Celebrating Freedom: One Man’s Chapter
In America, July marks the month in which we celebrate our nation’s independence. Patriotism rings loud as flags wave high and fireworks light the sky. But it’s not just our nation that celebrates victory. The Topeka Rescue Mission is privileged to celebrate the victory of individuals once bound by the prison of homelessness released into a newfound freedom of life that comes from an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ. It may not always happen while they are with us, but we always try to do our best to plant seeds that will spring up into new life somewhere along their journey. There is no greater joy than seeing broken hearts mended and dreams restored as God breaks every chain of darkness holding a person in captivity. The story included in this month’s newsletter is just one of many examples of seeds that were sown which brought forth freedom in time.
Thank you so much for faithfully supporting us so we can help others achieve that same victory and freedom in life. Your gifts bring life and hope to multitudes who might otherwise have gone without.
ONE MAN’S CHAPTER
By Barry Feaker
- An excerpt from “In Darkness, a Light Still Shines”
Phil was one of the Mission’s largest supporters. He held events for the ministry and helped us to raise tens of thousands of dollars over time. He was a successful businessman who owned and managed three large car dealerships throughout the country. While he was not a Christian, he supported our humanitarian efforts and always did what he could to help the Mission financially.
One Christmas Eve morning, I received a call from Phil. He told me he was in Kansas City—heading to Topeka. He had become homeless and needed a place to stay. I had known Phil for years and experienced, through his support of the Mission, his great generosity and wealth. I thought this was a joke and told him, “Yeah right.” However, after a pause on his end, followed by a serious response, I knew this was no joke. He said he would fill me in on the details as soon as he arrived.
When Phil pulled up in front of the Mission, I expected to see him in one of his fancy dealership cars. Instead, he pulled up in a tiny used car that was barely running. I was thoroughly confused.
He came in from the cold and sat down inside my office. He shared how his success had taken him far and how he had done quite well until just two years prior. That was when the heavy drinking, which led to experimentation with cocaine began. Before he knew it, the addictions were beyond his control and he could not escape from their grips. His entire world began falling apart. His wife divorced him and his children wanted nothing to do with him. He made numerous unwise financial decisions, lost his businesses and now was sinking in debt with nowhere to go and no friends left to turn to.
The man, who once helped to keep the Mission’s doors open, was now walking through them in need of the refuge they had to provide.
I told him he was welcome as he hung his head in shame. The journey would be long, but I encouraged him to hold on and see what God was going to do. Not interested in hearing any talk of the Cross, he skeptically nodded and walked out of the room.
At that time, the number of guests who stayed with us was much smaller. A generous donor always paid for us to take the guests out to eat on Christmas Eve. We would bus everyone down to what used to be Doug’s Diner and enjoy a nice meal.
The diner was fairly small for our large group and everyone was squeezed in at least six to a booth. As I walked through the packed aisles my eyes canvassed the room and fell upon Phil. He looked depressed, nervous and out of place as he stared down at his plate and slowly fiddled with his food. It was Christmas Eve and he was homeless for the first time in his life.
Next to Phil, on both sides in the tiny booth, sat two other men who were unable to converse because of the mental illness that had taken over their minds. They were both actively hallucinating and having conversations with themselves—unaware of anyone else in the room. Phil was now sharing his holiday meal with people who just months before he would have ignored or quickly brushed past. He now realized he had something in common with them.
Phil’s face was downcast as I approached and he was trying his best to ignore the realities of what was going on all around. I offered a word of encouragement: “One day, when you get through all of this, you will probably write a book… and this will just be another one of your chapters.” Though he showed little emotion at the time, he told me later that those simple words had given him a glimmer of hope. During the meal he had been envisioning his life ending as one of the guys who sat around him, but the words made him think there was a possibility this was not going to be the end after all.
The next four months at the Mission were not easy for Phil, but as his strength and stamina continued to return, he decided he would leave the Mission and try making it on his own. I recognized the struggles still present and was fearful it would only be a matter of time before Phil became homeless and in need once again.
It was about a year later before I heard from Phil. He called me from Kansas City and I was greeted by the sounds of crying through the phone. He had returned to the grips of addiction and, while drunk and high on cocaine, he had crashed head-on into a semi-truck on Interstate 70. Phil was in Kansas University Medical Center receiving treatment for two broken legs and a gamut of internal injuries. His life had gone even further downhill through the previous year—he was now at the end of himself and asking for prayer.
Over the next three years, Phil did his best to rebuild his life and we kept in close touch. When the phone calls stopped, I once again became concerned. After a few months of not hearing from him, I finally received a call from California. He had begun reestablishing his life there, had found a small apartment and was working as a car salesman. He told me he was calling to share something beautiful, yet bizarre, that he was sure I’d understand.
He had walked out of his apartment one day and looked down on the floor of the foyer. There, before him, lay a Bible. He had never owned one before and never read through its pages. He leaned over to pick it up and then looked around—there was no one in sight. He took the Bible inside and curiously opened its cover. Written inside was the name of a woman and a phone number. Puzzled, he set it aside.
For days he looked at the Bible and pondered the name written inside. Finally, he mustered up the courage to make contact. He told the woman how he had found the gift and wondered if she could offer any explanation. She said she had given away countless old Bibles over the years and said someone had probably just dropped this one that had been given a long time ago. While she couldn’t offer much help in solving the mystery of how it had appeared at his door, she did extend an invitation for him to attend a Bible study the following night. Though he was still struggling with addiction, he decided to attend.
When Phil introduced himself and began sharing his story, the woman was amazed. She too was from
Topeka and then mentioned my name. Apparently she had been involved in ministry in Topeka but the Lord had moved her to California to further share the Gospel. She told Phil it was not a coincidence he had walked out of his apartment and looked down to see the Good News.
Phil paused before continuing to relay the story to me. He then declared he had given his life to Jesus Christ and finally realized what it was I had been trying to share with him all along. Now, through the orchestration of two lives from Topeka that met up in California, he could finally see how God had been pursuing him and trying to get his attention all along.
To this day, Phil and I continue to talk. He lives in Alabama now and is once again financially stable and sober. Through his experiences in life, he has become a new man and is now able to help homeless individuals in a way that he never would have been able to before. While he was once able to give solely from his pocketbook, he’s now able to give through compassion and love, sharing also of the eternal shelter and home that can be received through the One that gave him so much.
Phil started off wealthy and proud. Through a series of circumstances, he became homeless and humble. Over time, he was able to rise back up out of the ashes and regain his independence. While his riches may not have been what they were before, the wealth he gained was far more valuable than that which any money
Jesus tells us to not store up treasures in this world where moth and rust can destroy, but to instead focus on our eternal riches in heaven which can never be destroyed (Matthew 6:19-20). Through homelessness and poverty, Phil finally understood these words. For years he had been focused on pursuing wealth and extravagance in life, only to have it taken away. When the depths of his wealth ceased, he believed his life had come to an end.
Phil had been a man of wealth who became weary and troubled when his possessions began to fade away. As he sat in the booth on Christmas Eve, sandwiched between two homeless men who were severely mentally ill, he saw no light in the darkness he faced. He tried all he knew to overcome, but none of his efforts brought lasting results. It wasn’t until he turned his eyes upon Jesus that he was able to begin seeing the true Light that shone bright even in his darkest of nights. As freedom from oppression came forth, Phil began to see that all of God’s promises were true. He then, filled with hope, returned to the world around him that was dying and told of His glorious Light.
The situations you are faced with right now and the uncertainties in the future before you may be devastating and bleak. Even if you see no light in sight, know that Jesus holds the key and this is not the end of your book; it’s only one of the chapters. You can be assured if you are walking with Jesus, regardless of the hardships you may endure right now, you will be victorious in the end (2 Corinthians 2:14).
Happy Independence Day!
From your friends at the Topeka Rescue Mission