Now 50 years old, Gary has a lot to reflect on. He’s had success and joy in work and family, and he’s also had loss and trauma. He’s stumbled in the last several years in his battle with alcohol, but is now focusing on following God’s lead. “I’m working on listening to God,” Gary said. “He’s been so faithful to me.”
Gary and his wife had successful careers and traveled the world with Mercy Ships. After a difficult five-year battle with fertility issues, the couple was blessed with twin boys. But after some early challenges, both boys were diagnosed with autism. And shortly upon moving back to Santa
Barbara to get help from family, Gary’s wife unexpectedly died. The trauma of this loss, as well as suddenly becoming a single parent to children with special needs, drove Gary to start drinking.
“I took to drinking pretty quickly,” Gary said. “As my boys became more difficult when they were approaching puberty, I started drinking more and more and more. I got myself into a place way over my head.”
Gary got help at the Central Coast Rescue Mission, a sister mission, and went to school after he graduated the program. He entered a 10-week internship called Ignite. “It was a discipleship,” he said. “It was in preparedness to serve in ministry. I was focusing on everything from prayer, to giving sermons, to evangelizing the community. It was really cool to be able to be a part of that. It was a gift.”
After school, Gary started looking for employment. “It was harder than I thought in Santa Maria,” he said. “I had a short relapse.”
After talking with the program manager at Central Coast, they decided it was best that Gary get a change of scenery. He came to the Ventura County Rescue Mission last July. “I was nervous,” he said. “It was so much bigger and totally different. There weren’t familiar faces, but it was still like family.”
Gary said he’s felt God’s presence at the mission. “The epic thing for me has been the continuation of discipleship,” he said. “All the men who teach around here, it’s been really amazing. You have God’s house here. There’s a chapel. You work, and then you hear and study about God, and talk to other guys about God.
“It’s on a different level. I couldn’t ask for anything better. I’ve had some really amazing time with God. It’s been intense, but good. I’m really glad that I came. It all makes sense.”
Gary graduated from the program in May. He has entered the transitional living program and is considering his future. “I’m continuing to search that out,” he said. “Whether it’s seeking employment, pursuing ministry—I’m really listening to God. He’s been faithful to get me from that mission to this one.”
He is also giving to God his prayers for restoration with his family. “I don’t have contact with my sons yet,” Gary said. “They are with my in-laws. That whole part of my life is on hold. I’ve brought them to the altar, and I’m trusting God with the whole situation. They are in special programs, and last I heard, they are in school, plugging along. They are 15.”
Despite missing his boys, Gary is leaning on God and is overwhelmed with the changes he’s seen in himself. “To see how he’s working in my life—I shouldn’t be so amazed,” Gary said. “I’m sitting here with a huge smile on my face. I’m so grateful.”