The Light: January 2018

"A Gangster Finds God"

After being shot 12 times, it’s nothing short of a miracle that Gyassi is alive today. But the transformation that occurred in his heart is just as amazing...

I remember sitting in a bus station last winter, waiting for the Greyhound to bring me to Atlanta Mission. It was snowing, and the cold irritated the raw bullet wounds in my shoulder, back, and legs. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into — but I sure knew what I getting away from.

I was born a crack baby and grew up in a family of gangbangers in Los Angeles — running the streets, fighting, using drugs, going wild. When I was 15, my mom had enough and moved us to Atlanta. But the more things change…

A new city didn’t affect who I really was. My reckless behavior continued. I kept robbing people to make money. And I kept using drugs. But one day, I held up the wrong guys. They found me out, waited for just the right time . . . on October 27, 2015, I’d just arrived home, was walking to my door when a car pulled up and bullets started flying. I got hit 12 times.

By God’s grace, I survived. But when I left the hospital, I couldn’t work and had no money. I was homeless, in pain, struggling to keep my wounds clean. When  doctors stopped giving me medication, I broke down. I couldn’t take it anymore! So I called Atlanta Mission for help, and that’s what brought me to the bus station on that cold winter’s day. I came to the Potter’s House, their long-term residential discipleship program.

For a city boy like me, it wasn’t easy. Most people didn’t think I’d make it, and they had good reason to doubt me. I was still a thug and I acted like it. But I was determined to work through all the emotional baggage I grew up with. I got saved here and my life slowly started to change. I left the past behind and everything got better, especially my relationship with my mother. Everyone here became the family I never had.

Next month, I’ll leave here. I’m planning to start my own business. I’ve turned 180 degrees from the man I used to be. That’s the power of God — but God used generous, compassionate people like you to do it. Thank you for transforming my life.

Running for Atlanta's Homeless Children

Kara and Ryan Oleniczak aren’t runners, but that hasn’t stopped them from participating in Atlanta Mission’s 5K. Here, they share what inspires them to run...

Kara and Ryan at the 2017 Atlanta Mission 5K Race to End HomelessnessWe were looking for a way to make a difference, so we started volunteering with children at Atlanta Mission. We’d come and hang out with the kids — read them Bible stories, play games, do activities…it was a great opportunity to love on them, to be a steady, positive influence in their lives and show them we care.

When we heard about Atlanta Mission’s 5K, we decided to jump in even though we’re not runners. Every year, we joke that we should start jogging to prepare. That hasn’t happened yet, but we still have a great time.

This is running with a purpose. The people who benefit often don’t know where the will sleep at night or where their next meal will come from. Running in the cold might make us uncomfortable, but that’s how homeless people live, so it creates empathy  for them.

One year, we had a chance to cross the finish line with some of the kids we see every week. Knowing that we were running for them made the whole experience so much more meaningful.

Thank you Kara and Ryan for sharing your story! Like them, you don’t have to be a runner to participate in Atlanta Mission’s 5K. To learn more, read below.

Run in the cold for those who sleep in the cold.

Aetna Presents the 2018 Atlanta Mission 5K Race to End Homelessness

Join thousands of other runners, walkers, and people of goodwill to help our neighbors who don’t have a roof over their heads this winter.

When: February 17, 2018, at 8:30 a.m.

Where: Pemberton Place – World of Coca Cola

Cost: $35 Registration fee Register today at: atlantamission.org/race.

If you don’t want to run/walk but would still like to support the event, register as a Ghost Runner. You will receive an official event shirt by mail, and your registration fee will directly help your homeless neighbors.

Transforming Relationships at Atlanta Mission

Relationships that Transform

Basic needs draw people to Atlanta Mission.

Meeting Basic Needs at Atlanta Mission, Meals, Shelter, Clothing, and Medical Care

But financial poverty isn’t always the biggest problem. Relational poverty and isolation can be far greater challenges.

Atlanta Mission builds steady, caring relationships with our guests that inspire long-term transformation.

Relational poverty and isolation can be far greater challenges.
Relationships lead to long term transformation

As a result, the number of women choosing long-term, comprehensive help (rather than just a meal or a night of shelter) has more than doubled, and the men aren’t far behind…

Thank you for meeting the deep needs of our guests. By God’s grace, you’re transforming lives and ending homelessness!

Transforming lives, ending their homelessness

People Who Sleep in the Cold Need Your Help

Woman outside at Atlanta Mission in Winter

You probably don’t think about the life-transforming difference you’re making for homeless men, women, and children very often… how you’re giving them compassionate care and a brighter future. But lives are changing every day because of you — and it’s beautiful.

Today, we hope you’ll continue this good  work. Your support will provide your homeless neighbors with urgently needed food, shelter, and clothing, plus comprehensive resources that help them overcome poverty and homelessness for good.

Please help rescue your homeless neighbors from the cold streets. Donate generously to Atlanta Mission today.

Running a Good Race — Figuratively and Literally

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” – 2 Timothy 4:7

Every year at this time, I think about these moving words from the Apostle Paul. They not only inspire me to carry on the good work at Atlanta Mission — they also fill me with gratitude for people like you, who are “running the race” with us.

Next month, Paul’s metaphor will take on a more literal sense when people from across the city join us for our annual 5K Race to End Homelessness. It is a visible sign to those on the street and to our community that they matter, that we believe in them, and that Jesus loves them.

When our brokenhearted neighbors learn how much you care about them, many of them decide to stay in the race, too. It’s common to hear from a client, “I needed someone else to believe in me before I could believe in myself!”

By God’s grace, that belief has transformed many lives, and helped many homeless neighbors “keep the faith,” too. Let us pray that our impact grows in the year ahead. If you’re able, please join us on the morning of February 17 to “run in the cold for those who sleep in the cold.” You’ll help rescue many more people from the streets, so they can run a good race, too. Thank you!

Jim Reese
President & CEO

Gigi’s Story of Transformation

gigi-and-ari-at-atlanta-mission

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.

To read other amazing stories of transformation, click here!

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.”

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!

“If Your Identity is Broken, Your Life is Broken”

by Leize Marie Davis

Men experiencing homelessness chatting at Atlanta MissionMany early mornings at The Shepherd’s Inn, I have been visited by Paul. He comes in beaming and asking how he can pray for me. Throughout the conversation, he begins to recite the litany of his past wrongs and wounds: in and out of jail, abused as a child, drugs, life on the streets, etc. It breaks my heart that not only is his identity anchored in past abuse and mistakes. I wonder if he sees the joyful smile he brings to the room in the same way I do.

For years I tried to engage a client who has been in and out of one our shelter campuses for longer than I have worked here. Most times, she never speaks, and the rare responses I get are never friendly. A few weeks ago, I heard a client say goodbye as I was heading to my car. It was her! I barely recognized her with a smile on her face.

In his book People of the Second Chance, Mike Foster states, “…just because we have made mistakes doesn’t mean we are mistakes… Identity is the engine that drives the relationship not only with ourselves but also with God and Others. If your identity is broken, your life is broken.”

The men and women we serve believe their lives are the sum of their mistakes and their past wounds define the future. In order to help our clients become rooted in community we must address these broken identities. It is important that we work to see what is hidden deep beneath the scars and wounds of lives filled with trauma and abuse. We must demonstrate that the Lord believes they are more than the broken identity they see in the mirror.

The world tells those experiencing homelessness that they deserve to be in the margins, that their behavior is a representation of their identity. But we as Believers know better. We are called to repair their broken identities and help them see who they truly are, a beautiful creation made in God’s image.

The Light: September 2017

Harry found healing at Atlanta Misison

"I was destroying myself."

Harry was a shattered man. His once happy life had broken apart. Now, he’d not only missed out on Thanksgiving — he hadn’t eaten in four days . . .

“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.”

Man Eating Thanksgiving Dinner at Atlanta Mission

Why They're Grateful for You

In their own words, our clients explain how your faithful prayers and support transformed their lives . . .

“I was on my own but I needed help. I didn’t know where I could go. I didn’t know how I would survive. But when I came to Atlanta Mission, everything was okay. The presence of God is here.”

-Lincoln

“I used to come to Atlanta Mission just for a meal or a place to sleep. Eventually I got tired of being homeless and came for life transformation. Today I have a good job and a better future.”

-Barry

“I was lost and hopeless, but I felt like God was saying, ‘Atlanta Mission is where you’re supposed to be.’ He was right of course. They gave me the help I needed.”

-Tremaine

“If it weren’t for Atlanta Mission, I’d probably be dead. But here, I’m surrounded by people who genuinely care. I love it here.”

-Brandon

“I’m so grateful for Atlanta Mission. God redeemed my life here, and they helped me get back on my feet.”

-Clay

Give Your Homeless Neighbors a Thanksgiving to Remember

ON THANKSGIVING DAY we’ll serve more than 1,000 turkey dinners. Take a look at the ingredients that make such a grand celebration possible:

  • 150 turkeys
  • 2,000 rolls
  • 100 lbs. of butter
  • 725 lbs. of potatoes
  • 90 gallons of gravy
  • 36 gallons of cranberry sauce
  • 80 gallons of macaroni
  • 150 lbs. of cheddar cheese
  • 180 lbs. of green beans
  • 20 lbs. of onions
  • 50 lbs. of celery
  • 80 pumpkin pies
  • 80 apple pies
  • 90 lbs. of chicken stock
  • 1,200 eggs
  • 150 lbs. of flour
  • 120 gallons of milk

Thank you for helping our homeless neighbors experience a celebration that fills their hearts with gratitude.

Thanksgiving Meals Transform Lives

Little Girl eating at Atlanta Mission

Very soon now, our homeless neighbors will begin arriving at Atlanta Mission in large numbers to escape the streets and enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. As they experience food and fellowship and learn about God’s love, many will be inspired to begin a long-term healing journey — just like Harry.

Between now and Thanksgiving, we must serve close to 98,000 meals. And we need your help!

It costs just $2.67 to provide one nutritious meal. However many you choose to give, please don’t delay. We must have funds in place by October 10. Give Today.

Your gift will provide delicious meals for our guests and other life-transforming resources that help end homelessness in Atlanta. Click here to donate this Thanksgiving season.

The Grace of Giving

Thanks for sharing God’s love with severely disadvantaged children and families.

Dear Friend of Atlanta Mission,

50 cent Donation to Atlanta Mission from Faithful DonorIn my top desk drawer, I keep a letter from a man with two quarters taped to it. As he explained, it was all he had but he wanted to give it to the Atlanta Mission because of the critical needs of the people we serve — needs that were greater than his. Like the story of the widow’s mite in Luke 21, I believe God honors these gifts and performs miracles with them.

I see his letter every day, and it is a wonderful reminder to be grateful for the sacrificial giving exhibited by so many good people in our community. A heart of giving is itself a wonderful gift from God.

As recorded in Acts 20:35, Jesus said it was more blessed to give than to receive. I see that firsthand at Atlanta Mission when I watch men and women who may not have a single possession share with one another. Even if the gift is small — like a candy bar or an extra portion of dessert — this act of kindness never fails to brighten the day of both people. But the biggest smile always belongs to the giver!

In that same way, I hope your faithful prayers and support for Atlanta Mission fill your heart with joy this Thanksgiving, too. I have seen tears of gratitude in our halls, and they are a testament to the impact of your compassion and support for Atlanta Mission.

Blessings,
Jim Reese

Macey’s Story of Transformation

Macey and her children at atlanta mission

After years of abuse, poverty, and dysfunction, Macey and her children had run out of options. Desperate to avoid the streets, they came to Atlanta Mission…

“I’ve struggled for a long time,” Macey admits. “Bad jobs, abusive boyfriends, moving around a lot. It’s been one thing after another.”

In many ways, these struggles are a continuation of her childhood. Macey came from a broken home, and instability has characterized much her life. This constant chaos has made it nearly impossible for her to provide for her children, too.

Eventually, she ran out of options and came to Atlanta Mission. For the first time, she experienced a stable, healthy environment to learn and grow in.

“I’m so grateful for Atlanta Mission,” Macey says. “It’s safe, we have beds to sleep on, and it’s been very good for me and my kids, Faith and Greggory.”

Today, both children are doing well in school. They received uniforms and backpacks from Atlanta Mission. And Macey is especially appreciative of the activities her children get to enjoy. “There are arts and  crafts, plus sports. They never had these opportunities before.”

The family isn’t just having fun, though. Their time here is intensely purposeful. For example, Macey took a parenting class that has dramatically improved her interaction with her children. “I’m a better mother now,” she explains. “This class gave me the tools I need to connect with my children — to really hear what they’re saying, understand them, and help them mature.”

More effective communication has been a key part of the family’s spiritual growth, too. “We’re all learning about God, and we talk about the Bible. Faith and Greggory have a better understanding of who Jesus is, and it’s changed their lives.” She continues: “I’m still going through some tough things, but I’ve learned to keep my focus on God, and He gives me peace.”

Today, Macey’s life really has changed in every way. She’s working towards her GED and will soon begin career training. She has a bright future! “I can’t even imagine where I’d be without Atlanta Mission,” Macey said. “They rescued us from homelessness and opened so many doors for me. This place was an answer to my prayers.”

To read other amazing stories of transformation, click here!

Chris’s Story of Transformation

Chris, who was homeless, in his wheelchair, now at Atlanta Mission

When Chris was homeless, no one cared that he was disabled. But a little kindness at Atlanta Mission changed his life…

With tears in his eyes, Chris remembered the first time he came to Atlanta Mission: “I was waiting in line outside in the heat with all the other guys when a man came out from Atlanta Mission and said ‘wheelchairs in first.’ Since I’d been homeless, no one had ever shown any concern for my disability. No one cared. No one would even hold a door.”

He continued: “It gave me goose bumps that this man really saw me. It convinced me to stay and get help.” Not a moment too soon.

The son of an addict, Chris had unfortunately followed in his father’s footsteps — and paid dearly for it. Drug abuse cost him his wife, his home, and once he was incarcerated, his freedom. In prison, he suffered extreme violence that left him with a significant case of PTSD. That’s also where he lost his leg — a foot ulcer was repeatedly infected, until doctors had no choice but amputation.

So much trauma left Chris in emotional turmoil. Once he was released from prison, he soon found himself suffering on Atlanta’s hot streets.

“Every day was a challenge. A struggle. The heat is brutal. There were times when I thought I would pass out. Trying to get food, water, and power to charge my wheelchair took all my strength. I’d sleep for a few hours at the airport or MARTA, but I was always exhausted,’’ said Chris.

Even still, he added, “the lack of caring is worse.”

All of that stands in stark contrast to his experiences at Atlanta Mission. “I received meals and a bed,” he said. “I always have someone to talk to, and the people here are helping me rebuild my life.”

Today, Chris is doing great! He has his own apartment, and he volunteers at Atlanta Mission nearly every day. “I like to serve the guys here, to make their days a little better. It makes me glad to pass along the same help and hope that I received.”

To read other amazing stories of transformation, click here!

Liz’s Story of Transformation

by Liz

Liz was homeless, but poverty wasn’t her biggest problem. Atlanta Mission helped her deal with the root causes of her nightmare.

Before I came to Atlanta Mission, I didn’t know how badly I needed this place. Now I thank God every day for bringing me here.

I only came to Atlanta Mission because the home I was living in burned down. I needed a safe place for me and my son, and time to figure things out. When I learned about some of the long-term services offered, that seemed like a good way to stay off the streets. Little did I know what I was in for . . .

Spiritual Healing

During counseling sessions and group therapy, I realized poverty wasn’t my biggest issue. There was a deep-seeded brokenness inside of me caused by two devastating tragedies I had never come to terms with.

The first was that my mother never loved me. She rejected me from birth, refusing to ever know me or be involved in my life in any way.

I reached out to her repeatedly, but she remained cruel and unremorseful.

The second was that a woman I once considered my best friend helped a man rape me.

Pain and anger from those two events consumed me for years. But as I made myself vulnerable at Atlanta Mission, as I prayed and shed tears with the other women, I experienced healing. It was like God had removed a heavy burden from my shoulders and restored my soul.

Practical Guidance

Once my heart was right, the good people here prepared me for a brighter future. They showed me how to write a resume, interview, and budget effectively. I’d never had a career before, but with this help I went back to school and became a nurse! Now I have a good job that’s not only satisfying, but also meets my financial needs.

After struggling with bitterness and poverty for so long, I’m amazed how far I’ve come. I know I wouldn’t be here without Atlanta Mission, and I’m grateful beyond words. All I can say is thank you to everyone who made this fresh start possible.

“You were taught . . . to put off your old self [and] to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self.” — Ephesians 4:22-24, NIV

To read other amazing stories of transformation, click here!

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.”

 

Transformation Part 2: The Meeting

                                            Joining forces

When Josh, a new counselor, and Charlie, a new resident, met at Atlanta Mission, each was seeking spiritual healing in his own way. Josh was looking to make a real difference in a career he was passionate about, mental health counseling, and felt he had absolutely found a home at Atlanta Mission.

Charlie had a different mindset, however. He arrived at The Shepherd’s Inn from North Georgia looking for a change, hoping to quit using drugs during his stay, and then leave there and find a job. His sister, with whom he’d been living, had insisted he get help, and he was doing that. But he was wasn’t looking for any kind of transformation beyond that. The unexpectedness of what happened next makes it all the more exceptional.


The first encounter

Charlie wasn’t enthusiastic about his first counseling session with Josh. “I had a lot of anger,” he remembers. “I had my walls up.” Years of trying not to show any emotion, including grief over his father’s death, had led him to contain negative feelings. But the truth was, he wasn’t solving his own problems, as he told himself he was—he was running away from them with drugs and denial.

Charlie was part of Josh’s first class of men. The group numbered three in all, and Charlie was the de facto leader, Josh says. At first, Josh picked up on Charlie’s resistance. But something amazing happened: Josh started to see other things in Charlie, like how committed he was in making his family proud of him, and Josh resonated with that sentiment. He knew he would have been homeless himself at one point but for the caring and support of his own family. Josh had to admit that he and Charlie were more alike than different, and he soon realized that counseling Charlie was a lot like counseling himself.

Charlie, in turn, picked up on the fact that Josh genuinely cared about him and his group. “We were so much more than a paycheck to him,” Charlie says, “and we realized he really wanted to help us.”

Charlie and his groupmates made a pact that they would get through the program together and graduate from it, with help from Josh. The transformation had begun.


“They needed to forgive”

A big lesson that Charlie and his group had to learn was that they needed to be accountable for themselves and their own emotions, even the negative ones. “Theirs was a different kind of brokenness than anything I’d seen before,” Josh says. “It went much deeper. They didn’t really understand what authority—or love—looked like. And they needed to forgive themselves and the people around them.”

Through Josh’s support and help from his groupmates, Charlie began to deal with his feelings instead of running away from them. And then one day, in Josh’s office, Charlie allowed Christ into his life. “After that,” Josh says, “Charlie grew faster and stronger.”

Charlie adds, “Once I started actually dealing with my problems instead of running away from them, I realized there’s so much more to life than just worldly concerns. That day in Josh’s office took my life to the next level.”


In body as in spirit

When it was time to graduate from Atlanta Mission, Charlie and his groupmates did it together. They’d kept their pact.

One of the most remarkable outward manifestations of Charlie’s transformation is his weight. When he entered Atlanta Mission, his weight topped out at 375 pounds. When he left just over a year later, he was at 290, and now he’s at 250. “I love myself now,” Charlie says. “God invested so much in me, even when I didn’t think I deserved it.”


Next up

In the third and final part of this series, we’ll get a glimpse of what Charlie and Josh are doing now, and how the transformation that began that first day of counseling has shaped their lives since then.

 

Transformation Part 1: The Beginning

In this three-part series, we’ll explore the power of transformation through building strong relationships at Atlanta Mission.

This is a story of two men with widely different backgrounds and life circumstances who ended up transforming one another’s lives. Let’s start with how they both found their way to Atlanta Mission.

 

Josh

             Josh and His Wife at Graduation

Josh was drawn to counseling at an early age. As a high school student, his exposure to psychology classes, his desire to help others, and his mother’s role as a lay counselor for teenage mothers made him a natural. His friends sought him out to talk through their problems during lunch periods, and this led to his achieving a bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies, and later a master’s degree from Richmont Graduate University in professional counseling, specializing in trauma and addiction.

Before joining Atlanta Mission, Josh was working as both a church and secular counselor, but he was having difficulty making ends meet. He wanted a stable environment in which he could settle down, but his financial situation stood in the way. With his strong drive to help others, he also wanted to be able to accomplish more with his skills and knowledge.

He knew from experience that solving such a personal crisis involves a complete willingness to make a significant transformation, even if it requires sacrifices. His faith prepared him to recognize the right opportunity when he saw it. He believed with all his heart that if he were open to change, he would be led in the right direction.

Then it happened. When he learned that Atlanta Mission was looking for a staff counselor, he saw his path. He applied right away, getting his application in just at the deadline. He felt so positive that he told his family that same night, “I just know the job is mine!”

His family was skeptical, but he was not. He felt in his heart he was meant to be at Atlanta Mission.

Atlanta Mission’s lead counselor saw Josh’s resume come in. Although she’d already held interviews, she felt as though she needed to meet with him before making a decision. She scheduled an appointment, and Josh was right—the job was a perfect fit. He says about that interview, “Right away, I just felt like I was home.”

 

                                        Charlie

Charlie 

Meanwhile, Charlie was in a crisis of his own, but he was reluctant to admit it. He’d lived in North Georgia his whole life, but had lost his father to cancer at age 16. He started smoking marijuana, then over time, began using painkillers and cocaine.

“I was holding down a job—I was a functioning addict,” he says. But he was spending most of his paycheck on drugs. Then one day his boss drug-tested him and the results came back positive. At that point, Charlie’s boss insisted he get help, and did some research on where he could get it. He discovered Atlanta Mission. The Potter’s House, one of Atlanta Mission’s campuses for men, was not far away, but Charlie spent only about 24 hours there and left, going right back to getting high. It was so close to home that it was too easy for him to get his supply and fall back into his habit.

His anger simmered, and he felt a lot of resentment toward everyone. “When you’re an addict, you always feel like the victim,” he says. He kept his emotional walls up, trying to numb his loneliness and misery, but falling deeper and deeper into addiction.

Charlie was living at his sister’s house, but she had young boys, and finally she’d had enough. “You’re not welcome here until you get help,” she told him. With very few options and wanting to set a good example for his nephews, Charlie decided to head to Atlanta to The Shepherd’s Inn. He needed a change of scenery, but he also needed a change spiritually. “God was nowhere in my life,” he says.

 

Next up

In Part 2 of this series, we’ll discuss how the relationship between Josh and Charlie developed, and how it began a transformation for both of them.

 

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.

Transformation through Faithful Friendship

trans·for·ma·tion
ˌtran(t)sfərˈmāSH(ə)n/
noun

1. a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance.

The most incredible and compelling transformations I’ve ever seen have happened in the lives of other human beings. This kind of transformation often takes place in the context of friendship. Encouragement, trust, vulnerability, and loving moments where hard truths are spoken all combine to become a sort of cocoon, a safe place for life transformation to happen. 

Our friend Keith recently shared with us about the transformation that has taken place in his own life.

 

Keith, a guest of Atlanta Mission“I came to Atlanta Mission broken, wounded, and sad. In my time at Atlanta Mission, I found a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and it has made me glad.

I’m glad about the transformation of my mind. I’m glad about pursuing my job to the best of my ability. I’m glad about being in a clean and sober state of mind. I’m glad about food to eat and clothing on my back. I’m glad about my own place to live in.

Atlanta Mission stands for transforming lives. Surely it has transformed my life and ended my homelessness. I’m willing to use all that Atlanta Mission has taught me to give back to others so that their lives can be transformed.”

 

At Atlanta Mission’s campuses, we see life transformation every day. For someone experiencing homelessness like Keith, it may begin with a hot meal and a night of shelter. When combined with the consistent and intentional friendship of staff, volunteers, and other guests, change often begins.

One of the best ways to support life transformation at Atlanta Mission is to become a Faithful Friend. Faithful Friends are donors who provide critically needed support to Atlanta Mission on a monthly basis to help end homelessness, one friend at a time. This is a powerful way to walk alongside the men, women, and children at our campuses.

Your gift would provide consistent support for food, shelter, educational services, job attainment, counseling, and much more! Will you help create the environment that life transformation takes place in?


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How Volunteering Can Help Save a Life

There are close to 7,000 homeless people in Atlanta and Atlanta Mission is dedicated to helping those men, women and children.

Of these 7,000 friends, neighbors and family members, less than half find somewhere to sleep at night. These are sad statistics to wake up to each day, but together, we can make a difference. If you’ve ever thought the time you spend volunteering with Atlanta Mission wasn’t appreciated, that it didn’t alter at least one person’s life in a positive way — you’re wrong. You make a difference. And the time you spend helping prepare and serve food, answer phones or cut and style hair makes a difference. When you volunteer at one of our homeless shelters in Atlanta, you impact lives in positive ways, and at Atlanta Mission, we want you to know just how important you are.

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Back to School

It’s that time of year again! Groggy teenagers are having the sheets pulled off of them as their alarms sound to no avail. The combination of coffee and carpool lines have been reintroduced into many of your lives. Meanwhile, at Atlanta Mission, our kids are literally jumping with excitement as they head back to school.

Atlanta Mission Kids Head Back to School

For some of them, this is the first time they’ve gone to school while living in a safe and secure environment. No more couch surfing. No more sleeping in the back of mom’s van. They’re eating three meals a day now. Our kids are being tutored and are receiving counseling. Their moms are in life skills classes, gaining more tools and wisdom to support and walk alongside their children. They’re receiving more than just an education. They’re receiving a transformed life.

You can be a part of this transformation. A gift of $10 a month helps to provide a quality education for our kids and a safe place to come home to. Become a Faithful Friend to children facing homelessness. Click here to find out more.

Easter Week: Transformation Stories

Transformation is what we are all about at Atlanta Mission and Easter week is a time for all of us to reflect on transformation in our own lives, and transformation in the lives of our friends who stay at our shelters. We are reminded that without Jesus this transformation is not possible. Join us in celebrating these lives that have been transformed at Atlanta Mission.