Published in the Star Free Press (Link to article)
Rudy Garcia, a married father of five, was addicted to methamphetamine and lost custody of his children when he and his wife decided to change their lives with help from the Ventura County Rescue Mission.
“We were without a home and burned all of our bridges … because of our heavy drug use and constant fighting,” recalled Garcia, 24.
Seven months ago, Garcia entered the residential program at the Rescue Mission, a Christian nonprofit in Oxnard. At the same time, his wife, Safhire Rubio-Garcia, entered the mission’s sister program, Lighthouse for Women & Children.
“Now our marriage is 100 percent better,” Garcia said. “Our kids … love us more than ever. Everybody who sees us, they’re ultimately proud of us because of what God has done in our lives.”
For Rubio-Garcia, the Lighthouse program “gave me everything that I didn’t have … it just gave me a relationship with God. I’m just happy to be a part of it. We’re blessed.”
On a Saturday last month, Garcia and his wife spent the day with their five children during Family Day, the rescue mission’s first. Supported by 50 volunteers associated with Area Christians Taking Initiative on Needs, the event featured carnival activities, a barbecue and the chance for families to reconnect.
Garcia’s mother, Jeannette Munoz, attended the May 21 event with her five grandchildren, ages 1 through 9. Her son and daughter-in-law, she said, “had to hit rock bottom, which they did. We stopped financially giving to Rudy because of where he was and seeing it wasn’t doing any good. So all doors had to close for him.”
The couple’s plight was a blessing in disguise, the Oxnard woman added.
“What they went through with losing their kids and how far they’ve come and getting to know the Lord — it’s great where they are right now,” said Munoz. “He had to get reconnected with God … and he saw that God has kept his hand on him.”
That’s the goal of the Rescue Mission, said Suzanne West, community relations coordinator.
“Our mission statement says with the help of the community we provide refuge, recovery and restoration,” she said, “and that’s what today is about.”
Currently 109 men live at the rescue mission, which provides a place to stay, food, clothing and job training for free for 10 months, said John Saltee, director.
“Their life situations have been so bad. Everybody’s cut them off. They’ve been in and out of jail … they’ll say, ‘I need help, I have nowhere else to go and I don’t have the money to pay for it,'” Saltee said.
The reasons why men enter the shelter vary.”Addiction is a big part,” Saltee said. “It’s also the economy, and people are really a paycheck away from losing their home. That stresses the family, which sometimes leads to fights, which sometimes leads to drinking, which sometimes leads them to separation — so they end up here.”
“They’re not all men off the streets,” West noted. “Some have had their own businesses, their own homes.”
Family Day was a way for the men to show their loved ones how far they’ve come, and rescue mission officials hope to make it an annual event.
“Today is to show them they’re really changing,” Saltee said. “They’re going to become good fathers and good parents and good husbands and good sons.”