Rachel’s Gift, the final episode: Rachel Speaks for Herself

This is the eighth and final episode of Rachel’s Gift”.  Listen as Rachel finally reveals her “Gift”.  Invite your friends to listen and ‘catch up’ on previous episodes.  If you missed episodes go to ‘Recent Posts’ from November 28 (right hand column).

Ladies and Gentlemen, here’s Rachel: 

Thanks for your support for our Passion 4 Youth Art program this Christmas.  Help us continue this life-changing program.  Designate a donation today! Just click the ‘Donate’ button.  Thanks for your special gift!

Rachel’s Gift, Episode Seven: Looking towards the future

Rachel’s Gift is an 8 part series until December 23.  To listen to the audio backgrounder, click:  Rachel’s Gift episode 7  If you missed episodes go to ‘Recent Posts’ (right hand column), beginning November 28.

“I don’t like to look too far into the future, it’s overwhelming and you don’t really know what the future holds.  If I think about the future, I start to think, ‘I can’t do it’ and stuff like that.

Right now I just have small goals.  Like I am looking forward to the training to do street outreach, and start with that.  I want to help people, people that are like, in my position, and do what I can to really help in the outreach program. (Rachel  has joined our Urban Intervention Training and is preparing to do street outreach to people experiencing poverty and homelessness in Ottawa).

I’m praying a lot about what I am being called to.  I do my devotions every day, and read my bible every day.  I try to think about what God or Jesus would do and learn as much as I can.  I’m a new Christian I guess, and I want to help people.

A lot of my friends ask me ‘How did you do it? How did you do it?’ and I tell them, ‘It’s Jesus and the methadone program. I say both  ‘cause if you just say Jesus, they’ll say, like ‘Yah.  OK. Whatever,’ and not listen.  But it’s more than the methadone program.  I try to help them understand the change in my life.  We talk about the methadone, and then somehow they always end up asking about Jesus.  It’s true.  If I didn’t have Jesus, and if I didn’t have a relationship with him, I don’t think I would be clean.  He just led me to the right places.

The fact that He came to the earth, died on the cross, that He died for me, that’s what it’s all about.  That’s what Christmas is all about.  Because of what He has done for me, the least thing I could do is to live for Him. I just keep seeing things in my life that He keeps doing for me, and prayers that have been answered.  I used to be, ‘Yeah, God and all that,’ but now there’s just too much that He’s done for me, I just can’t deny it now.  There’s just too much God in my life to deny it now.”

In our Final EpisodeListen as Rachel herself recounts her story about the Gift this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 8 and 5. 

THEN, starting Wednesday, return to our website to see Rachel make a video appearance and share a brief testimony of her life.  It’s a Miracle!  It’s a Gift to us all!  Merry Christmas!

Rachel’s Gift, Episode Six: Growing and Developing

Rachel’s Gift is an 8 part series until December 23. To listen to the audio backgrounder, click:  Rachel’s Gift episode 6.  If you missed episodes go to ‘Recent Posts’ (right hand column).

“I really think the work skills program is a big part of why I’ve stayed clean.  It has given me structure.  I have made some goals and I am working on my goals.

 The way you guys talk to me, it’s not like I’m on a program, it’s like I work here. We go for lunch together and it’s really cool.  I’ve never had this kind of structure in my life before, and having  people really talk to me is new.  People are not like talking down to me, just telling me what they think I want to hear, they just accept me for who I am.

 In the work skills program, they say you should be responsible if you want to be a part of the program.  You can’t be part of the program and then not follow up.  They will hold you to what you say, you know?  They won’t accept anything else from you.

 If I didn’t have this place to come to, I don’t know where I’d be.  I’d have too much free time to think about things and well you know…  This place is Christian based, and that helps me a lot.

There is a light that God’s people have and I wanted the happiness that they have.   I started going to church, going back to church just over a year ago.  I haven’t felt better -  ever.

 Erin at the office is kind of my boss. It’s going really good.  If she knows there’s something bugging me, she’ll come to talk to me like a real person.  The other day I was upset and I thought she was upset with me, and she said, ‘No, I am not upset with you’.  We talked.  Then she wouldn’t let me leave without praying for me, which was really cool, ’cause I know she really cares.  Nobody expects anything from you.  They are always encouraging you.

 I used to think it was so hard, ‘cause I felt totally alone, but now I am not alone.  I have so much hope.  Totally, lots of hope.  I opened a bank account today.  All right, yeah!” 

Next Week: Closer and closer to Christmas and closer and closer to the revelation of Rachel’s Gift.  Don’t miss the exciting conclusion to this great story.  We do not receive on-going government funding for our programs, but instead rely on the generosity of people who care, just like you.  Why not make a special Christmas donation to help us continue our youth street outreach programs.  Thanks and Merry Christmas!

Rachel’s Gift, Episode Five: The Birth of Hope

Rachel’s Gift is an 8 part series until December 23.  To listen to the audio backgrounder, click: Rachel’s Gift episode 5   If you missed episodes go to ‘Recent Posts’ (right hand column).. 

I was on the streets and my boyfriend took me to some of the drop ins in the city. He took me to the OIM drop in – I didn’t even know there was a drop in there.  It was pretty cool.

I came to the OIM office probably about two  years ago.  It must have been Christmas or something, because the spread you guys had out on the table was awesome.  We had lots and lots of food.   It was really, really cool. 

I started to come to the drop in all the time, and one day Jason [youth outreach worker] came up to me and said, “Hey would you be interested in coming to our youth art program?”  When he talked to me, he actually got through to me.  It was like, hey, somebody actually cared for me. 

The next youth event was the art show at the church.  It was really cool.  I saw all the stuff the kids were doing, how happy they were, it was really cool. I didn’t know that about them.  I knew them from the street but I didn’t know that there was anything like this art group.  

There isn’t anything else out there like this.

I started going to the art group all the time.  It is so different from the life on the street.  The street life is drugs, drugs, and more drugs.  At the art group there is something so real, like its real life.  I haven’t seen that in a long time, probably ever.  It’s just like normal everyday kids.  You don’t see normal everyday kids on the streets.

I go to the art group all the time.  I look forward to it.  When I come to the office on Thursdays (work skills program), I don’t even go back home in case I fall asleep and miss art group.  So I just stay downtown until art group.

I am so looking forward to the next art show.  I haven’t been able to show any of my art yet.  I have a couple of pieces, maybe three.  My mom’s really looking forward to coming and my brother too.

It has made a big difference in the last couple of months. 

It makes me think, ‘Yeah, I can do this’.

Next Week:  Amazed at how she has been accepted into the community, Rachel shares her feelings about finally belonging to a community of caring people.

Rachel’s Gift, Episode Four, The spiral downwards continues…

Rachel’s Gift is an 8 part series until December 23.  Go to www.chri.ca for the audio backgrounders to Rachel’s stories. 

This time when I got out of jail I couldn’t go to Ottawa – I was banned from Ottawa.  You know, I wasn’t supposed to be in Ottawa, but I didn’t have anywhere else to go. So, I got caught in Ottawa in a rooming house because I was taking a shower there and was arrested for a breach of probation.  I went back to jail for one month and then they released me in Ottawa (laughter).  I couldn’t go to my mom’s house because her husband at the time was totally against me living there.  I could see why.

I got out of jail and started doing the same things that I usually do.  I was staying in a heated stairwell at Nepean and Bank – it was public property so they couldn’t arrest you, just tell you to get along.  When you are in drugs, people only want you at your house when you had something for them, they say, ‘I would never see you out on the street.’ But when you were in need and you didn’t have any drugs, they would say, like, ‘We can’t have people staying at our house’.

There are some places to stay when you live on the streets, but you have to be careful.  Staying in a shelter was much worse – in my eyes it was like the bottom… as long as I don’t have to go to a shelter, I hadn’t hit rock bottom.

I didn’t have a place anymore, and I found a website where you could and used that to meet guys for a date…  So, I stayed on the streets or maybe in hotels sometimes.  I don’t know, it just became a way of life, survival.

I basically sick and tired of doing drugs, like heroin… I just couldn’t do it anymore.

I ended up in a crack house downtown: people coming and going all the time; drugs in and out like crazy, and I was still using.  I had started the methadone program, but was still using street drugs.  Anytime I used anything other than opiates, it screwed up my methadone and I would get even sicker. 

I guess I just hit rock bottom then.  Doing things I would never do and being somebody that I totally never was.  People totally lost respect for me.  I would overhear people talking about me, and think, ‘Is that what they really think about me?’

I just took a look around one day. I was introduced to Jesus a few years ago.  When I was in jail I accepted Jesus but I was doing my own thing.  Then one day, looked around and said, “Oh God, I know that this is not what you have planned for me, I just know it isn’t.”

I walked out of that place and got a place with some girls, and it was a safe place.

Next Week:    The story takes a significant turn for the better.  Stay connected, you don’t want to miss this!

Rachel’s Gift, Episode Three, “My first line, and move to Ottawa”

Rachel’s Gift is an 8 part series until December 23.  To listen to the audio backgrounder, click:  Rachel’s Gift episode 3 If you missed episodes go to ‘Recent Posts’ (right hand column).

So I was at a party and I saw my mom doing a line of coke and I was shocked.   “Wuh?  What are you doing?” and lost my mind and I started to party real hard.  I was confused and concerned and kinda wondering all at the same time.

 I really started to think.  My mom was using a lot, and using more and drinking and using coke and I was wondering why this was so much better than your children, than loving your children – using coke that is.

 I love my mom a lot, and I still do.  Whatever it was about coke, it must be good. That’s what my thinking was.  I did my first line of coke shortly after that.  I was seventeen.

 I had been living on my own, but one of the things that happened when I discovered coke was, I couldn’t pay my rent anymore.  I moved in with my boyfriend and his mom.  I worked a couple of places, but I was always going in hung over.  I had to get out of that small town.

 I moved to Ottawa and I moved in with my dad. I had nowhere else to go.  I ended up meeting this guy that my dad introduced me to, which ended up being his crack dealer, and I started dating him. My Dad was doing a lot of crack then and I ended up paying the rent – or trying at least.  I was working a bit, but I was partying hard at the same time.  I don’t know why, but my dad really got mad at me.  I mean, he was using all the time then, not working, making deals, and I guess he looked at me and couldn’t stand to see me doing what I was doing – with the drugs and all that.

 I lasted three months and then got my eviction notice – signed by the mayor. They (the authorities) basically brought boxes, packed my stuff and moved me out.  My brother was in jail, but his girlfriend had an extra room and I moved in with her.

By this time I was selling drugs big time with the guy that I met through my dad.  Every day was the same – using more and more, all the time.  I got busted and went to jail for a while.

  When I got out of jail I had nowhere to go, I was just like floating around.

 Next week:  Rachel really does ‘hit the bottom’.  More drugs, living on the streets, the crack house… the cycle continues with no apparent escape.  What will happen next?

OIM does not receive on-going government funding to operate any of our programs, but instead we rely on the good will donations of concerned citizens and business owners in the National Capital Region.  We need your help to continue our youth outreach program.  Please make a donation today. Click “Donate” at the top of this page.  Thanks!

Rachel’s Gift: Episode Two, The early years: ages 9 to 16

Rachel’s Gift is an 8 part series until December 23.  To listen to the audio backgrounder from CHRI radio, click:   Rachel’s Gift episode 2

“We moved a lot, especially from the time I was nine until sixteen.  I counted, and we moved thirty-eight times in those seven years.  Just one step ahead of eviction some of the times, mostly we got the eviction itself.  It was hard to live like that. 

I didn’t do well at school.  Even though we moved, there always was a party at our house.  And drugs.  Lots of drugs.  Drug dealers, users and all kinds.  Cocaine, heroin and mixtures of drugs I didn’t even know.

I know I missed a lot of school, ‘cause my mom was always hung over.  We moved a lot and with the partying, we never seemed to have any money.  I used to always wonder why we were always broke, and didn’t really find out until later in life.  The pattern was always the same: somehow scratch up the first and last month’s rent, take one month for the eviction to take place and we were on the move again. 

I left school when I was sixteen, no actually before that, ‘cause I never really went to high school it was just the way it was.  There was a guy that lived with us, tried to raise us or whatever – he used to beat my mom up a lot.  We ended going out to Calgary, but the pattern kept with us – we were only there for three months.  Life at home was pretty hard, but I made it through.  Whatever. 

When my mom went back to Ontario for grandma’s birthday, she met someone new and decided on the spot to marry him. 

I was 15 at the time.  We moved back east, and into this guy’s house.  It wasn’t long before I was kicked out of the house.  I can’t really remember where I stayed then, when I first got kicked out.  I eventually moved back in with them – it was a disaster.  There was more partying and the guy ended up cheating on my mom.  The guy was charged with assault and he had to leave.  More partying and then more – it got to a point where I couldn’t handle It anymore.  I had a boyfriend at the time, so I moved out.”

Next Week: The first time I used Crack Cocaine, evicted again, dealing drugs and then jail.

No Where to Go

We were eating lunch when about twelve taps at the door came, softly, rhythmically and then stopped. We looked at each other and guessed it was the one of our guys that always came when we were closed.  “Pete, for sure,” and we  agreed.

We opened the door to find Rachel, a twenty something native Canadian with a three inch gash over her  right temple, blood not fresh, but not old either. “I had no where to go.  I couldn’t find anybody.  I didn’t know what to do, so I came here.”

We ushered her in, sat her down and started to tend to her wound.  There was more: a bicycle pedal imprint over her right knee where she had been thrown, sore ribs and bruises on her body where she had been kicked and punched.

“I don’t know why I get guys that beat me up,” she said softly, between tears.  “I left my last boyfriend for this very reason.  I just found out I am a month pregnant.  What am I going to do?”

“You did the right thing to come to us,” we comforted her.

We cleaned the wound and bandaged it – thankfully it didn’t need stitches – this time.  She spoke so softly, as if her every word, let alone her presence with us was, as she thought, was such an intrusion.

“I couldn’t find Benny or Smitty or Lally, or anybody.  I had nowhere else to go.  I didn’t know what to do,” she said again, and then broke into muffled sobs.

As I watched, Erin put down the towel, and wrapped her arms around Rachel, and held her.  The sobs turned to a moaning and deep sobbing from areas of pain deep within.  She melted into Erin’s embrace, now just a little girl, all alone, with some pretty big problems. 

“There, there,” Erin whispered, “You’re Ok with us.  You are safe here.”  And she held her.

That’s it.  That’s what OIM is all about – somewhere and someone to whom you can run when the bottom falls out of life.  A safe place where someone who cares will hold you when the whole world is crashing around you.  Where you have a name.  Where you can share your pain, and know that another human being really does care.   Where, for not-enough-minutes-at-a-time, you can have a family again.

Moments of time etched on our minds, some of which will not be soon forgotten.  When something we do seems to make a whole lot of sense, in a world which doesn’t make sense at all.  If we never did another single, solitary thing for the rest of forever, we were there – and we are here – for Rachel.

Random Act of Kindness Multiplies Itself BIG time!

The Backgrounder:  OIM sponsors the 8:00 am and 5:00 pm news on a local radio station, CHRI 99.1 fm.  For one of our 60 second spots, I interviewed a young lady (we’ll call her Rachel) from our Passion for Youth art program.  In this interview, she commented on how much she enjoyed participating in the program, so much so that she says that she dosen’t even think of drugs while she is  involved in the program.  This is quite remarkable, really!

The Story:  So Rachel came to our office to get some stuff and stays a moment for a visit.  She told me this story:

Part 1:  She was panhandling on the street when a kind lady offered to buy her some supper.  She agreed and the two of them had an enjoyable time together.  She felt special because a.) she was noticed, b.) the time over a meal brought a sense of dignity, and c.) somebody actually cared.

Part 2: Two days later, this same lady comes by and Rachel is at the same spot, panhandling.  She stops and chats, one of the first questions she asked was: “Was that you that I heard on the radio?  I recognize your voice.  That was great!”

Rachel’s face beamed with joy as she answered in the affirmative. Imagine, someone recognized her!!

This is huge!  We might get a kick of being on the radio, but for Rachel, this is so much bigger.  In her part in this little story, she was recognized not just a panhandler, or even as a person who might be ‘down and out’ for the time being.  She was someone who was recognized for making a larger, positive contribution to a good cause!  Mabye even informing and influencing the way that radio listeners think about people caught in the web of poverty and homelessness.

She was radiant as she recounted this story.

It might be hard to imagine just how much of an impact this would be for someone who calls the streets their home.  Think of it for a moment:  24/7 you are struggling to survive, just trying to make it to the next day; the past continually comes before your mind: harsh words (“You are such a loser! You’ll never amount to anything!  You are worthless trash!); every imaginable form of abuse (from abusive parents and relatives, residential school system, etc); multiple foster homes; struggling to survive, and well… you fill in the gaps.

THEN someone comes up to you in the midst of your despair and darkened world and brings a burning magnesium light of hope and glory, and says, “Hey, was that you I heard on the radio?  I recognized your voice.  That was great!”

You never can know the full impact of such positive words and affirmation.  It just might be enough to change someone’s life!