Q: For those who don’t know your story, could you summarize your journey to the Mission?
J: I was born and raised in the church. My family moved up to Oregon in 1996 when I was most of the way through high school. I failed to get plugged in to church, I failed to get plugged in to school when I moved up here. I was mad at my parents and isolated myself and used my anger to allow me to make bad decisions. Those compounded over time and developed into a drug addiction. After many, many years of being immersed in the world of drugs, I felt the Lord put it on my heart to move away from that and found Portland Rescue Mission a little more than 2 years ago. I started my journey with them on the road to recovery and have really been blessed by it. I never would have imagined when I first came into the program that I would be sitting here talking with you today. I would have said this would probably work for about 6 months and then I’d be out of here and doing my own thing again. The hope was always for recovery but the reality of it was so far away that it didn’t seem possible.
Q: What was it about this place that changed your expectations and made you realize, ‘This is for real?’
J: Having God involved in my recovery was first and foremost the most different thing about coming here. Really looking for Christ to transform me and allowing that to happen. And having people be a part of it, too. I took an honest and legitimate look at myself – it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.
Q: So you graduated from the Mission’s New Life Ministry addiction recovery program about a year ago and then Mission’s optional “service program.” Tell me about the program and why you decided to choose that route?
J: The service program is a chance to spend another year being involved with the Mission, being involved with the community people going through the programs and taking on more of a leadership role while continuing to grow in your own faith and recovery. I receive room and board as well as a stipend from the Mission. I also have more flexibility now as far as requirements placed upon me, and that’s based on the growth I’ve achieved over the last year. I typically work about 32 hours a week doing my vocational responsibilities, and another 8 hours working with community life, which is really just spending time in the community focusing on the relationships as well as leadership with guys at the Harbor.
Q: What is your specific vocation within the service program?
J: For the last 10 months, I’ve been working with the Partnership Team. I’ve been heading up all the volunteerism at the Burnside Shelter. I bring in new volunteers, run the meal schedules, and conduct tours of the building, exposing people to all that Portland Rescue Mission does.
Q: Where do you live?
J: I live downtown at the Burnside Shelter. The Harbor has reached maximum capacity several times, so in order to make more room for guys to get into New Life Ministry, they’ve opened up a few single rooms downtown on the third floor. It’s a good problem to have! I’ve integrated into the Link community and get to develop relationships as I get to know them and become involved in their life groups, which is a chance to sit down and explore the more evangelical and ministry portion of that program. Really unpacking what the Bible says about God as well as who is Jesus and what does that all mean to us in Portland here in 2014.
Q: You went through an intense addiction recovery program last year and now this is your first year out of the program. What has the transition been like?
J: Without a doubt, it’s been challenging. It’s one thing to acquire the knowledge, and it’s absolutely another thing to put the knowledge into practice. It’s been really great to have the support of the staff, the support of the community here, just to be able to continue moving forward using some of the tools I’ve put into my “tool belt” over the last couple years.
Q: What’s your biggest struggle right now?
J: My biggest struggle is the uncertainty of what’s coming next. With my year of service coming to an end, I’m starting to explore, starting to ask the question, ‘Ok, what does life beyond the Mission’s walls look like? Are all the structures in place for me to be successful apart from the community here?’ And I think that they are. But the uncertainty is still unsettling.
Q: What have you learned while in the service program?
J: I’ve learned to really walk in faith and really trust that if I put myself out there and I do what God wants me to do, then he will bless that and things will come together. That comes with that uncertainty piece that I talked about earlier. It’s just knowing that I may not have all the answers, but if I walk into it and my intention is doing the right thing, then God honors that and blesses that.
I’ve had lots of opportunities to really work with people over the last year. I work a lot managing schedules, cold calling and interviewing. Just getting to know people and start them on their path of service with the Mission. I’ve grown in administrative areas, as well as how I relate to people and how important it is for the Mission to have volunteer relationships for the people that come and serve.
Q: What do you hope to do after your time at the Mission comes to an end?
J: My goal leaving service is to get my Masters of Divinity over at Western [Seminary], so it’s really been beneficial to me to have a behind-the-scenes view of how a ministry like this operates. Just recently, I’ve transitioned out of my role in Partnership at the Mission and am interning at Crossroads Church down the street. I’m working with their youth department, and as I explore youth ministry and what that looks like, it’s really given me an opportunity to get my feet wet to step into ministry. The service program has been a great launching pad to step into that.
Part of the reason I want to engage students in youth ministry is because that was a valuable time of my life. My hope is to teach them straight out of Romans 12: ‘To flee from what is evil and cling to what is good.’ No one is immune to [what I’ve been through]. It all starts with a series of compromises until you’ve gone so far that you can’t even see where you’ve started from.
Q: How much more prepared do you feel now compared to a year ago?
J: I’m a lot more confident now. The uncertainty still remains because I know my own history and my own past, so it’s kind of like a protective shield staying with the Mission and knowing there is that layer of accountability when guys are a part of this community. Now it’s like a security blanket being removed in a way, but I can look back at the last two years and say, ‘Hey, I’ve done this.’ And that’s really encouraging for moving forward. Plus I’ve cemented great relationships with guys that I’ve gone through the program with who have all really been a part of my life. Plus the people from church and Bible study who are also a big part of my life. The faces change, but the layer of accountability is still there.
Q: What have your relationships with staff been like during your year of service?
J: Several staff members have been absolutely pivotal people for fostering my growth over the last year. It’s really been encouraging to work alongside them to go from more of a client-type relationship to stepping into a legitimate friendship, and to have their support as friends who have really invested in me. It’s been great to get to know all the staff at Burnside and the Harbor on a personal level. They have a legitimate love and care for the people they serve. It’s great to be a part of that.
Q: Guys in the Link program and at The Harbor look up to you. They see that you’ve found success here. What have those relationships been like?
J: There have been guys that were in the Link program who have come over to The Harbor during my time at Burnside and have really wanted to engage this program just based on conversations that we’ve had. And that’s really encouraging. It’s funny to see how God works in situations like that. Other than me just being there and spending time talking with folks, I don’t really think that I’m doing anything other than hanging out with them. But it’s been such a blessing to see these guys embrace their recovery and their relationship with Christ.