Where A Meal Touches the Heart
Meals touch more lives than you might expect
We’ve all missed a meal or two at some point. We use words like “famished” or “starving” to describe the twinge we get in our stomachs. But very few of us know what real hunger is – the gnawing, ravenous need to thing, anything to eat. The kind of hunger that turns a mess of discarded leftovers into a banquet.
Steve Otero, who spent 5 years homeless on the streets of Tucson, knows that hunger. “It becomes a mental struggle after a few days of not eating. Psychologically, you’re lost. It’s hard to put into words just how desperate you become.”
Hunger is what brought Steve to our Christmas Street Banquet. But when he got there, he found more than just a meal. He found new life.
Steve grew up in California, the son of a Police Chief. Like so many with parents in positions of authority, Steve would frequently rebel against his father’s strict rules and standards – a practice that quickly led him astray.
“By the age of 16, I had begun using marijuana and methamphetamine,” admits Steve.
Using hard drugs at such a young age often leads to swift repercussions. But unfortunately, Steve was good at hiding it. He was a functioning addict. For the next few decades he would maintain his high while finding success in many different areas of the construction industry, often accepting positions of leadership. He married and managed to keep his addiction secret from his wife. But when they divorced, he found out that she too had been keeping something from him. Steve had a son.
“I only found out because his name was listed on the divorce papers… it hit me hard. For the first time, I saw my life for what it was – a mess,” remembers Steve. The realization drove him further into his addiction. No longer a functioning addict, Steve quickly lost everything he had worked for and wound up on the streets.For e long years he slept in alleyways and ate out of dumpsters, doing whatever he needed to do to survive. Then one day, tired and hopeless, he called out to God to save him.
“I said ‘God, if you truly exist, remove all the cravings that I have for these drugs. If you do that, I will serve you for the rest of my life.’”
That day was December 23rd, 2003. A homeless friend invited Steve to join him at our Christmas Street Banquet for a meal. Instead of leaving after his belly was full, Steve made the decision to enroll in our recovery program. Eighteen months later, he was sober, ready to start his life over and, we’re happy to report, he hasn’t had a craving since.
But Steve wasn’t with GRM. God had held up His end of the bargain and Steve would hold up his as well. To do so, he has faithfully served God as a volunteer here for the past 15 years! And God took it another step. Steve has become an employee and now serves as a part-time cook in our Men’s Center kitchen!
But God still isn’t with Steve. God is using Steve’s service at the Mission to soften his heart and curb the forceful and direct approach with others that he inherited from his father.
“Keeping my mouth under control, humbling myself… it’s hard. Each and every day it is. There’s a thin line I have to walk, to be but gentle at the same time. It’s a daily challenge.”
“Wherever I’m needed, I’m there. I know every part of the Mission,” says Steve. “I love it because I’m able to encourage people using my story to give up the life they are living and change.”
Gospel Rescue Mission is a place where personal growth goes hand-in-hand with loving on those around us. As important as nutritious meals are to the homeless and hurting we serve, the truth is, it’s not just those receiving the meals that benefit. We often witness God’s hand working in all of us, guests, volunteers and staff alike to be better than we were when we walked through the Mission’s doors.
Thank you to all of our volunteers and donors for the support that both transforms lives like Steve’s and refines us all to become more effective tools for the Kingdom!