Joe's Story


Before I got to the Mission, I was on the streets. Most of my life I’ve been in and out of programs, not having stability in my life. Then I heard about the Mission through my uncle. He told me about it and said it wouldn’t be like any other program I’ve been in. So I’m sacrificing another year, but it was time to try again. Since I’ve been here, it is truly different. I’ve really began working on myself and focusing on the stuff that I haven’t dealt with in the past.

My living situation before, I would be drinking all the time to escape that. I was always counting on a family member or a program to help me out, but nothing ever worked. So it was stressful for me not knowing where I was going to go next; then I’d fall back into drinking again and my family didn’t want me around anymore. 

So I’d sleep on the streets and panhandle, doing anything to survive. That was my rock bottom moment. Knowing that I had to make a decision to do something different because it was life and death for me being on the streets. 

I’d be in places where I knew I shouldn't have been, seeing a lot of the activity that happened on the streets was scary. I’d read the paper everyday to find out where the bad things were happening and I’d see that someone got shot, or beat up and robbed right where I was walking the day before. I was really taking a chance that something could have happened to me too. I’d hide myself and sleep around churches because I felt like God would be there for my protection.

It took that much fear to decide that I didn’t want to live like this. 

I saw a glimpse of who I could become because of seeing my uncle’s success through the Mission and seeing his life change. So I said, ‘I’m going to give this a chance. I have nothing more to lose.’ I’d lost everything already.

I’m learning a lot about all the issues I didn’t know I had. I’m getting back to the things of God. I’m reconciling my relationship with God and getting stronger in His word and depending on Him a lot more than I had before.

Depending on God means I can trust Him and I have hope that even through all the destruction I’ve caused by trying to do things my way, I can read the scriptures and trust in His promise for us.

What I’ve learned here at the Mission is that we’re here to build a foundation and that foundation is a relationship with God. It’s not something we’re forced into, but it’s been the most important thing for me.

My number one stability is to put God first in everything I do. God has to be number one - my rock. I’ve gone through trying to do it on my own power, but it never works. I’ve accepted responsibility for the things I’ve done and I just pray that I can mend the bridges I’ve broken with my family. All I can do is trust Him to soften their hearts and take care of everything in the end.

My relationship with my family is much better than it was. I’m starting to build trust with them again, that’s been a big issue with my family, knowing that they can trust me. When they come to visit me and aren’t worried about me anymore because they know that I’m in a great place, they’ve embraced it. My mom even said me to,“You being at the Rescue Mission, you’ve embraced it. I’ve seen you with other programs and you were always trying to find a way out of it, but now that you are here I can see a difference in you.” My family told me they were proud of me, they never really did that before.

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.