, faith that God can do all things, and a heart for service.”

“Sobriety is a wonderful thing,” Al beams. Of the Mission he says, “It's a sanctuary for those in need...a place to sit at His feet and get fed His word.” After a year in LBRM's New Life Program, Al talks about the mended relationships, hope for the future, and God-given peace he has experienced in that time. He is grateful for the chaplains, staff, donors and all who have paved the way for his success.

Carmen's whole life had been permeated by a long past that included physical, emotional and drug abuse, a broken marriage, loss of family members, and homelessness. Desperate for help for herself and her daughter, she came to the Mission and now reflects on God's grace over the past year. Carmen says, “I'm more than one year drug-free; I'm a mother, sister, and friend. I'm a child of the Most High!”

Derek once turned down the opportunity to surrender to Jesus at a Billy Graham crusade, opting instead for a life of “fun,” a choice which gradually led him to drug use, jail, and multiple stays in a psych ward. When he was finally referred to the Mission, he began to learn much about his own rebellion, and how he could enjoy reconciliation with God, himself, his family and society. 

After many failed attempts to achieve sobriety on his own, Robert realized he needed help, and came to LBRM. Having shown himself faithful to the growth-producing principles of the Mission's New Life Program, he celebrated his graduation, saying, “Thanks to the Long Beach Rescue Mission, I have found my spiritual side, which has made me a stronger person with a new perspective on life.”

Following high school, Rudolfo developed an alcohol and meth habit. After prolonged self-effort to overcome his addiction, a friend brought him to LBRM to sleep for a couple of days. Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, as Rudolfo prayed that his addiction wouldn't take him back to the streets. About a year later, he realized the answer to his prayers as he graduated from LBRM's New Life Program! 

Spencer was raised in a Christian home, his grandfather being a strong godly influence. When “Grandpa” passed away, Spencer processed his grief by turning from God to drugs. After a few stays in the local jail, however, he was ready for LBRM's New Life Program. Spencer can't say enough about LBRM's staff, through whom he received the encouragement and discipline he needed to reconnect with God.

“I am really thankful for the staff at the Long Beach Rescue Mission,” Anthony says. “They all go way out of their way to help everyone including the faculty, administrators and teachers.”  Anthony is also grateful, not just for the educational assistance he has received at our Learning Center, but also for the time and personal attention extended to everyone there.

Belinda was homeless, depressed and had lost all hope of ever thriving. That was over a year ago, and since then she has entered and completed our New Life Program at the Lydia House, where she found acceptance and a new path. “I'm learning who I am and enjoying the godly journey,” she says.

David became so deeply depressed at the loss of his parents that he considered suicide, but he resorted to drugs and alcohol instead. After experiencing temporary sobriety through a recovery program in Bakersfield, a friend introduced him to Long Beach Rescue Mission. David has now been clean and sober for a year, has put his trust in Jesus Christ, has peace in his heart and looks to the future with hope.

When Devin turned to drugs in an attempt to fill the emptiness he felt within, he quickly found that the missing something he longed for was still missing. Ultimately, he was led to the Long Beach Rescue Mission where he discovered that Jesus Christ satisfied his every longing. Devin has experienced what Augustine of Hippo wrote so long ago: “You have formed us for Yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds rest in You.”

“God, please help me!" Laura cried from her hospital bed, where her alcohol habit led her once again. Afterwards, she was referred to LBRM's Lydia House, where the truth of the Bible replaced the false sense of security alcohol had given her. She has mended broken family relationships and hopes to some day reconnect with loved ones who have passed. As for her immediate future, she looks to God for His guidance.

“For the first time my life, I’m thankful to be alive!” exclaims Robert. At the Mission, he got to know God and himself like never before. Robert spent five years standing in God’s way, but is no longer the angry, violent man he was; he has learned how to give everything to Him. “All I did was read my Bible, pray for transformation, and put Him first. I now have a new career and look forward to my future.”

“Death is knocking at your door,” those who care about Kevin warned repeatedly. His alcohol dependency had put him on the road to ruin. Now, having received physical, mental and spiritual nourishment from the Samaritan House staff, he says, “Jesus has raised me from the dead.” As Kevin approaches his April 7 graduation with renewed hope, he says, “It's the start of the fourth quarter, and He may call me in the game.”

Unhealthy influences, followed by years of alcohol and drug addiction, in turn supported by crimes that would support that habit, eventually cost Frank 27 years behind bars. When he came to the Mission, he discovered that trust in Jesus Christ demonstrated by a heart to be changed was the only way to true life. Frank takes one day at a time, knowing that God's grace and forgiveness will see him through.

When Mary arrived about a year ago, she was broken, hurt and without hope, but through the Lydia House staff, she learned that if she would trust in the Lord, her life would be better. “My life changed instantly,” she says. I finally had hope, love and forgiveness for my past.” Mary is now free of drugs and alcohol, and gainfully employed. “I could not have asked for more,” she says. “I’m forever grateful.”

No matter how hard Arthur tried to stay sober, he eventually returned to drinking. He needed answers, so he prayed. The next day, he reached into his pocket for a cigarette and found a year-old LBRM business card he had kept—he decided it was time to get help. Fast forward a year, and Arthur has found a relationship with God that has brought him joy, peace and gratitude he has never known.

Glen came to the Mission about a year ago feeling disconnected. As he has had opportunity to interact with his chaplains and peers, he has slowly developed a sense of belonging. He says he is grateful for chaplains “who truly listened to me and genuinely cared for how I think and feel.” Glen looks forward to the opportunity to participate in a healthy community.

The blind man Jesus healed said, “One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.” Those who wonder what fruit is being produced at LBRM can learn the answer from Steve. After being invited by his wife to a Thanksgiving dinner at the Mission, he committed to the year-long New Life Program from which he has now graduated. What does Steve have to say? “I was a daily drinker, and homeless. Now I am sober.”