Breaking Barriers with Google Translate: José and Able’s Story

Google Translate App on a Phone
Open and honest communication is a critical element in a healthy relationship. Christ calls us to dwell in community with one another, and community is built on close relationships. Psalm 133:1 reminds us of this: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” But how can you build a trusting relationship or live in community with someone if you don’t speak the same language?

The Barriers of Homelessness and Communication

José came to Georgia from Puerto Rico hoping to find a better life. He had a troubled childhood and youth, beginning to do serious drugs when he was a teenager.  His passion was cooking, but the drugs began to interfere with his position as a line cook, and he lost it. He was hired as a painter here in Atlanta, and then wasn’t able to work for a few days because of his Type 2 diabetes, so he was fired. He soon got thrown out of his apartment and ended up sleeping on the streets.

José was scared, anxious, depressed, and suicidal. He was also lonely. He had no friends or family to reach out to for help. People experiencing homelessness face many barriers, including trauma, hunger, surviving the elements, and isolation. José was also experiencing the barrier of communication. He knew some English, but not enough to build relationships with others.

Google Translate Helps to End José’s Isolation

This all changed when José arrived at Atlanta Mission and met Able, an Ambassador. Able didn’t speak Spanish, so he came up with the idea to use Google Translate, an app that automatically translates text from one language to another. “We were trying to translate through an interpreter at first,” says Able, “But I wanted to hear his whole story. I had the app, so I suggested we use it.”

 

José and Able at Atlanta Mission, Using Google Translate to Communicate José and Able using Google Translate to Communicate

This amazing tool helped break down the language barrier for José. He was able to communicate freely and tell Able his entire story. “It bridges the gap between us,” says Able. José found a trusting friend in Able, and began to feel a sense of belonging here at Atlanta Mission. José and Able discovered they were alike in many ways, such as a love of cooking and creativity.

Soon after meeting him, Able procured a phone for José with the ability to access Google Translate, so José could communicate with others when Able wasn’t present. With Able’s support, José began investing more time in his relationship with Christ. “God puts people around you to put you back on the paths of God,” says José. “…God brought him and me together here. It wasn’t chance, because I didn’t know that he was Christian, and he was the one who helped me.”

Ending José’s Homelessness

José and Able, outside at Atlanta Mission
Able is also helping José get connected to critical services such as job training and housing.  “Our next steps are to help José become everything God wants him to be,” says Able. “We want to build a sustainable plan for his future.”

José feels thankful to be in safe place surrounded by a loving community. Through Google Translate, Able was able to break José’s language barrier, and help transform his life. “I wish there were more people like Able,” says José. “Because I think he’s unique. Every day we need miracles—people like him. I think that if the world were made up of people like him, the world would be different. And it’s not just me – he helps anyone who asks.”

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

Homeless Moms and Children Build Relationships through Cub Scouts

Do you remember camping as a kid? Building a fire, making s’mores, telling ghost stories, and staring at the stars? Perhaps you have taken your children camping, and have seen the joy on their faces as they experience the great outdoors.

Many of the children that we serve have never had experiences like these. They may have spent nights sleeping on the street or in cars out of necessity, but many have never camped out for fun. They may not have ever been outside the city. Joshua Crawford, Boy Scout Program Leader, aims to change that. Last year, he took three boys from Atlanta Mission, their siblings, and their moms on a camping trip in rural Georgia. “The smiles on their faces were priceless,” says Joshua.

Young Boys involved in Cub Scouts at Atlanta MissionHe has been leading a Cub Scout pack at My Sister’s House (Atlanta Mission’s campus for women and their children) for the past two years. All boys in first through fifth grade are invited to participate. The moms are also encouraged to come with their sons to each event. “It is incredibly important that moms share experiences like these with their children,” says Josh.

Building good relationships between parents and their children is an essential goal of the Boy Scout program, and it is especially critical for the moms and children we serve. Many moms have been through such trauma and upheaval that they haven’t been able to simply have fun, relax, and build relationships with their children.

The Cub Scout pack meets each week at My Sister’s House. They recite the scout oath, play games, build birdhouses, learn how to tie knots, learn wilderness skills, and more. They sell popcorn each year as a fundraiser, and go to events together like Braves games and camping trips. Joshua loves getting to know each scout and making a difference in their lives. “Your time with one child can change their life and give them hope,” he says. If you are interested in volunteering with the Cub Scout Pack at My Sister’s House, email Joshua at Joshua.crawford@scouting.org.

Relationships are Key in Ending Homelessness

by Leize Marie Davis

Over the past few years, we have been working to transform the way we serve those experiencing homelessness in Atlanta. In all the conversations, meetings, and designs, there is a central theme: relationships. Throughout the entire Transformation Model, we are striving to build better relationships with the men, women, and children seeking help. These relationships have intentional purpose in all of our services. Through relationships we are able to:

Understand true needs, not just what the client thinks we want to hear

In the midst of crisis, those seeking help are conditioned to saying what they think they need to say in order to receive help. Atlanta Mission designed staff positions to help lessen this challenge. The staff ambassadors and advocates are dedicated to building trust so our clients do not have to lie to get help. They know they will have a person to help them navigate through their needs and seek the best possible solutions.

Build relational capital to help clients make decisions

Once we understand the true needs of our clients, we both help find the best solutions and guide them through the process. Because we know them and their needs, they can have confidence and clarity in the best next steps, as well as someone to help provide support when they face inevitable challenges and roadblocks.

Learn the best ways to serve our clients

Our clients know the best ways to help themselves. We want to build great relationships in order to better serve them. Through relationships, we not only gain greater understanding of client needs, but we also can evaluate the effectiveness of solutions.

Create space for transformation in our own lives

Two Men who met and became friends at Atlanta MissionMost of society believes that the clients we serve have nothing to offer. However, through relationships with those experiencing homelessness, all lives involved are transformed. In these relationships, we create a space for clients to give back to us. Transformational relationships are mutually beneficial, built on trust, honesty, and respect. By being intentional about knowing our clients, we are able to learn from each other and serve one another.

The term “relationships” is easy to overuse. For Atlanta Mission services, this word carries much more meaning than it appears on the surface. It is a central piece of ending homelessness in Atlanta, one person at a time.

Transformation Part 3: A Legacy

              Charlie at graduation

Charlie, a new graduate of Atlanta Mission, struck out on his own to rebuild his life after addiction. But despite the warning from Josh, his counselor, to get a completely fresh start, he went back to his old job. It didn’t take Charlie long to realize that Josh was right after all.

The restaurant job he had worked before involved long, stressful hours, and it put him right back where he’d been when he entered The Shepherd’s Inn. “It created the old anxiety,” he says now. “It was pulling me back down.”

Concerned he would fall back into his old drug habits, Charlie quit and reassessed his options. He got a delivery job with a regular schedule and now lives with his twin sister. Although he considered joining the National Guard, he’s decided to become a substance abuse counselor himself.

Charlie regularly comes back to touch base at Atlanta Mission and visit Josh. “Josh is one of the best friends I’ve ever had. We’re really close,” he says. And Josh has been very supportive of Charlie’s career decision, coaching him along. Charlie’s ambition is to intern for a year and then pursue a college degree to obtain his drug addiction counseling license.

 

A two-way street 

The relationship between Josh and Charlie is anything but one-sided, however. “He taught me,” Josh says. “I learned not to give up on people who are having a rough time, to be patient when they’re struggling through something. This experience has reinforced a spiritual lesson for me. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Atlanta Mission serves many people of different faiths, Josh adds, but it’s the demonstration of love that bridges that gap. “It’s a natural evolution to greater faith because of the environment here,” Josh says. “The residents have tried everything else by the time they get here—so why not this?”

Josh uses Charlie’s successful transformation as an example to other Atlanta Mission residents.

Charlie explains, “You have to really want it and not just go to please someone else.” Part of his transformation involved moving away from codependence, he says.

 

Looking ahead

When asked how he envisions his future, Charlie speaks about having a wife and children someday, and working at Atlanta Mission or someplace like it. Of the way it’s changed his life, he says, “God was right there, pushing me along a little at a time. I felt like I was alone—but I never was.”

As for Josh, he knows he made the right decision and sees himself working at Atlanta Mission for years to come. The transformation of both men has led them to a better understanding of their purpose in life. Josh explains: “Atlanta Mission made me realize what life is really about. Working here makes life seem worth it.”

 

Rooted in Community

by Leize Marie Davis

Atlanta Mission’s research shows that an overwhelming majority of the men and women that we serve have no healthy relationships. This means that there is no one in their corner to celebrate successes or support them in crisis. The first objective of our Transformation Model to End Homelessness is to change this.

A client who is Rooted in Community:

  • Has reliable and healthy relationships with at least one person or organization. The relationships are founded in mutual respect, trust, honesty, and support.
  • Is growing in a relationship with Christ.
  • Has at least one personal or corporate productive hobby or recreational outlet.

Over the past year, I have become increasingly aware of the importance of community in my own life. Becoming a mother has highlighted my own desperate need to be seen, heard, and helped. I am blessed with an amazing husband who provides much of that support. However, we both still depend on our community for many things, especially as we learn how to become parents.

Rooted in Community at Atlanta Mission - Mom, Grandmother, and BabyOften, we talk about our need for community as a support system when we experience hard times. However, I have realized a greater purpose of community is celebrating together. For example, my mother believes that my 5-month-old son is going to save the world. Not only does she tell me this over and over, but I also know she repeatedly tells anyone who will listen that her grandson is amazing.

A few weeks ago, I sent our family a video of my son playing with a toy. I said it was cute; my mom said it was a demonstration of his incredible genius. My mom’s constant encouragement and excitement are more valuable to me than any physical help she could provide.

Healthy community wildly celebrates the small steps in our journeys. Our clients’ first experiences of kinship are in our buildings, with our staff. We are called to not simply share in their joys and triumphs, but to rejoice and revel in the little things that make our clients human. Most of society believes that those experiencing homelessness do not have much to celebrate. However, we know that the Lord sees them and how He feels about them.

Our clients have lived their lives on the fringes of society. Atlanta Mission’s Transformation Model to End Homelessness is designed to engage them in a community that models His Kingdom.