From Executive Director, Al Oliver (2017 in Review)

Two months ago, a young woman named Lanessa graduated from our 12-month residential recovery program — our Life Change Academy. At the age of 14, she began using drugs and spent her early adult years in and out of jail. Her drug use continued, even after becoming a mom. As a testament to the new life Lanessa is now enjoying, the Tulare County judge who oversaw her case and her probation officer attended her graduation and shared their original judgements of her: “She will never change,” they agreed. “She’ll just continue to run and avoid her problems.” 

Probation Officer Gene Fernandez (L) and Judge Gary Johnson (R) attended our Life Change Academy graduation in September to celebrate Lanessa}

Probation Officer Gene Fernandez (L) and Judge Gary Johnson (R) attended our Life Change Academy graduation in September to celebrate Lanessa}

Thankfully, they now see what God can do with a broken heart — a topic I am now all too familiar with.

This past April, just a few months after my 65th birthday, I was wheeled into the cardiac surgery suite at Kaweah Delta Hospital to get a new valve in my heart. For over a year leading up to that moment, I began to feel increasingly tired. I thought I needed to get more sleep, or get in better shape, or maybe both. I was very busy and powered through the fatigue for awhile.

There have only been a few times in my life when I’ve felt that vulnerable, but never quite so helpless. Following the surgery, there was nothing I could do but submit myself into the hands of people I barely knew — people who were going to cut open my chest and stop my heart while I slept. As a former professional athlete, I’ve always been strong and yet after that surgery, three steps felt like 3,000. I was in pain, depressed, and I finally understood the expression “rock bottom” in a personal way.

At Visalia Rescue Mission, we have long witnessed the ultimate benefit a “rock bottom” moment can have on someone struggling with a drug addiction. For many, it is their first step in a long and hard recovery process. I suspect God used my surgery and the months of recovery to better empathize with and serve those who come to the Mission helpless and unable to recover on their own.

When you support this ministry, you do more than feed and provide shelter for people in need. You give them the opportunity to mend their inner brokenness — to be made new. It is truly a profound experience to see God transform a person’s heart and life before your eyes — a  process that may start during a meal in our dining room, a night in our shelter, or on the first day in our Life Change Academy. None of these services would be possible…without you.

This year, we have served a record number of men, women, and children. With winter quickly approaching, we are anticipating even more coming to us for help for the first time and our shelters have already been operating at or near capacity. As of October, we have already surpassed last year’s total number of overnight guests.

While our services and resources are provided at no cost, the operational cost to us as an organization is great. Here’s a breakdown of our services and how you can help.

  • $1.92 per meal
  • $11 per shelter night
  • $18.32 per day in our Life Change Academy

Your generous support ensures we can meet the increasing need you are seeing on your streets and knocking on our front door.

Have a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!

Al Oliver - Executive Director

“Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” — Ephesians 3:17

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.