Joe grew up in Oxnard, graduated from Channel Islands High School and worked in an auto body shop, a trade his dad taught him. He had two children he loved with his high school sweetheart. But Joe struggled with an addiction to alcohol and drugs. “Something just wasn’t there. I felt broken,” he said.
The couple broke up after 10 years together. “When she left me, she took the kids,” Joe said. “I never even showed up to court because I was so stuck in my mess, so I lost my kids. … I was so sad. They were my world and they were taken from me. I was living life, but I wasn’t really here.”
Joe suffered another blow when his father died when Joe was just 22. “The drugs took over, and eventually, I lost everything,” said Joe, who lived on the streets. “When I was living out there, my mom would cry because I wouldn’t come home for months. It was so selfish of me. I’d call her and tell her I was cold. She’d go find me, bring me a blanket, bring me something warm to drink. I was so hard-headed, I wouldn’t go to her doorstep. That killed her, as a mom. I can’t imagine.”
A couple years ago, Joe met another woman, and they have a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old together. Both babies tested positive for meth when they were born and were taken away by Child Protective Services. “That was my rock bottom,” said Joe, who admitted he and the mother were using together. “I was broken and tired, and I couldn’t do it anymore. I was tired of running away from my problems. That’s what brought me to this place. It’s the best thing I ever did in my life.”
Joe recently graduated from the Malachi Dads program, which is a part of the Mission’s curriculum. “It’s amazing here,” he said. “They gave me hope and now everything is falling into place. Some people said I was selfish, but I needed to find out who I was with God. I love a lot of things in this world, but I love God more. I’m going to stay on my path and whatever happens, I know God won’t waste my pain. I just need to stay thirsty for him.”
Joe volunteers in the kitchen at the Mission, and now plans to work in the culinary arts after graduation. “I just want to finish each day. I don’t want to go too far ahead. I have so many things to do here. I focus on the day and give him glory, live minute by minute, hour by hour. I thank God for everything. I gave my whole heart to him. I’m being obedient to him. I’m letting him take control of my life.”