Matthew’s Story: From addict and criminal to Project Hope disciple
“My life was a mess,” says Matthew, describing his history before arriving at the Orlando Union Rescue Mission more than two years ago. At the time, he was a fifteen-year drug addict with an extensive criminal record and was facing a new charge of dealing in stolen property. The judge offered him probation if Matthew entered an addiction-recovery program.
Matthew’s criminal background made him ineligible for his first-choice program, so he spent the night in the Mission’s overnight dormitory. A participant in our Discipleship program told Matthew about that long-term program and encouraged him to apply. He entered the program, and God transformed his life.
Matthew got into trouble early in life, using drugs, getting expelled for fighting in school, and joining a gang by the time he was fifteen. He spent the next fifteen years as a drug addict and criminal, earning convictions for drug use, drug dealing, armed robbery, and home invasion. He bounced into and out of jail several times. He was shot twice in an armed robbery, and of his survival, Matthew says, “I know God saved me. It was a miracle.”
In late 2019, he was arrested for dealing in stolen goods. The judge, recognizing many of Matthew’s problems arose from his drug use, sentenced him to probation if he entered a drug-abuse program. Matthew walked into the Mission in January 20, 2020.
That first night, the chapel sermon emphasized that God has a plan for everyone and that the Holy Spirit prompts people to turn to Jesus when the time is right. Matthew felt the physical presence of the Holy Spirit at that service and realized the message was intended specifically for him. He knew the time was right.
Matthew joined the Mission’s Discipleship program and found God’s love and mercy irresistible. His service assignment was working with the facilities crew, where his dedication and hard work were recognized. He accepted a job and became a Mission employee about five months ago.
Matthew recounts, “I wanted to search for God, and I found Him at the Mission.”
He credits God, through the Mission’s addiction-recovery program, with “bringing me to sobriety and protecting me from the urges I have now to use.” Matthew has been sober since entering the Mission.
Matthew now says, “God gave me peace, hope, and a real future. And He has also given me the chance to share my experiences with men who are like I was before I came to the Mission.”
He especially appreciates the Mission’s partners, whose gifts sustain our ministries. “If I hadn’t found the Mission, I would be back in prison, and I would not have found God and changed my life. And I know : the people who give to the Mission make that possible. With their help, my life has been transformed.”