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Derrick leaves ‘hustler’ lifestyle behind, becomes the father God called him to be

Derrick and his son attend Sunday services at Derrick’s childhood church.

Derrick and his son attend Sunday services at Derrick’s childhood church.

Continuing our 2024 focus on “Engagement,” we follow Derrick as he re-engages with family, work, and church.

On Sunday mornings you can find program graduate Derrick and his son Isaiah at the Church for the Nations in downtown Oxnard. This was Derrick’s childhood church, and he is overjoyed being back there and seeing his son’s involvement and enthusiasm for God. Derrick smiles and says that Isaiah sometimes keeps him accountable in attending: “He gets excited about going, and always says ‘We’re going to church this Sunday, right?’”

But in the time between Derrick’s childhood at church and his return years later, there were many struggles and dark times.

Derrick was raised in Oxnard with his sister and brother by their single mom. “My childhood was good and though my father was not around, my uncle was a strong male influence on me,” he said.

Once in high school, however, Derrick began emulating his big brother by skipping classes and going to “ditch parties.” Soon he was drinking and smoking marijuana regularly and before long he was using meth as well. Out of school, Derrick kept busy working but continued to use.

Derrick describes himself as a “hustler from a young age,” already working secretly in the back of an Irish pub at 12. The drive to work and the ability to make money kept him going through his addictions. “I was surviving through work,” he said. “I was a ‘functioning addict.’”
But all that changed when Derrick’s friend was murdered, and he found himself falling deeper and deeper into drinking and drug use. Moving between staying with his mom and on the streets, the drive that kept him going was now gone and his options were fading away.

After trying and leaving another recovery program, Derrick found his way to the Mission in August of 2019. He graduated from the Life Recovery Program 10 months later and became a Ministry Resident. However, soon after his grandmother passed, and unable to attend her funeral in Arkansas, he decided to “do a shot in her honor.”

Derrick graduated the men’s Life Recovery Program in April 2023.

Derrick graduated the men’s Life Recovery Program in April 2023.

Having relapsed again, Derrick left and went back to work. “One of my jobs was working as a caregiver,” he recounted, “but unfortunately the person I was caring for was an addict and I was very quickly back in my addictions.”

Over the next couple of years Derrick’s relationship with his son deteriorated. “He was scared of me,” Derrick recalls, “not because I was abusive, but my tone of vice was threatening to him and when he talked to me, he would say very little.” Realizing that he was only getting older and that he needed to be able to care for his son, Derrick prayed that God would bring him back to the Mission. That happened on July 5, 2022.

“The first time I was ‘programing myself.’ I had been to another program, and I knew what I had to do to get through,” Derrick said. “I told myself this was going to be easy as soon as I walked through the doors.”

But when he came back, Derrick committed himself to truly changing and to not worrying so much about what everyone else was thinking of him. “This time the chaplains and counselors were always in my face but in a good way,” he said, laughing. “I felt a real connection with them.”

Derrick graduated the program again in April 2023 and now works security at one of Rescue Mission Alliance’s thrift stores, Oxnard Super Thrift. He lives in the Mission’s transitional housing and has also recently begun doing night security shifts for Google.

Asked about the future, Derrick said, “I’d like to get my own place,” but pauses before continuing. “What I really want to do, though, is get more involved in ministry. Not preaching but working with at-risk youth. I want to reach them before they start heading to places thatI went.”

On a recent Sunday at Church for the Nations, Pastor Marc Simon (who was also a counselor for Derrick at the Mission) couldn’t help but notice how Derrick had grown since returning. “I feel blessed seeing Derrick be the father that God has called him to be,” he said. “And seeing him here with his son is wonderful.”

Derrick agreed. As he likes to say, “Where there isn’t a way, God will make a way.”

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