God’s Story of Life Change
“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.”
Thanksgiving is such a precious gift to us all. It is a time to pause, to gather and to reflect upon the extraordinary blessings bestowed upon us.
As we reflect upon the work that God is doing in the lives of our guests, we cannot help but marvel. We see how God’s love transforms lives. We see how time and again life change is about whole-person growth, relationships and restoration to loved ones and healthy community. We see how God’s story of life change differs from the world’s story of life change.
Though somewhat oversimplified, the world believes that the suffering of the homeless is a problem of resource access or allocation. From a theological point of view, the world believes humans to be only material beings needing “stuff.” Therefore, from the world’s perspective, it follows that giving “stuff” to the homeless or putting the homeless somewhere off the streets necessarily improves the situation.
What the world’s approach fails to recognize is: 1) the true nature of hurting individuals, and 2) the healing needed.
The Eugene Mission recognizes that each precious person is made in the image of God and is designed for eternity and relationship. We know suffering and isolation on the street is not what God has planned for His children. We know that each dear person is a beautiful combination of mind, soul and body, and that all these elements must be engaged in healing and life change. While there is a need for material items, the bulk of life change hinges on restoring Hope and addressing fallen coping mechanisms – perhaps caused or exacerbated by trauma, abuse, substance use, mental illness and generational poverty.
At this Thanksgiving time, we praise God for the privilege of being in relationship with our guests, and for the blessing of walking alongside them as they rediscover Hope, become well, grow in life skills and rejoin healthy community.
We also praise God for you and for your generous volunteer time and financial support. You help make this vital work possible.
Life Lessons in Softball
By Bryan Kimbell MSW, BA, CADCLife Change Case Manager
This is the third year that Life Change has fielded a softball team, but it’s the first year where the men had their own gloves, shoes, bats and jerseys. In the two previous years we had to borrow from other teams for gloves, the men had no softball cleats and they piggy-backed on the City First Church for uniforms.
This year, thanks to generous sponsors, the men were able to appreciate playing and seized the opportunity. They took pride in having their own gloves and cleats, along with jerseys with their names on them (a big buy-in), and it gave them a sense of purpose.
Wait, they took pride in having their own equipment which produced in them a sense of purpose? Homeless addicts having pride and a sense of purpose? Who heard of such a thing?
Let me perhaps be the first to express to you the miracle of group sports and its ability to inspire hope. According to edutopia.org, team sports “bolster the 5 C’s: competence, confidence, connections, character and caring. At the heart of it all is self-esteem, contributing to better social interactions and stronger relationships.” We couldn’t agree more at the Eugene Mission
Yes, these men were excited and pumped. They showed up to practices, took instruction and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Though they won no games and often the margin of defeat was great (28-5 for example), their countenance did not fall. Usually this is where maladaptive behaviors come to the surface and attitudes sour.
Instead, the Eugene Mission Life Change softball team carried great attitudes throughout the entire season and encouraged each other along the way. You heard laughter and joking, back-slapping and praise being given for even the smallest of successes.
What is the value of homeless addicted men playing softball? Character development! These men lost all eight games in the church league they played, but never lost their dignity or their confidence in Christ. They prayed before and after every game and their smiles were genuine and wide. As a result of these men participating in this church league, one of the churches asked how they could partner with Life Change to help walk alongside these men on their journey of recovery.
We didn’t win a single game, but we are winning the war.
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Strength in Vulnerability and Trust
November marks Serge Lemay’s one-year anniversary of sobriety from methamphetamine, alcohol, cigarettes and a self-described lifestyle of “running and gunning.”
“A year seemed so far away, a year ago…” ponders Serge. “I was broken. I knew I needed to get help, or I would die. I left home when I was 16. I used meth for 25 years.”
The days were long, but the year was short and, today, Serge is enrolled in welding school and moving into a transitional living apartment at the Eugene Mission as he embarks on the final phase of the Life Change Program.
“I applied for a scholarship with Lane Workforce Partnership. I wrote a paper telling the truth about my life, my past, my goals and I was awarded a scholarship. I did that all on my own,” beams Serge with his characteristic smile and easy laugh. “It’s a trip. This entire year has been phenomenal.”
When Serge arrived at the Eugene Mission in October 2020, he was emaciated and just four days into an attempt to quit methamphetamine for good.
“I was strung out, and I hadn’t showered in weeks,” he says. “I was so sad and lonely. I would sometimes walk for hours, looking for drugs and not caring about my situation. It was all about getting high again.”
Today, Serge is well-nourished, quick-witted, hopeful and grounded in faith.
“If I could say one thing to the new guys coming into the program, I would say ‘Don’t leave,’” shares Serge. “Stick it out.”
Serge’s journey to the Life Change Program shares many characteristics that are common to our precious Eugene Mission guests: trauma, childhood sexual abuse, chaos and extreme social isolation.
“I was sexually abused by a neighbor when I was nine,” says Serge. “I told my dad about it, and he took matters into his own hands. That landed him in jail. It happened again when I was 12. I decided not to tell anyone. I kept it to myself. I felt odd and when I used methamphetamine, I didn’t feel anything.”
Trauma is often at the core of our guests’ life stories. Our relational approach to helping our guests heal means asking, “What happened to you?” as opposed to “What is wrong with you?” And then coming alongside that God-created soul to begin the process of working through that broken core.
“The phases of Life Change are really critical,” shares Serge. “The process groups we attend twice a week are a time to share, think out loud and put it all out there. I needed to acknowledge my sexual abuse, and I learned to trust men again through sessions with Bryan Kimbell, my Life Change Counselor. At first, I didn’t like him. Now he’s like a father to me. He loves me like Jesus.”
The Life Change Program is structured into five phases that build upon one another in an intentional progression over the course of 18 months.
“The ideal applicant recognizes that they are ready to surrender to the fact that they cannot do life on their own any longer,” says Program Director Denver Harris. “We are talking about not just being abstinent but living ‘sober minded.”
The latter requires hard work, and it takes time.
“At about month five in the program, I stopped craving drugs, but I was angry,” says Serge. “I went for long walks, I punched pillows, I yelled a lot. But I stayed. It’s the best and the hardest thing I have ever done. I’ve completed this and I feel hopeful. I feel loved.”
Serge is a natural leader and a big brother to men who are newly embarking on the program and share many common elements of trauma and loss.
“The restoration of an individual to healthy community is best addressed in a nimble, individualized and profoundly relational manner,” says Eugene Mission Executive Director Sheryl Balthrop.
The Eugene Mission and the Life Change Program are privately funded by individuals, businesses, foundations, and churches.
“Publicly funded initiatives do not currently favor a relational, structured approach,” says Sheryl. “These relational elements are crucial for growth, independence and restoration.”
As Serge embarks on the final phase of the Life Change Program, he will live on campus in “simulated” independence while attending classes, studying his welding trade, saving money and continuing to stay in touch with his counselor and recovery support groups.
“I’ve been growing peppers and house plants. If I can keep a plant alive for a year, maybe then I can consider getting a dog,” says Serge as he breaks into a huge smile. “My dream is to work as a welder for the railroad or for a bridge-building company. I’d like to have my own little place, with my own little yard and I’d like to get a dog. I’ve never had my own place before and I’m ready. I thank the Eugene Mission and I thank God.”
We look forward to celebrating Serge’s incredible accomplishments at our next Life Change Graduation ceremony, scheduled for February 2022. We’ll keep you posted!
May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.
The Return of School Buses
With school back in session and in-person, we welcome the sight of the buses that roll up to the Women’s Center to transport our dear children to school. We are grateful for the coordination of school districts and McKinney-Vento liaisons who work with us to keep our children connected with their educational community.
Celebrating Veteran’s Day
Thank you, veterans, for your service to our country! Of all of those experiencing homelessness in the U.S., 11% are veterans and, every year, the Eugene Mission helps an average of 200 U.S. military veterans find housing, social services and long-term stability. The Eugene Mission works with a team of community partners, including the Department of Veterans Affairs and Supportive Services for Veteran Families. Community Supported Shelters Veterans’ Safe Spot is one community partner utilizing Eugene Mission property and daily resources to support veterans in supportive, transitional housing.
We congratulate veteran David Lloyd who moves into housing this month thanks to the coordination of his navigator Kai Batalona and the Veteran’s Administration.
Eugene Mission Neighborhood Thanksgiving Feast
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, we are filled with gratitude for financial and prayer support. We will be offering a Eugene Mission Neighborhood Thanksgiving Feast in our outdoor dining area on Thanksgiving Day from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. We welcome you as a guest and we welcome volunteers to help with the meal!
To volunteer, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please pray for our guests, staff and volunteers who are working together in our R³ and Life Change Programs.
We pray for continued financial support and for wisdom and discernment in all our efforts together.
Ways To Give
- Salad greens for fresh salad
- Vinaigrette salad dressing
- Ground pepper and Herbs de Provence spices
- 5olb bags of granulated sugar
- Coffee creamer in single-serve cups
- #10 cans of green beans, corn, canned fruit, and canned vegetables
- Diapers (all sizes) and crib sheets
- Financial support for the Eugene Mission as we work with guests in our R3 and Life Change Programs.
- Please remember the Eugene Mission in your estate planning, will, or instrument. The Eugene Mission accepts stock gifts and transfers.