Summer 2016 Newsletter – Turning a Mess into a Message
Ron Betts calls it a “jacked up life.”
How else would you describe the life of a 4-year-old boy whose aunt sexually abused him and exposed him to street drugs, who grew into a drug-addicted homeless man who couldn’t hold down a job and ate food out of a trash can?
Ron had every excuse in the world to remain mired in that mess. Instead, he turned it into the powerful message of a survivor who is clean, sober, employed and ready to attend law school.
It’s an inspiring story that brings tears to the eyes of many who hear it, and is so compelling that Ron advanced through three rounds of the Toastmasters International speech competition, falling just short of qualifying for the nationals in Washington, D.C.
“It was therapeutic for me,” Ron says. “I had only told maybe two or three people my entire life, and it was time for me to come to grips with my pain. So I told it to our club and everybody encouraged me to enter it into the contest and I kept winning. What I realized is that there are many people who’ve been through similar situations – maybe not sexual abuse but something that created a void they are trying to fill with drugs. Telling my story has helped me, and I hope it helps others, too.”
In his speech, Ron shares how, years after the abuse happened, he visited his aunt in her hospital room. There were so many things he had waited years to say to her, bu the chose just three words: “I forgive you.”
“I had said it before, but I was still holding onto it. If you don’t forgive the person, you don’t move on. You’re held hostage by the event. It was the grace of God that allowed me to forgive her, and I was finally set free.”
That’s not to say Ron’s life was easy after that. He was still hooked on crack, and it wasn’t until he came to the Mission’s Men’s Home in August of 2014 that he took steps to overcome his addiction.
“That’s when I realized that I didn’t have a drug problem – I had a sin problem. By joining the program there, I’ve been able to work on my sin problem by praying, studying the Word and building relationships with men of God, and that’s helped me with my addiction.”
Ron was doing well in the program until February of 2015, when he suffered a relapse and left.
“I guess you always have that last one in you. I was back out in my active addiction. I was on the streets, drugging, doing day labor and eating out of garbage cans.”
Ron had a standing invitation to come back when he was ready to try again, but he was too ashamed. Then one day he ran into Teddy, a Men’s Home disciple who had earned his high school diploma, attended culinary school and had a good job.
“I saw Teddy and he was looking good and happy. I wasn’t jealous of him but I thought, ‘Wow, what if I had stayed at the Mission and stayed in my relationship with Christ, and stayed with the men of God who were telling me good things?’ Teddy told me not to let pride keep me from coming back, and a couple days later I was here again.”
That was last September, and things are different this time around.
“This has been the best nine months of my life. I’ll never say I’ve got it conquered. I think that was my mistake last time. I stay level-headed, I stay in prayer, I stay around the men of God, I ask for advice, I stay close to Christ, and I don’t get the big head.”
Ron recently began working full-time in customer service at a resort hotel and will attend law school at night starting next-month. He hopes to work in criminal law and would like to be a prosecutor. The attention he’s received from his Toastmaster speeches has led to some motivational speaking engagements, where he credits the Mission for helping tum his mess into a message.
“The Mission saved my life. I’m not overstating that. If I had stayed out there the second time, I would have died. I can’t begin to say how grateful I am for my time here.”
ONLINE -View an interview with Ron Betts and watch a video of his entire speech, “My Mess has Become My Message,” at www.OURM.org/Message.
Since last September, around 20 Men’s Home disciples have found their voice by participating in their own Toastmasters International chapter.
Dubbed “Mission Possible” and sponsored by Orlando Health, the club meets once a week with the goal of improving the communication skills and boosting the self-confidence of the men.
The results have been remarkable! Some men who rarely spoke to anyone have become comfortable speaking to the entire group. Others have used their improved speaking skills to land jobs. Two of our men – Ron Betts and Paul Bird – competed in district competition. We’re grateful to Orlando Health for helping get Mission Possible off the ground. If you’d like to give a gift to keep it going, visit www.OURM.org/toastmasters.