The Company We Keep

It’s been anonymously said an individual can be summed up just by looking at the company they keep. This is a double-edged sword to be sure. For many of our Life Change Academy residents, their friendship circles included drug dealers and other drug addicts — a truth stained with the old adage: “Misery loves company.” Relationships with better friends and concerned family members easily get pushed away. Ironically, Jesus’ reputation suffered in relation to the disreputable company he kept — as seen in Matthew 9 when His disciples were asked, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” The religious community just didn’t understand why he would surround himself so.

In two very different sets of circumstances, the company we keep says a lot about who we are.

Senator Diane Feinstein and VRM staff, Kern County Mission, LA, and San Diego mission reps

Senator Diane Feinstein and VRM staff, Kern County Mission, LA, and San Diego mission reps

A colleague and I recently returned from a trip to our nation’s capitol. We joined representatives from various rescue missions across the country to discuss changes in DC and how the effect they may have on our ministries and services we offer. We also met with our elected officials on both the senate and house side, and toured the gallery area of the House of Representatives floor, where political parties sit on opposite sides of the room. As an elected official, the primary company you keep may well be dictated by one thing: a single letter at the end of your name.

During our time, I thought much about the short history of our nation and stared intently at the face of Abraham Lincoln at his memorial, with the words from his second inauguration etched into the stone: “Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.”

Rossie Ballard

Rossie Ballard

While our country has progressed in many areas, it’s no secret “both parties” are once again divided in many ways. As we navigate these times and trials, the best foot forward may be to pick company like Jesus did. How did he do it? In 1 Samuel 16, we learn, “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

For the past eight years, Rossie Ballard has danced away hunger with a 90-minute Zumba® class. She has jumped in with both feet, year after year, to raise support for VRM and spread the good word about the life change that happens here. She recently opened her own fitness studio here in Visalia — FIT Tribe Academy. This dream of hers now has a building!

On Friday, May 5th, we’re hosting the 9th Annual Dance Away Hunger Donation Drive here at our Community Center. Rossie’s passion for connecting people and forming a tribe for personal growth is contagious and this event has become a community favorite. For almost a decade, people from all walks of life, political parties, churches and social groups have come together to support a ministry with the tagline: Hope and Restoration through Jesus Christ. 

This is good company and we’re going to keep it.

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.