August Graduates!

Althea's Story

My name is Althea, and I am a child of God. For so long, I was a lost and empty shell of a person. Growing up in Ventura, both my parents were addicts. I thank the Lord for my grandmother, my rock. She instilled morals and values in me and introduced me to God. 

But at the age of twelve, I went out on my own. I walked away from the only family I had and from my relationship with God. I became a mother at age 15 and when my baby’s father was sent to prison, I was left alone.

I started drinking heavily when my son was taken away from me. I felt worthless and unworthy of all happiness. My life became drugs, alcohol, and hustling all day, every day. 

That life got me 19 months in jail. 

In jail, I remember saying out loud that God put me here for a reason. Not long after, I completely surrendered my life to God. I started studying the Bible with Chaplin John from Jail House Ministries and I asked God for forgiveness for all I had done. His love brought me out of that lonely and miserable place and filled me with love and peace.

In September 2014, I was released from jail and knew I wanted to start the House of Hope program at the Visalia Rescue Mission. 

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I have now been at the House of Hope for seven months. I’m growing in my faith, progressing in my recovery and working on getting my GED. I’ve learned that I don’t have to hate myself for mistakes I made in the past. Instead, I repent and learn to do things differently. I choose to put my trust in Christ, the only one who will never fail. I’m grateful to God for giving me the desire to change and the Visalia Rescue Mission for giving me the opportunity to make that happen. 

God has also blessed me by restoring my family. I’m now in contact with my sister, aunt and uncle who I hadn’t spoken to in 20 years. I have even been able to reconnect with some of my children, who I could have never imagined having back in my life. 

Now I am a whole woman. Major change is on the horizon and I am so grateful. Philippians 3:13 says, “Forgetting the things of the past and reaching for things that are ahead.” And that’s exactly what I’m doing with the help of Jesus Christ.

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.