Stories of Hope
Phillip moved to the United States from Jamaica 20 years ago to start a new life. “Jamaica is hard,” he says. “Gangsters terrorized my neighborhood. There were a lot of shoot outs. Some nights, I was lucky to get home.”
He lived with his mother in Detroit and worked two jobs to help support them, but he wasn’t making any headway. “I got depressed and stopped praying and going to church,” he says.
Then he discovered that his mother had been gambling away their money. She moved out, and he was able to save enough to move to Long Beach. “My plan was to find a job and a place to stay. That would be my new life,” he says.
Fernando wanted to die.
Surgery for a brain aneurysm had left him unable to walk or speak. He was having to relearn everything. “I’d never sunk to that level of desperation or sadness before,” he says.
His physical therapist challenged Fernando to stop feeling sorry for himself and try to walk. “She forced me, and my anger motivated me,” he says.
Then she asked him if he believed in God. “I stopped believing in God a long time ago. I never talked to Him at that point,” Fernando says. “But she talked to me about Him a lot and insisted that I come to Long Beach Rescue Mission because it’s a good place if you really want to get close to God.”
Before she died of cancer, Rodney’s mother made him promise he would “clean up his life.”
His mother’s death wasn’t the only tragedy in Rodney’s life. His father, two uncles and an aunt all died within a couple years of each other. “We had funeral after funeral,” Rodney recalls, and though he’d been clean and sober for eight years, he began smoking “a little weed.”
His drug use led to a year in jail, and that led him to a decision: “At 54, I’m too old to be sitting around getting high.” That’s when Rodney decided to come back to the Mission and enter our New Life discipleship and recovery program.
It’s hard to know where to start sharing Kelly’s story.
Since her mother was a heroin addict, Kelly and her siblings bounced around from family members to foster homes and group homes.
Then Kelly began using drugs herself when she was just 11 or 12.
Later in life, all of her living children, who now range in age from 3 to 23, were all taken from her care at one time or another because of drug use.
Is there a bright spot, a silver lining in what seems like a tragic life? YES! Because today, thanks to your support, Kelly knows that “God has a purpose!”
Kelly’s exposure to drugs came first through her mother, a heroin addict who neglected to care for her children.
Kelvin grew up believing in God, but he went his own way. “I always had Him on the back burner,” he says. “It was always about me.”
When Kelvin was 13 years old, he started smoking marijuana. From there, his drug use only escalated as time went on. “When I turned 28, I tried crack cocaine. Right away, I couldn’t control it,” he says.
Kelvin’s addiction to crack cocaine lost him job after job, eroded his family relationships, and left him homeless.
He went through countless rehab programs, most recently completing a year-long drug treatment program in Los Angeles. “I went back out and used again,” he says. “I made my way to Long Beach, lost my vehicle and, after I spent all my money, I had nowhere to go.”
Raymond was raised in a Christian home and attended a Christian High School, but when he turned 18, he began running with a different crowd. “I ended up hanging out with gang-bangers, and got into the whole drug scene,” he says. “I was living on the street, one choice away from getting locked up or killed.”
Raymond had been living in the Los Angeles River bed for more than a year when he’d finally had enough. “I’d pretty much hit rock bottom,” he says. “So I got sober and called somebody that my dad knew. He called somebody who used to work here, and they got me into the Mission.”
A year ago at this time, Christina celebrated her first sober birthday in 18 years!
What an incredible accomplishment for someone who began drinking and using drugs when she was just 12 years old.
“I went down a very dark road at a very young age.”
It took a long time and incredible struggle for Christina to break her addiction. “I was a full-blown alcoholic for 13 years. I lost my job. I lost my car, and I had to live with my Mom because of mental, physical and emotional abuse from my son’s father. It took me a long time to get out [of that relationship], and he finally beat me up and put me in the hospital.”
Over 20% of the population here in Long Beach lives below the poverty level. This is certainly the case in the Mission neighborhood, where gang activity and drug sales are not uncommon. This also makes it a very challenging place for young people to grow up.
Long Beach Rescue Mission is working to effect change.
Through our partnership with neighboring Washington Middle School, the Mission’s Program Director, Chaplain Jeff Levine, has been actively involved with young people at the school through its special Male and Female Academies.
When Shauntel thinks about her life before she came to Long Beach Rescue Mission and entered our Women’s New Life Program, tears form in her eyes.
“I was homeless. I was an alcoholic,” she says. “A month before I got here, I had been hospitalized twice because I tried to kill myself. I was sleeping on train platforms and drinking to numb the pain.”
Shauntel thought AA meetings might help her change, so she came to the Mission to learn where the nearest meeting was. But a conversation with one of our Chaplains kept her here longer than she expected. “I told him, ‘I’m an alcoholic and I can’t stop. I’m not worthy. God doesn’t love me.’”
God proved otherwise by opening doors for her within the Mission and she joined our recovery program.