The Light: November 2017

Gigi and Ari outside at My Sister's House, Atlanta Mission

"It felt like Christmas Morning."

After working tirelessly to change her life, Gigi found herself on the streets with her newborn daughter, hoping and praying for help...

When my baby daughter Aria and I were homeless, I didn’t think we’d ever have a happy Christmas. Christmas doesn’t mean much when you don’t have a safe place to live. And I was so afraid that my daughter would have as miserable a childhood as I did.

Thanks to Atlanta Mission, that’s not going to happen now. But it’s been a long, difficult journey. Growing up, my family was horribly dysfunctional — including sexual abuse, rape, and addiction. It was so bad, my brother committed suicide, and I ended up struggling with drugs for years. I didn’t stop using until I went to jail.

When I got out, I fought hard to change. I worked as a cook, made an honest living, and was proud of how far I’d come! But then, last year, I became pregnant. I scrimped and saved to take a few months off to care for my baby girl.

Right after she was born, I heard that my apartment complex was closing. When I decided not to pay rent that month, three men came to my door, with tasers pointed at my head. I was holding my baby! Though I’d never received a warning, they padlocked my property. That day, I lost my furniture, my dog, and everything else besides my daughter.

We were homeless. What a nightmare to be on the streets with a newborn! The lone bright spot was Atlanta Mission. Even when they didn’t have room for us, they gave me diapers and baby supplies. Every day I prayed a spot would open. When it finally happened, it felt like Christmas morning.

We’re safe now. We have food, clothing, and shelter. But that’s not all. Classes on parenting, relationships, and faith changed my life. Counseling helped me deal with my past. And I made beautiful friendships that brought me closer to God.

These people are heroes, and so is everyone who supports Atlanta Mission. They’ve given us hope, a better life, and yes, a joyful Christmas. I’m amazed and grateful.

Seizing a Lost Opportunity

“I CAME TO ATLANTA MISSION RIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS — ANOTHER FAMILY HOLIDAY, ANOTHER PAINFUL REMINDER OF WHAT I’D LOST.”

Two years ago, I spent Thanksgiving alone and depressed instead of with my own family. I’d made many bad choices in my life, put my family through a lot of heartbreak, and wound up fighting addiction and homelessness as a result.

Despite all that, I had been given a chance to start over in Colorado. I’d just finished rehab and my car was packed and ready. Before I left, though, I convinced myself I needed to get high “one last time.” Then I would really be ready to go.

Believing that lie just about killed me. I overdosed. When I came to, I was in a hospital surrounded by doctors and nurses fighting to save my life.

In the days that followed, I finally realized that I really was just a hopeless junkie. My parents tried to warn me in grade school about drugs and alcohol. I didn’t listen. I started smoking pot, which escalated to painkillers, and eventually to heroin. As things got worse, I stole money from my family, got kicked out, and wound up on the streets. But no matter how bad life got, I couldn’t kick heroin.

Once I was OK to leave the hospital, I began searching for a place to heal and change. Everyone kept telling me about The Potter’s House, Atlanta Mission’s long-term residence for men struggling with addiction and homelessness, so I decided to give it a shot.

I came right before Christmas — another family holiday, another painful reminder of what I’d lost. But the people here make this place so special. Their compassion, love, and sincere desire to help meant so much to me.

Today, I’m clean, I’m rooted in a loving community, and I have a relationship with God. My life has changed so much, my parents have forgiven me, and I have hope and a future again. In fact, this Christmas, I’ll be home celebrating with my family again. It’s the best gift I could imagine.

Christmas Joy

We asked children at Atlanta Mission to share their thoughts about Christmas. Their answers will make you smile...

Child celebrating Christmas at Atlanta Mission

“I’m happy to be at Atlanta Mission for Christmas because they give me and my mom everything we need. We get to be with our friends and it makes me happy.”

Faith, 10

“The thing I’m looking forward to most is milk and cookies. I love all the good food at Christmas!”

Greggory, 6

“This is my second Christmas here, and I made a lot of new friends. We’re going to have a birthday party for Jesus. The thing I’m most looking forward to is praising Him.”

Lucas, 9

“I’m hoping for Monopoly and a fidget spinner. But the thing I’m most excited about is that my family is going to have a new home soon.”

Gerald, 9

In Their Own Words

The Rauschenbergs explain why they began supporting Atlanta Mission...

“It was easy to be calloused to the homeless people we saw around Atlanta — until our son asked, ‘Can we give them our beds?’ Seeing the world through his eyes deepened our compassion.

“As we searched for a way to make a difference, Atlanta Mission stood out. They were seeking to address the root causes of homelessness. We liked the way they focused on the whole person, providing long-term, life changing help.

“Now, we invest our time and treasure here because we want our children to know that the brokenness they see around them is the same brokenness that Jesus came to rescue from our hearts, too. We want them to follow His example of entering into and coming alongside the suffering of others.”

Your Gift Brings Christmas Cheer

Man Eating Dinner at Atlanta Mission

JESUS, OUR SAVIOR AND KING, was born in poverty in a manger. During most of His ministry, He was homeless. For these reasons, God teaches us to see His face when we look at our neighbors in desperate need.

Your willingness to help rescue men, women, and children trapped on the streets honors God’s mercy.

Now, as we celebrate the holiday season, please continue to partner with Atlanta Mission to restore and heal your homeless neighbors.

Your support is critical! You will provide homeless men, women, and children with warm meals, safe shelter, counseling, job training and placement, and Christmas joy.

To help feed and care for your homeless neighbors this Christmas season, give a generous gift by December 25.

Comfort in Unexpected Places

"Because of your faithful prayers and support, lives are restored every day at Atlanta Mission.”

Dear Friend of Atlanta Mission,

When a mom like Gigi comes to Atlanta Mission with a vulnerable child, it’s usually after a lot of suffering. It’s our privilege to comfort them, and our joy to see their fears ease as they realize this is a safe and welcoming place. I liken it to our Savior’s birthplace: Just as Mary and Joseph found comfort in a manger, so, too, do our guests find unexpected security here in the heart of Atlanta.

As we celebrate the holidays, I feel especially privileged to see the joy and wonder in the eyes of children. They love the Christmas story! It gives them hope in the midst of much difficulty.

In time, as their families’ needs are met and issues are dealt with, healing occurs. Those who have endured poverty, abuse, and every other kind of misery experience new hope. And when they meet Christ who was born in that manger, lives are reborn.

This is the journey of restoration that occurs every day at Atlanta Mission — a journey that your faithful prayers and support make possible.

Thank you for showing love and kindness to our struggling neighbors — at Christmastime, and all year long. May God bless you this holiday season.

Blessings,

Jim Reese

Harry’s Story of Transformation

“I had it all, but I lost it all.” That’s how Harry summarizes the disastrous events that brought him to Atlanta Mission. He had everything a man could want — family, home, career and more. But when his wife of more than 20 years left him, it all came crashing down.

Harry was overwhelmed with sadness and “completely lost.” To ease that pain, he used cocaine heavily — only to lose the last thing that was keeping him going, his job. He stayed in motels until his money ran out. Then he was homeless.

Last year at Thanksgiving, he hit rock bottom.

“My best friend invited me over to celebrate, but I was so brokenhearted and lost in addiction that I missed it. I was destroying myself,” he remembers. Indeed, Harry was so low that he went four days straight without eating.

Desperately hungry, Harry realized he would have to dig through trash to eat — something he had never had to do before. The thought was so upsetting, so disturbing, that it finally convinced him to come to Atlanta Mission for help. “I came here with just the clothes on my back,” he says. “It was a day or two after Thanksgiving. When I got here, I couldn’t believe  how nice this place was. Everyone was so welcoming. And I was so relieved to have food, I was trying to eat everything and then some.”

Those meals sparked a healing journey that continues to this day. Now, not only is Harry clean, but he’s also living responsibly and recently began a new job. His relationship with his children has strengthened and he’s growing in faith.

Looking back, Harry says, “When my wife left, I should have followed God. Instead, I listened to my flesh. My teachers here taught me about spiritual warfare, and my counselors taught me about healing. I see now how I need God in everything.”

When he thinks about the pain he was in last Thanksgiving and where he is today, the contrast is stunning — and Harry is filled with gratitude. “Atlanta Mission has been a big blessing,” he says. “The people who support this place gave me another chance.”

To read other amazing stories of transformation, click here!

A Name and a Handshake


She was standing there, quietly sobbing when I walked past her. I attempted to ignore that uncomfortable, gnawing, helpless feeling I get  when I pass someone holding a “Hungry, please help” sign. I had excuses. After all, I was running late to a meeting and about to miss my train. Yet, God tapped me on the shoulder and I knew I had to go back. 

I walked up to the girl, a weary teenager.

“My name is Bonnie, what’s yours?”

“Shameka…I’d almost forgotten that I had a name.”

I let this sink in and as my heart grieved over this last statement, her face transformed and the tears stopped. Something as simple as asking her name and shaking her hand reminded her of her dignity and humanity. 

She was just like me. We had different backgrounds and different experiences, but we both had the same need, to be acknowledged and seen as a person, someone worthy of having a name. 

ShamekaThat simple question, “What’s your name?”, led to an unexpected friendship that summer, one that changed us both. 

It feels easier sometimes to look away or to pretend to be busy when we see someone out holding a sign on the street. But the simple act of asking someone’s name and shaking their hand can make a world of difference.