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The point of telling my story is not to obtain sympathy simply because there is no valid reason in feeling sorry for me. Before I start, let me give you this brief anecdote. When the butterfly struggles to free itself from the cocoon it is a long and strenuous trial, but when it is free the butterfly flies in victory. If one were to see a butterfly initially struggling to break free, and if one were inclined to ease the struggling by cutting open the cocoon the butterfly dies because it did not gain enough strength through the necessary struggles of its life. I am simply a butterfly who learned how to fly, with a little help from above and right here on sea level.
My name is Chad, I am twenty one years old and I live here at the OCRM. Being a part of this community I did not just change my life, but paved a foundation for the rest of it. Here at the OCRM I received many things most people take for granted and I don’t mean the basic essentials. Achieving happiness is more than three meals a day, a home, pocessions, and a job. Achieving happiness takes people showing others kindness, concern, gratitude, respects as a fellow person, and most important of all is God. At least that’s what it took for me. Here at the OCRM that is exactly what I receive daily. Eventually words like grateful and thanks don’t seem to convey the kind of passion I have for who and what makes OCRM possible.
On a normal day, the hardest part of the day for me and I’m sure everyone who will read this, is getting out of bed. Once that hurdle is conquered by a leap made only by the grace of God I arise for a fresh hearty breakfast of a peanut butter and jelly. The kitchen staff here presents many dishes I would eat and enjoy if I could manage to eat a great amount upon waking. I’ve always been more of a lunch guy. For my first month here I honorably manned the dish pit and the other students who make the kitchen team made my scarce days fun and relaxed. There was always something to do so my hands and mind were easily kept busy for the eight hour shifts which flew by as fast as these last twenty-one years. I honestly enjoyed being a part of the kitchen, I was treated with respect and people paid their dues with please and thanks often which makes anyone’s life better.
After my work day was done, being a lover of the arts my day is full of writing poetry and novels, listening to music from era’s past, or reading the word and other influential work from critically acclaimed authors. Following a dinner that never ceases to impress my recently spoiled sense of taste, I enjoy fellowshipping with the other students here at the mission either by exercising or having an intimate sit down where I learn about them and their stories or share my own. You can feel the sensation of growing a bond and living the abundant life God promises when you have a conversation about life not about who’s favorite sport’s team won or lost. Life happens every day here, everyone is very open, and everyone has a different kind of friendliness; a kind that is a fading flame in the world we live in.
One particular resource the OCRM has is educated and trained experts that are here to facilitate the growth of students whether it is spiritual, mental, or physical. I look forward to the time I get to spend with my case manager Brett Ryan because I can tell his spirit is deeply invested into his trade of communications. Seldom do I seize an opportunity to dominate the conversation, but Brett encourages me to openly speak my mind and tell him about anything from my personal struggles to my beloved passion. I think I’ve already pitched my entire novel to him.
But my time involved with the OCRM started long before I lived the campus life. For the last year I lived as a real deal cowboy for Christ residing in a branch project called The Double R Ranch. Over a hundred acres of open land full of outback adventure, well, outback to me at least being a city boy born and raised. I didn’t know a thing about how to work, how to live, or how to express and be myself around people I did not know when I first arrived to the Double R anxious for change, a blank canvas awaiting for the strokes of God to make me something full of worth and purpose. This is the way I like to put it, everyone who comes into the Ranch or the OCRM is a towel soaked with the world’s water and weight. When we come to a point where we don’t wish to be cold and wet any longer we finally allow the painful, but ever rewarding process of being wrung dry by the hands of Christ. In that moment where we see the murky gray dirt infested water of the world drip onto the floor we begin to see the error of our ways and never wish to be that way again. I began to understand the reasons for why I became a lost soul searching for purpose in all the wrong places.
God doesn’t just toss us in the drier then stick us back in the world like some sort of quick fix to the greatest struggles of humanity, and neither does the OCRM. With all appreciation, I fully advocate the length and time of which we must remain a part of this community. One year may seem like a long time to be what some might consider being exiled from the world, but those are typically the people who don’t last a month. Because when God began to wring them dry the pain was too great, and they would rather stay wet and soaked where at least they know full well what the future holds for them. It was in the world where I felt to be an exile. I’ve said this once and I’ll say it many more times, the Ranch and even now at the Mission I feel for the first time in my life at home, I feel like I’m needed and my words want to be heard. At the Ranch during meal times we often had discussion about the devotions or books that were read to us, and I always contributed my opinions and views and never once did I feel my words weren’t appreciated. To fit my entire Ranch life on paper would take a Stephan King size novel to accurately record, for the knowledge and wisdom I was privileged to is invaluable and too numerous for mere paper. What I can say about my Ranch life is that I can’t believe I didn’t have to pay x amount of dollars in order to go. The fact that this place exist and people like me go for free is a testimony to God’s love shining through the donors and the people involved with the OCRM who made it possible.
So, who are the people like me you might be thinking. Victims of circumstance? Yes and no. We are each responsible for the choices we make in life, and we are each responsible with how we cope with our loss or abuse. I can’t tell you exactly how anyone got to be where and who they are other than myself, and it started young. I was a child with a wild imagination who liked unlimited amounts of fun at the expense of my responsibilities. Throughout my entire grade schooling I only did the assignments I wanted, and as you may have guessed writing projects fell under that category. My family life wasn’t the definition of dysfunction, but there were flaws. My dad cared more about making money than spending time with any of the kids and my Mom had her Television and hobbies.
Naturally my child neighborhood friends became my family. The older we became the more doors opened for us. I was never peer pressured by my friends, but whenever they were game for something new I was on board no questions asked. We had our construed ideas of what drugs were ok to do and what wasn’t. We thought by limiting ourselves to the drugs that aren’t physically addicting such as pot and alcohol we were being smart. We were all lost children who were searching for a greater purpose, to be part of something greater than ourselves. Unfortunately modern society has done a marvelous job at replacing the yearning for a higher power to a yearning to be high, whether it be an actual drug, work, sex, phones, or computers, you name it. If life’s balance is compromised by some unrestricted substance or material it becomes our idol, our higher power, our addiction.
I came home one odd night during the summer after high school graduation to find my clothes littering the lawn, and I was able to take the hint. A year and half worth of couch surfing my destructive lifestyle became “worse” than my friends because they were able to party, balance a job, and go to school when all I wanted to do was whatever I wanted. Since I had already convinced myself life was meaningless I was free of all responsibility to better myself or others I had no will or reason to change as long as I was enabled. That mindset burned every bridge I formed in twenty years connecting to my lonely island of feeling unnoticed and unloved by anyone in this world. All that time feeling alone I finally got a real taste of being truly alone. No friends, no family, no hope. That is what I became. It was my unholy trinity. Needless to say, being homeless gave me a dose of reality I required in order to yearn for change and figure out how I got to be where I was. I remember one odd chilly night I was looking forward to another night of maybe twenty minutes to an hour’s worth of sleep before daytime would come, and I thought to myself, I can’t believe there are people who go through this everyday all around the world; a chill to the bone, hunger that had grown from painful to just feeling a spiraling daze, and no one to keep your company. It was then that I made a vow of commitment to not only better my own life, but the many lives of those who suffer that feeling of loneliness, despair, and abandonment.
Not less than a couple days later to my amazement, a man I did not know opened his home to me. It was no surprise to learn he was a man of God with a lovely wife and twin boys who were my age. I became good friends with his boys and their friends and it was the first glimpse at what a normal life could be. After a month I found the Orange County Rescue Mission and accepted the chance to go to this Ranch Doug Helmen spoke so fondly of. I remember in our meeting together, he was the first person to ever call me a “wise young man” because when I told him of my life I held no one else responsible but me and understood why I eventually became alienated. No one had ever called me a man before. I feel that title is a bit more fitting today than it was a year ago, but I was flattered never the less.
In the end, I am grateful for all that has been given to me even though I was completely undeserving; this is how the OCRM mirrors Christ in this life. By showing us the least the last and the lost, a Godly grace others wanted us to earn we have found a new sense of worth and long awaited answers to ancient questions. We become disciples and we will all witness to the glory of God, because we have seen and we believe. Since living for God I have been blessed with this chance to write for the OCRM and the best part is I didn’t even ask, it was one of the many gracious gifts that staff here has given me. God has made the Orange County Rescue Mission possible and the Orange County Rescue Mission has made me possible.