"If people would take the time to ask one question, ‘what’s your story,’ I’d tell them,” says Michael. “I don’t run from my past. I can’t because it tells a story, and so does my future."

I found my worth and my happiness in Jesus.

Mayhem and mischief

Although Michael says he came into UGM, “kicking and screaming,” he had no idea how his life was going to be shaken up in the best possible way.  

Back in 2011, Michael had just been released from a 10year imprisonment after a lifestyle of destruction and violence.  

“I was causing mayhem, mischief, selling drugs, lots of violence, lots of criminal activity, and I didn’t care about myself or anyone around me,” said Michael. “I was very arrogant in my ways.” 

It all came to a climax, though, when he was turned in by his own friends who wanted better for Michael, a point in time that, ironically, followed a declaration Michael had made to them: “If I ever get arrested, I won’t run.” 

He happened to be just outside his friends’ window the day police came to arrest him. And Michael did as he said he would—he didn’t run. 

Surprising news and a realization

This time, though, he took up a jail cell for only 15 days, sleeping the whole time. Upon his release, he dialed up his PO and humbly asked for help, not knowing what he was walking into. 

Seated in the back of a cop car, approaching UGM from a half-block away, Michael was surprised with some news—the officers relented that UGM was a “religious” organization. And that’s when Michael began resisting, “Take me to jail, now, he said emphatically. 

But Michael made his way into the building, accompanied by the two officers. He didn’t go back to jail. For 68 days, he plugged away in our 18-month New Life Fellowship recovery program until he abruptly left. 

For the two weeks he was gone, Michael gave into his old drug habitsFinally, it hit him: he was in the recovery program for the wrong reasons. Only at UGM to push his well-meaning friends and family off his back, he realized he needed to be there for himself. That realization gave Michael the courage to step back into the doors of the Men’s Mission of his own accord. 

A prodigal return and a softened heart

Since the day of his prodigal return, June 7, 2018Michael has stayed sober. “It hasn’t been easy,” he said smiling, “but this is the longest stint of time I’ve ever been clean.” 

Although back in the program for the right reasons, the chip on Michael’s shoulder made him a skeptic of UGM, and of God. Having very little knowledge or experience of the Savior’s love, he could only see through this cloudy lens, making him disgruntled and distant 

However, the counseling sessions, work therapy, GED program, and recovery classes all worked to soften Michael’s heartBiblical Life Management even became his favorite class.  

The shell of who he had been was beginning to fill with God’s love, eventually giving way to salvation as Michael surrendered his life to the Lord in January 2019“I found my worth and my happiness in Jesus. I have love for myself and others now.”  

The biggest commitment, fulfilled

Michael, interning at the UGM kitchen.

Through the bonding of close-knit relationships with his program cohort, and with the staff at UGM, he now has experienced friendship, too. These days, he and his “posse” support each other, keep one another accountable, and call each other out with love and grace.

As Michael wraps up his internship at our Men’s Mission kitchen, working hard every day to see this job through to completion, he’s unsure of his next steps. “I’ve never done anything on my own. I’m scared to leave the Mission, but at the same time I’m grateful.” But he knows he’ll be proud—this internship will be one of the biggest commitments he’s fulfilled, so far. 

If people would take the time to ask one question, what’s your story, I’d tell them,” says Michael. “I don’t run from my past. I can’t because it tells a story, and so does my future.  

Change the face of homelessness for others like Michael. Today, give to the “Education Fund” to provide a future career for those in our Culinary Arts Program.

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“The more depressed I got, the more anxious I got and then the two of them are a very vicious cycle. They feed off of each other like nothing else.”
It’s not about me. It’s not my story. It’s about the One who shines through me. May God shine through me every day.
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