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Stories of Hope

Testimonies of lives that were changed for good.

Archived Stories

Ventura County Rescue Mission

Experiencing God’s Unconditional Love!

When I came to the Lighthouse for Women and Children, I was a mess. I had just gotten out of Hillmont Mental Hospital and just got my two boys back. I had nowhere to go with my children. We were sleeping on my friend’s couch and had all our things in my car. We had no money and no family that wanted to deal with me because of my nasty attitude and how empty my heart was. 
I got to the Lighthouse in February of 2010 and was given a bed for my boys and myself at the emergency shelter.

I was so happy and had hope for once in my life. Little did I know I needed much more help than I would have ever imagined. My first night I was in the shelter, I didn’t even know how to handle my own children. I was in tears and a staff member had to come over and help me. This staff member never judged me for my behavior, she just opened up her heart to me and showed me love - the type of love I had never gotten before, not even from my own family, it was unconditional.

The very next day I got into the program and had a big room to myself. I had never had a room to myself before. When I got to the program, I got so much help with life skills that I needed that helped me better raise my two boys. I also really needed and took a lot from the parenting and anger management classes.

I graduated Parent and Children Interaction Therapy, known as PCIT, which gave me even more of the parenting skills I needed. I would have never been able to do these things if it wasn’t for the Lighthouse. I also went back to school and got my GED. I was a High School dropout - I didn’t even know how to read. I went and got tutoring Monday through Thursday to learn how to read so I could pass my GED test. All this was made possible to me through the help of the Lighthouse.

I’m now in Oxnard College and have a grade point average of 3.75. I’m living in the Lighthouse’s Transitional Living Program. I still have my two beautiful boys and that means the world to me. My sons and I have a much healthier relationship then we ever could have imagined. The Lighthouse saved not only my life but my two sons as well. We now have a future and know the love of Christ through the Lighthouse; the love we have gotten from all the staff members, my church, and the many true friends I have made over the years. While here, I have been truly blessed.

I would have never done any of this without the Lighthouse on my side to thrive. Thank you, Lighthouse, with all my heart! ~ Jessica C.

San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission

Warmth and Compassion Goes Far

“Give us your tired, your poor, your hungry, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” This quote embodied the emotions of the Chavez family as they were facing the fact of homelessness. Nervous, worried, and stressing 58-year-old Veteran Edward Chavez, 30-year-old Stacey Chavez, and their two children Arianna (five-years-old) and Aleiah (2-years-old) entered the doors of the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission. Not knowing what to expect, they were greeted by the caring staff that helped make them feel at ease.

“We got evicted from our apartment because I lost my job and couldn’t afford the rent anymore. It was hard on me because I didn’t know what to expect, and I felt like a failure for having my family in this situation. The staff here treated us with such warmth and compassion and really gave me hope that my family and I will make it through this hardship,” said Edward Chavez.

With the help of the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission’s staff and outside referrals, the Chavez family was able to find permanent housing and Edward Chavez was able to find employment. “Being here, we learned that God will never put you through something you can’t handle, and that he always has a plan for you. We wouldn’t have made it without the help of the staff; they really went the extra mile and were there for us when no one else was,” said Chavez. The San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission is very proud and excited for the Chavez family and their new beginnings.

Valley Food Bank

Staying Positive in Poverty

Their names are Joshua and Hillary. About three years ago, Hilary's mother passed away, they lost custody of their child, and have been on the street living out of their car, which they share with three dogs. Still, when we spoke, they were full of joy and humor. Hilary's eyes sparkled as she spoke about her son. They make it a point to see their son regularly. His foster parents have been excellent about that.  

I asked them about their faith. They are confident of Jesus' presence. Hilary said, "It's better to believe in Jesus than go crazy.” My thought is that it's a wonder that more people don't go crazy without Him.

These two are very aware of the services that the Rescue Mission Alliance provides. Through God's grace flowing through this sisterhood of ministries, this family has been relatively thriving on the unfriendly streets.

Last Saturday, they came to the pantry for the first time. I had spoken with them ahead of time and managed to provide them with a hefty chunk of turkey. It turns out that they have resources to do a bit of grilling. They told me that they were able to provide food for their friends and had enough to give away to more than five other families. It was a joy to be a channel of blessing for this sweet couple.  

When asked about any prayer requests, they asked that I pray for their homeless neighbors in the area. It was a blessing to see the Lord's generosity flowing through their deep poverty. More and more I am finding that in my feeble attempts at being a blessing, I am being doubly blessed.

Central Coast Rescue Mission 

I Surrender!

I started using drugs when I was just 13 years old, and that is when all the trouble started. I went to juvenile hall, then to jail, and then to prison where I’ve spent most of my adult life. I have always believed in God, I just never let Him fully into my life. The older I got, the more I became ashamed of my behavior, began to dislike myself, and kept running from God.
I had hit bottom so many times that I got tired of even trying. One day while I was in jail, it hit me like I was falling from the sky. The Holy Spirit came upon me and I surrendered to Jesus. I suddenly felt the longing to follow Jesus. Needing the tools and guidance to begin a new life in Christ, I chose to come to the Central Coast Rescue Mission. 
At the mission is where I’ve learned a lot about the Bible and the Heavenly Father and His love for others and me. I stand before God now clean from meth and free from shame. I have a purpose in my life. 
I am writing my testimony so all the ones that read this will know that there is hope after all. Jesus brings that hope and He is the hope of glory and redemption. I have found that Jesus is the only way to go, and I love my new life in the Lord. My faith, love, and character continue to grow every day. Thank you Jesus and Central Coast Rescue Mission, for your love and belief in me to become a new man in Christ. ~ Jimmy Payne

Victor Valley Rescue Mission

Thanks for Giving Community Appreciation Banquet

Article from the Daily Press - Published December 21, 2013 

Click here to download a PDF version of this article.

As Kaitlyn Carver sat on Santa's lap, the huge smile and twinkling eyes of the 3-year-old described the entire day at the Victor Valley Rescue Mission's Christmas Toy Giveaway.

“Santa gave me toys!” Kaitlyn squealed as she danced in front of several Christmas trees with a small gift bag given to her by Mrs. Claus.

Carver was one of nearly 2,000 children who received gifts, made holiday crafts, enjoyed holiday treats and had their picture taken with Santa at the High Desert Event Center in Victorville on Friday.

“We opened the (Event Center) gates at 11 a.m., but we had families lined up almost three hours before that,” said Cookie Thunstrom, 63, a VVRM volunteer. “Just seeing the faces of these kids when they walk out of here with toys is worth it all.”

As pre-registered families filed into the “toy building” to pick up their goodies, a small army of volunteers gave instructions to “toyland runners” who went behind a veiled wall to fill the requests.

“We’re like the elves who pick out the toys,” said Ariel Conant, 9, as she wore a red VVRM apron and green pointy elf hat. “It’s a big responsibility.”

As they quickly wove through a maze of tables that contained small mountains of toys, siblings Katelyn and Gabe Pineda filled a large plastic bag with sports gear. They handled the items gingerly, as the duo wore splints on their fingers. “I got hurt playing basketball and Gabe got hurt playing soccer,” Katelyn Pineda, 12, said. “But getting hurt was not going to stop us from helping out today.”

Gabe Pineda, 15, said the secret to picking out the perfect toy is to take a peek at the child making the gift request. “If they are wearing sports clothing or holding a doll, we know exactly what to look for,” Gabe Pineda said. “We got it down to a science.”

Earlier in the week, VVRM officials said they were running short on toys and were hoping for a miracle, something they may have received as the four-hour event progressed.

“Looks like we were about 250 toys short to begin with, but we’re still having people drop toys off at the gate today,” said Susan Conway, board chair of the Victor Valley Rescue Mission. “This year, Woman of Character and Angel Tree ministries are partnering with us to run the event.”

Conway said the giveaway also served as a training opportunity, as the VVRM team showed both ministries and several churches how to work the Christmas event.

At the south end of the toy building, Max Aparicio, of Angel Tree ministries, handed out large, specially marked bags of gifts to families.

“These are from parents who are incarcerated. We’ve made up about 60 bags this year,” said Aparicio, 21. “It’s a blessing to know that these children will still be able to get a gift and to know that they are still loved.”

In “Santa’s Building,” as families gathered for activities and a photo with St. Nick, VVRM Executive Director Ron Wilson stood on stage and shared the purpose of the event, as an interpreter used sign language to translate the message.

Wilson shared his own journey from “alcoholism to Jesus,” and presented a gospel message as the crowds continued to fill the building.

As a group of women from First Missionary Baptist Church wrapped gifts, along with several churches who also served at the event, VVRM volunteer John Cameron, 35, shared his heart.

“The rescue mission is so much more than handing out toys and meeting Santa. It’s about serving people and helping others to get their lives changed through Jesus,” Cameron said. “That is the real meaning of Christmas.”