Meet Kirk: VRM Men's Shelter Manager

When I started dabbling, drinking alcohol and smoking weed, it’s kind of like I got my own identity. I’m the youngest of five brothers. I was always Allen’s or Gary’s younger brother. But when I started using, I wasn’t just somebody’s younger brother anymore. I liked having my identity, but I found it in the wrong place. I became “Kirk the partier”. From there it gradually got worse.

My first experience with the Mission that had a real impact on me was when: I had showed up for lunch and I wasn’t there the day before. One of the volunteers asked me, ‘Where were you yesterday? We didn't see you." That was the first time someone noticed that I wasn't there. I was talking with her and we were eating hamburgers that day. While we were talking, she took her apron and wiped some mustard off my cheek. I stepped back, it was kind of weird. It was the first time I had felt something in a while cause I had been numb before that. She crossed that barrier and it had a big effect on me. Intimidation is one of the first barriers of the homeless — there’s a wall there that we don’t let people penetrate. She just reached over that wall and it made a positive impact for me.

I’m no longer “Kirk the Partier”. I know who I am now. I am a beloved child of God. By knowing who I am and who he created me to be, now I am that dad, the spiritual leader in my home, I love my children unconditionally, and I try to be that good friend. The way He treats me shows me how to treat others.

I share with my children that I love them very much. They were freaked out at first about “dad and this God thing”, it was really weird – if you knew me before. They asked me: “Dad, do you love God more than us?” And I said yes I do. They looked at each other but then I was able to explain: because of the way He loves me, He shows me how to love you, so I can better love you. They kind of liked that. And now, I continue to love them the way He shows me to love them. My family and I have reconciled, we were separated for about 5 years. It’s a beautiful relationship, there’s still some repairing going on because it’s a process, but it’s the best it’s ever been. It’s been the best 6 years of my life.

Like everyone else, when I see our guests I see the lack of shave and lack of hygiene. But one of my prayers is, “God, let me see them as you see them.” I’m able to see through that intimidation, the walls, and I see the person and the hurts.

The restoration and reconciliation I experience everyday is priceless. I get to watch the miracle as its happening. I see guys that were just as immature as I was and just as lost and confused discover their identity and who they’re created to be. The only thing I can think of to compare it to is a big windstorm – a lot of emotional stuff happening but in the middle is God. Just seeing Him in the midst of it all.

When I talk to some of the guys that have gone back out, they always tell me: ‘Kirk, I stopped fellowshipping. I stopped reading my scripture. My Bible went from the front seat of my car to the trunk. I let it gather dust’. When they walk away from that relationship, that’s when it’s gone south. That part I don’t like.

It doesn’t make me want to quit. It just reminds me that the business we’re in is very serious. So when someone knocks on me door or approaches me, even though I have a busy schedule, I make time for them.

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.