Choosing Courage over Comfort

One of the best things about Day 1 of a new year, is looking back at the 365 days that just passed. How did I spend them? Did I give more than I attempted to get? Have I grown? Have I impacted another life for the better? In short, did you end the year on the Naughty or Nice list?

Every single day of your life is an unfolding story, your thoughts and actions are the pen to the paper. As I went back and watched interviews with our 2015 graduates, I realize I have simultaneous feelings of pride and humility. I am so proud to work for a ministry that didn’t keep “hope and restoration” as just a slogan, but as a target we strive to hit each and every day. And yet, I’m humbled knowing that we’re just seed planters, gardeners who water these lives and anticipate for God to bring growth and transformation to their lives. 




“When I was fourteen I ran away from home due to a dysfunctional, chaos background. Several weeks after I ran away I was introduced to heroin…and that started a thirty-seven year addiction. I found myself living in cars, abandoned houses, and I ended up living on a burned-up riverbed…roaming the streets everyday like a stray animal. I used to cry out to God not to let me wake up and I would take as many drugs and pills, whatever it would take to knock me out, and would be angry in the morning when I’d wake up. When I first entered the program, I attended a function and just threw myself on the stage and surrendered my life to God. This is a life-change, it’s not just a recovery program.”


“At an early age, I was sexually abused by a family member. I didn’t know how to take that because this person was supposed to take care of me and protect me. This happened for about two years. I held this secret in my life for a long time and grew up really angry. My mother used to say I would never amount to nothing…that I was a devil in disguise. I started to believe that and took it to school. When I was 13, I was hit my a drunk driver and it left my arm messed up. So I thought my life was filled with misery and there was no hope. I felt unloved. So I joined a gang at a young age and felt welcomed. I landed in prison…and I believe that right there in the holding cell is where God met me. It’s been a good ride here [at VRM]…and I’m looking forward to this adventure that God has for me.”


“I had a good upbringing and parents who loved me. At the age of 22, my family broke up and I went downhill from there. I was in and out of trouble. I’ve been shot twice, had my jaw broken. After 30 years of just destructive living…I needed to do a program. They brought me here and I was reluctant to do a program, I just wanted to do the time and get gone. After that first class, I felt I needed to be here. This place has taught me that I don’t have to live like I have lived.” 


“I’m the oldest of nine children. When I was thirteen, I moved in with my cousin…and that’s when I got introduced to partying. I didn’t really think it was going to overtake me, until it did. Then without me knowing, I was a crystal meth addict. I was an addict for thirteen years. The last year before I came [here] was my rock bottom. I found myself homeless, living in a garage — I didn’t see much of my two oldest sons not really at all, I completely left them. So I was pregnant with my fourth child, didn’t go to the doctor’s much at all…was using [drugs] still. I gave birth to my daughter October 5th and that’s the day I hit my rock bottom and knew I needed help badly. I had to leave my daughter at the hospital. I haven’t touched a drug after that. I checked into the [VRM] House of Hope…they welcomed me in with open arms, no judgement. I’m now in my children’s lives a lot more.”











As we kick of a new year, VRM is celebrating our 35th Anniversary of hope and restoration. As we mentioned in December’s article, our Academy is extending from an eight to twelve month program, and we have incorporated new policies at our overnight shelters. Our deepest desire is to see more people, just like Vicki, Hector, Bill, and Aileen, writing a new story a little bit sooner. 

“Choosing to write our own story means getting uncomfortable; it’s choosing courage over comfort.” — Brené Brown


Ryan Stillwater

Ryan is a longtime Visalian — a graduate of Redwood High School and Fresno Pacific University with a bachelors degree in Christian Ministries. Intrigued by the partnership between the Visalia Rescue Mission and the City of Visalia, Ryan began putting his vision on paper as VRM's Oval Venue Coordinator in August 2013, and has sparked the interest of many throughout the community. Ryan and his wife Amy (a Mt. Whitney High School graduate) have been married for seven years and have three amazing kids — ages 6, 4, and 4.