More good news from the Jesus Center!
This month, I’d like to tell you the stories of two men, both named Frank.
The first Frank was learning how to smoke cigarettes around the time most children are learning their ABC’s. In fourth grade, he began using meth after a family member taught him how to snort lines of it off a table, and he would regularly arrive at school high, before spending his nights wherever he and his family could find—sometimes in friends’ homes, and often out camping, or under bridges. When he was thirteen, he received his first felony charge for possession of an illegal weapon, and from then on, he hardly spent a month of his life out of juvenile hall, from which he “graduated” to jail when he turned eighteen. He spent much of his adult life incarcerated for charges ranging from drug possession to car theft, all the while drifting in and out of addictions that cemented his inability to love himself, let alone anyone else.
Coincidentally, our cook here at the Jesus Center is also named Frank. But unlike the first Frank I told you about, the Frank on our staff is exceedingly generous, hard-working, kind and reliable. He is devoted to his wife, his children, and to God, and many of our participants here look to him as a trusted guide. In other words, he could not possibly have less in common from the Frank who lived in a toxic whirlwind of violence, addiction, and self-loathing.
Here’s the truth: the Frank who works here today was once the Frank who was hurtling down a path of lifelong homelessness. After being placed in Alternative Custody Supervision for a drug possession charge when he was 33, Frank realized that there had to be more to life than what he had known, and he began to read the Bible every morning before work. After a lifetime of believing that God was real but entirely absent, Frank began to realize just how present God had always been in his life. Whenever he talks about his life, he is always very clear to state that “it was only with God’s help that I was able to become who I am today: when I was the one at the wheel, there was never a good outcome.”
On the 26th of this month, Frank will be three years clean and sober.
Organizations like the Jesus Center are often labeled as places for the utterly hopeless, places for those who have hit—and will forever be stuck at—rock bottom. But when I walk through the Jesus Center, I see not only Frank, but many of our other wonderful staff members who were once homeless; I hear stories of folks who have used our services and have now ended their homelessness.
I see new life bursting through this place every day. I see how the scripture of Second Corinthians is fulfilled: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” People like Frank are living proof of the bountiful transformation that is possible when we give God the reins to our lives.
I think I speak for most of Butte County when I say that this has been one of the longest winters we’ve ever experienced. The process of cultivating new life here, given the extent to which many of our community members must completely rebuild their lives from the ground up, is incredibly daunting. And here at the Jesus Center, when you look at the task of ending homelessness altogether, it seems impossible. But when we take it person by person, intervention by intervention, relationship by relationship—everything changes. As people like Frank have proven, new life abounds when we let God take the reins to our lives and we give up our own interests in order to share God’s love with those in need. Join us in ending homelessness one person at a time.
Laura Cootsona, Executive Director