Some of the men and women who come to us have never had the satisfaction of walking across a stage in a cap and gown to receive a diploma, a mark of accomplishment. Some of these same people haven’t been sober in decades. At Denver Rescue Mission, our goal isn’t simply to educate people; our goal is to equip people with the life skills necessary for success and self-sufficiency.
Sunday mornings kick off Lester’s busy schedule. After leading worship for the congregation, he leads the men’s choir practice on Sunday afternoons. The praise team practices each Monday evening. Wednesday is the mid-week service where he leads worship again. On Saturday mornings, he leads the sanctuary choir practice before volunteering the rest of the day at the church.
He is an invaluable asset to his church, friends and family. What most people wouldn’t recognize about Lester is that he graduated from Denver Rescue Mission’s New Life Program in December after battling a cocaine addiction for more than three decades.
What led to his transformation? Determination? A supportive group of counselors and chaplains? Donors who believe in what the Mission does? Yes, yes and yes! But ultimately, his life changed because of a hope found in Jesus Christ.
In 2008, Lester relapsed for the fourth time. After eight years of sobriety, he threw it all away for a hit of cocaine. “The second I took that hit, I knew it was over.” And it was. He lost his relationship with his wife and four children, his job, his home, his love of music, and his faith. “When I’m using, I disappear,” he explains: “And it’s the hardest job in the world to be a crack addict. You have to lie, steal, cheat, connive, and then try to keep all those lies straight.” After five years of running from everyone he knew just to find the peace and quiet to get high, he realized the silence was deafening. “There was no one else to run from except for myself,” he remembers.
One day, he saw a commercial on TV for Denver Rescue Mission. “I grew up eight blocks from the shelter. I thought it was a place for winos who couldn’t get their lives together. I had no idea that one day I would need it,” he says. In 2011, he became a program candidate at the Lawrence Street Shelter, seeking a fresh start.
“I fell in love with the Mission the moment I got there. I finally felt relief. I cried for two weeks. I could feel God’s presence for the first time in years. I could hear him, and he was saying, ʽThank you for coming home. I got you. I will forgive you and restore you,ʼ” Lester says passionately.
He entered the New Life Program at The Crossing and attacked his recovery with impressive fervor. He volunteered for everything, offering to help the Mission’s staff in any way they needed it. He dove into the Bible and got involved with church again. He soaked up knowledge in every class, wanting to be fully prepared for the life ahead of him. When he found a job, he rode his bike 12 miles for 11 days straight, even in the pouring rain, refusing to let a lack of proper transportation hinder his opportunity for success.
“I wanted it so bad I could taste it. This program will weed you out if you don’t truly want help. Before, I did rehab for other people. They wanted to see me graduate; they needed that date to feel like I was better. This time, it was for me. And that is how I know it’s different,” Lester explains.
Lester has been down this road before: using, crashing, rehab, graduation, repeat. It’s a cycle. And before now, he was always taught that there was an end. Graduating from rehab represented the end of addiction. “Graduation is a great accomplishment and milestone. But the best thing the Mission has taught me is that my [recovery from]addiction is a journey, not a destination. The program has given me techniques for dealing with my addiction for the rest of my life. The counselors got to the core of my issues and taught me how to live clean and sober. I know there is another life for me now,” he says.
A huge part of that life is music. It’s always been his passion and he has been blessed with an incredible gift. The Mission even ignited that desire in Lester to play again. “Who would have thought that I would come to Denver Rescue Mission and play in a band?” he says, chuckling and shaking his head in disbelief. He played in the Mission’s band, and that inspired him to take on the worship leadership role with his church.
“The Mission gave me life. I have seen God’s hand at work. This place is such a blessing” Lester says.
– See more at: http://www.denverrescuemission.org/drm/stories/stories-lester#sthash.PKP8UTPa.dpuf