Ventura County Rescue Mission
by Richard Ramirez
I grew up in the small town of Santa Paula. Although my parents tried the best they could, but I still ended up in prison at the age of 30.
Everyone that loved me had given up on me including my girlfriend who had given birth to my son the day before I was arrested. It was during my time in Delano State Prison that I made the decision to follow Christ. That day, alone in my cell was the most life changing day of my life.
I was transferred to Soledad prison and it was there that I met Tony Sanchez. Tony had served 15 years of his life sentence. Tony had also given his life to Christ and was now an ordained minister. He took me under his wing and mentored me in my new journey with Christ. It may sound strange but it was a good time in my life… I was in prison but on the in the inside I was set free.
I was released from Soledad in May 1998 and a month later I married my girlfriend Leanna. Richie, my son was now one and Leanna was expecting another. I went back to college to take accounting and business courses which helped me land great jobs as an Accounts Payable Coordinator, things were going great so I thought.
Although I was “saved” and forgiven I still had a lot to learn… but I thought I new it all. Newly married, and not reading my Bible and praying, I was headed in for a disaster. I slowly drifted off the path, my wife left me and I started to use heroin again.
I would be home alone and I would wake up on the bathroom floor hours later after taking an over-dose of heroin.
I surrendered myself over to the Ventura County Rescue Mission that was Dec. 21, 2009. I just knew this is where I should be. It was Christmas time and this was my present.
Although I was now detoxed I knew I needed more, I was spiritually still off course. The mission's programs and the staff that taught them helped me to grow in all aspects of my life. There are some things and people that I will never forget and will always be grateful for....
- Harold “big love”Turner his messages started the fire I once had. He is one of the counselors but he would teach in the mornings our first 90 days of the program.
- My personal councilors Mike Darden and Mike Cowan, they were there for me when I had questions, they gave me good advise and sound doctrine. I love them for that.
- The 12 steps program they implement helped me to examine my life. The program is based on the Word and taught me the character of God and the plan he has for my life.
- The food at the mission was the bomb! Especially the salad bar, they would serve Tuna, Egg, or Chicken salad daily in addition to our wonderful dinner, and the deserts were oh yea!
- The weight room was another benefit, it helped me loose 90 pounds I feel like a brand new man now. I can almost keep up with my kids now. I would listen to Christian music and run on the tread mill, I had a dream to go hiking again to the punch bowls, it’s a 3 hour hike in upper Ojai to an old swimming hole, God delivered that dream, I went 4 times in 2010.
- The rooms where I slept were always clean; they made us clean them, all part of preparing us for our lives. We had nice hot showers too.
- They assigned us jobs. I worked at the garage in Santa Paula, there I got to not only learn about mechanics, but more importantly I built a relationship with Jim Bennet. The music he would play will stick with me forever… all the latest Christian artist. Jim is a great teacher too, both in mechanics and the Bible. I also worked at the car lot with Grace and Nelly they were like sisters to me.
- Not only were all of these people and things great but we also got to put what we were learning into practice. Feeding the homeless and checking them in at night. I learned to help the less fortunate.
Since I graduated in 2010, my wife and I go for long walks on the beach, go out to eat at lots of different places, drink coffee every morning and we talk. I take my boys on my hikes and fishing trips, life is now good, we still have our disagreements and my kids can be brats but that’s life, I’ve learn to laugh it off.
We attend church regularly every Sunday, at Reality in Ventura, it helps and we live as Christians everyday. I love to worship and would like to learn an instrument but for now I rise my hands and I be the instrument.
I realize some people don’t make it, but some do and that is the hope we should have as Christians. I realize I cannot save the world only Christ can but what I have learned to do is just focus on the cross and what He did for me. There is still this thing called sin so I will fall, but now that I am in love with His Grace, I can always get back up. I’m quick to ask God to forgive me and move on.
Isa. 40:31 - For those that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength,
They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not grow faint.
San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission
No age is too young to be involved in serving the hungry or homeless for the community. This was true for 13-year-old Jared Blair who creatively promoted the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission at his bar mitzvah. This Jewish celebration is to welcome a young boy to manhood, and part of that is assuming responsibilities that are fitting for a young man.
As Jared sent out invitations to his friends, he included a request for them to bring packaged food items for the rescue mission. Jared wrote, "to mark this occasion… I wanted to find something that would make a real difference in the lives of people in my community that are struggling to make ends meet each day. I have chosen to collect and cook food for those who are not getting enough to eat. I have chosen this because I want to be a chef when I grow up and I want to help people who are hungry. I want to help people who must live in shelters or on the street and beg for food each day."
Jared didn't stop there. He wrote letters to the local supermarkets asking them to donate canned and dry foods. The response was overwhelming. Jared's friends donated enough food to fill their family car and the grocery stores gave gift cards toward the purchase of whatever was needed. Jared knew that this food would be used for the mission's Rescue SOS (Survival Outreach Services), which feeds the chronically homeless, poor, and hungry in the San Fernando Valley as well as the homeless mothers, fathers, and children who are staying at the shelter. Each day of the week, Rescue SOS creatively plans and prepares meals to feed over 500 people at 6 locations throughout the Valley. Jared was excited to be a part of this process. He continues to be involved with the mission through volunteering in the kitchen and recruiting his Boy Scout Troop to help with special projects. He hopes to stay connected as the mission grows and increases their services toward those in need.
Valley Food Bank
One of the most reliable tests of knowing whether an egg is fresh or stale is, to drop it in a glass of water. If it sinks, it is fresh, but if it floats, then it is an old egg. Old eggs have more gases in them, which aid in buoyancy. As the egg begins to stale, air enters through its shell and gets trapped inside. The older the egg, the more the gas. Thus, an old egg can easily float in water. But, did you know, that you can make a fresh egg float in water as well. We were given a science lesson by our trusted and faithful volunteer, Gabriel.
Egg has a density higher than water. Therefore, it sinks in water (except when it is stale.) Since, it is not possible to lower the density of an egg; we must increase the density of the water. Although, the task sounds complex, it's a simple science experiment and the vital ingredient required for this project is easily available in your kitchen…common salt! Fill half a glass with tap water and add a tablespoon of common salt. Stir the water, so that salt dissolves completely. Drop the egg and watch the reaction. The egg jerks a little, spins and then, voila it floats!
Our friend Gabriel has been volunteering at the Valley Food Bank since November 2009. When not at work, Gabriel can be found in the warehouse unloading the trucks and assisting with sorting and preparing food boxes for pantry pick-up. Gabriel is involved in a variety of activities at his church, an all-valley interfaith weekly men's prayer meeting, and a food pantry ministry that distributes food to the needy here in the Valley.
Gab, as we endearingly call him, has two children – a daughter 14 years old and a son 10 years old. So his days are full of activities, but he faithfully serves at the food bank. His testimony is an inspiration to all, having been challenged to carouse about with older cousins and neighborhood guys, but ultimately choose to surrender his life and serve God and others in need.
Gab has a charismatic manner, makes friends easily, and cheerfully helps each of the pantries as they come for food. What does our saltwater and egg experiment have to do with Gabriel? He is the salt to our warehouse operation that lifts others up when they become a bit stale and helps them to float above the demands of the day. Thanks for the lift Gab!
Central Coast Rescue Mission
Jay came to us last year after what I would describe as decades of careless living. His carelessness brought him behind the bars of jail with the nagging question in his mind, "What's the point of living anyway?" "Would have," "Could have," and "Should have," are of no help in life – even if you are a really nice guy like Jay is. Now that he is in the mission recovery program, Jay is beginning to see that life is worth living, so long as he is willing to keep giving his life to God and to serving others. Because Jay is Serve-Safe certified, he has been the mission's key food-service person while the mission has grown its outreach ministry from 60 meals a week to almost 250 meals a week.
Jay is a very kind guy and he's an avid reader. He's picking up some side work on the weekends to address some dental work. He also loves to visit his mother and his brother after church on Sunday. For the first time in his adult life, Jay is not consumed by fear and depression. He has a peace about his life today and sees God opening up several options, including serving as one of the mission's interns and developing his food service skills. It really is a joy to be able to see a great change in men's lives. Thank you for providing refuge, recovery, and restoration to those who are seeking a new start.
Victor Valley Rescue Mission
My name is Ramon Bueno and I've been a participant in the Life Recovery Program for almost nine months. My story began five years ago on the streets of Los Angeles. I was only 18 when I began to experiment with crack cocaine, alcohol, marijuana, and methamphetamines. Soon after, these substances began to control my life and I found myself homeless and lifeless for three years. Following this three year experience, I checked into a oneyear Christian program. During my time at this program, I discovered major integrity issues and illegal activity led by the pastor. I had to make the very difficult decision to leave the program four days before my graduation. For the next three months, I went back into alcohol and methamphetamine abuse. I thank God for my friend that knew a current participant in the Life Recovery Program at the mission. She got the contact information for the program manager, John Schmidt. I called him and entered into the greatest season of my life.
The "gifts of love" that the donors and supporters of Victor Valley Rescue Mission give helped make my story of restoration a reality. I'm excited about completing my graduation this time in 19 days. I'm ready to live a Christcentered, balanced life!