Gary’s Story: A life of crime to a life of Christ through Project Hope
From criminal to Project Hope Disciple, Gary finds the support and encouragement he needs to transform his life.
Gary’s life was never easy. Growing up, he endured many challenges due to his undiagnosed learning disability. Although he took special education classes, his mental difficulties prohibited him from staying still, being calm, and controlling his impulses.
These challenges continued into adulthood, interfering with Gary’s daily activities like school, work, and his relationships with others. After the death of his mother, Gary began working but could never keep a steady job, so he turned to a life of crime. Gary began robbing people at knifepoint for money, and eventually got caught, spending 28 years in prison for a range of crimes.
After spending three decades in prison, Gary was released and ultimately found the Mission shortly thereafter. Gary was used to the harsh and authoritative structure that prison gave him; he didn’t know how to react to the kindness and love that our staff and other guests showed him. After meetings with his counselor and attending daily chapel services, he was introduced to Christ and began seeking help for his violent temper and gambling problem.
“Once I received Jesus, it gave me a new sense of life, a new start,” said Gary.
His transformation began as he attended the Mission’s Master Life, Celebrate Recovery, and Conquering Chemical Dependency classes. Additionally, the Mission and a licensed social worker helped Gary receive the proper medication for his mental illness, providing Gary with the tools to be self-reliant. With the help of his counselors, the Bargain Store family, and Gary’s faith in Christ, he has been doing well, working daily at the Mission’s Bargain Store and attending church with his fellow Disciples. Gary was diagnosed recently with stage 4 thyroid cancer. To comfort him and raise his spirit, the Bargain Store family searched for his older brother, whom Gary had not seen or spoken to in 32 years. After a month of searching, we found Howard living in Idaho, and we arranged a phone call between the brothers. “I didn’t know what to say to him. I was angry at him at first,” said Gary. That anger quickly dissipated, however, as he wanted to reconcile with his brother. Soon after their phone call, Howard came to Orlando to get reconnected with his brother and reminisce over old times. Gary now has the support of his brother and his friends at the Mission in his battle with cancer. Gary recently started radiation treatment and is determined to achieve his new goal in life:
beating cancer. He is reassured by his favorite scripture, Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Gary thanks the Mission and all those who support our ministries for their generosity and caring heart. He has achieved so much while staying here at the Mission and understands it would not be possible without the Mission’s supporters. “The Mission has helped me tremendously…Your money has given me an opportunity. It has taught me how to be someone. When I get out of here one day, I want to be able to help. I want to do it the way you all were able to.”