Light for the path
God’s Word in the Bible, and the wonderful hope of salvation it
describes, is a cornerstone of the Union Gospel Mission. It is the
lamp of truth by which we can see where we’re going.
For our guests, as for anyone else who decides to follow
Jesus, the journey of faith is not generally smooth, comfortable,
sunny, straight and obvious. We need a trustworthy lamp in order
to navigate it safely.
Recovery residents Rex and Heather both came to faith in
Jesus before coming to UGM. But neither of them could handle the
problems in their lives, external and internal, without the
ongoing help of God’s Word and His people. That’s why He brought
them, even against their inclination, to UGM.
“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
Rex was spending 6 ½ years in prison, a consequence of the
violence by which he coped with anger, when he met Jesus in 2001.
“I knew I wanted to change my life and saw that God would be a big
part of it, and I did change a lot of things.”
He put anger and violence behind him, for the most part.
He tried every day to be a better person. But something wasn’t
“I still struggled with drugs and alcohol after getting out,” he
says. “I gave my life to Jesus back then, but I didn’t know how to
go about accomplishing that.”
He kept to himself. He only went to church once in a great
while. He didn’t really read the Bible.
And for more than a decade, Rex cycled through a pattern:
He’d get a job and try to stay sober, succeed for a few months or
a couple years, relapse and run away. After each failure, he’d
start again in a new place. “I’ve lived in probably every state in
the West Coast and at least all the way up the Rockies.”
That pattern led his wandering path to Spokane and UGM in
September 2015. His strong self-reliance made it difficult to
accept even a meal without working for it. But in a long-running
conversation, God convinced Rex it was time to stop and confront
his problem instead of running away. Rex joined the LIFE Recovery
“This was the first time I actually reached out for help,”
Going through the program wasn’t an easy road, “coming to
these realizations of how I’d been living life and how I’d been
running, the various things I’d been doing to sabotage myself –
accepting that and trying to move past it.”
Rex first started studying the Bible about three years ago
by just reading Proverbs: short, practical and easy to remember.
Now, with encouragement from his UGM teachers and his church, Rex
is exploring the implications of II Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture
is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof,
for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
“That’s one thing that I’ve been really trying to
incorporate into my learning, that it’s all good for me. There’s
something to take out from just any part of the Bible; there’s
something there to grow and learn with.”
And for the first time in his life, Rex is taking the time
to really listen to God’s words. Instead of running away from
problems, he’s presenting his decisions to the Lord. “He doesn’t
always just give you a clear ‘Go this way’ or ‘that way.’ It’s
more or less just including Him on what you’re doing and taking
that time to really look at it and see if it’s beneficial.”
“Feed My sheep.” (John 21:17)
Unlike Rex, Heather didn’t choose to isolate herself.
She’s an outgoing, talkative person. But at only 27 years old,
she’s already been through more than her share of hardships.
Trauma. Abandonment. Rejection. Institutionalization.
Even as a young child, she found herself crying out to
“something bigger than me. I always prayed to a God I didn’t know
– but He knew me.”
Living in Florida, Heather was prescribed Adderall, which
started a catastrophic breakdown in her body, brain, and heart.
“I got really addicted to it and it drove me insane. I
lost my mind. I went from having a full-time job and going to
school and being a functioning young adult to a mental asylum
within 10 months.”
Right in the midst of those months of decline, God
revealed his love to Heather. She had bought herself a Bible and
looked into it for help in her despair. Reading it on her work
break, she sobbed to Him that all she wanted was a hug from
somebody, anybody. Moments later, in the aisle of the drugstore
where she worked, a little girl she’d never seen before ran up to
Heather and wrapped her arms around her legs.
“The God of our universe cared so much about me in that
moment – little addicted Heather, screaming out to Him. I fell in
love that night – with Him.”
He didn’t just heal her right there. Becoming
institutionalized shortly afterward brought her to her lowest
point. But it also steered her journey to Spokane, where Heather
was released from a psych ward with nowhere to go and was directed
to the Crisis Shelter for Women and Children. She got a taste of
grace from the woman who checked her in: “I needed the acceptance
she had in her eyes.”
Still, Heather was humiliated by her situation, and she
angrily yelled at God and questioned His love. “But He can handle
our anger. He’s bigger than our anger and He knows our hearts … He
unveiled His love through His people here for me.”
At the Crisis Shelter and in Women’s Recovery at Anna
Ogden Hall, Heather says she received “mercy upon mercy and grace
upon grace” through her recovery process. She can’t pick a
favorite among the counselors who have loved and taught her.
“These women, they showed me what I want to be. … They don’t just
speak it. They’ve been Christ in my life. They’ve manifested
That visible, tangible work of God means everything to Heather.
The words of Christ in the Gospels – the ones that came out of His
physical mouth – are Heather’s favorite parts of the Bible. When
He tells Peter in John 21 to “feed My sheep” out of love, she sees
a reminder of what she’s been given.
“I was a sheep, and I was fed here. If we’re going to
really love God, we’re going to feed His sheep. And that’s
serving, that’s giving a cup of cold water, that’s not judging the
guy on the corner.”
Rex and Heather had already met Jesus before coming to
UGM. But He’s working through His people here – volunteers, staff
members, business and financial partners – to bring lasting
change, freedom, and joy in their lives. He will work in each of
us as we follow in His footsteps, holding up the lamp of His Word
to light our way.