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Brian grew up in an abusive, non-Christian home and fell into addiction, which led to him leaving his pregnant wife and sleeping in his car. A turning point came when he met a Christian man named Andy Brown, who helped him find a job and insisted he attend church. Brian eventually committed his life to Christ, which led to a radical change in his life, including overcoming his addiction. Listen to his incredible story and how he is now giving back with Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission.
I tried to move in with my parents. They let me stay a night or two, but wanted me to get back with my wife. But again, I was so caught up in addiction that I didn’t. I ended up sleeping in my car across from one of my three jobs that I had, in the middle of winter, in the middle of Kansas and it was horrible. And that was it. It was like, “What am I doing?” I was sitting in my car and I was looking at work and something inside of me just snapped and I said, “What in the world am I doing?”
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I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. Pretty much, it was an anti-Christian home. Lots of trauma, lots of abuse, and like I said, suffered a lot of abuse, mainly from my father growing up. So, it was a pretty rough childhood.
My lowest point was probably when I was… Well, not probably. I was caught up in addiction and my wife was pregnant with our first daughter, or our only daughter I guess. And during that time I was spending all of our money on drugs and alcohol. And gone most of the time. With my wife bringing in a new child, she didn’t want the father… She didn’t want her to see who I was.
So, she wanted me to get some help and I refused to get some help and I left. And addiction had driven me so far that it meant nothing for me to leave as a new father out of that situation.
I tried to move in with my parents. They let me stay a night or two, but wanted me to get back with my wife. But again, I was so caught up in addiction that I didn’t. I ended up sleeping in my car across from one of my three jobs that I had, in the middle of winter, in the middle of Kansas. And it was horrible. And that was it. It was just like, “What am I doing?” I was sitting in my car and I was looking at work and something inside of me just snapped. And I said, “What in the world am I doing?” And I just said, “I do need to get help. I need to get this thing turned around.”
And so I went back the next day to my wife and told her, “I’ll get help. I’ll do whatever it takes” and she took me back.
And so started on that road of getting help, but I couldn’t get help where I lived. I had too many connections. And so I started… She grew up going to church, so church was the solution for her, but I was still connected to people that were helping me with my addiction.
A gentleman by the name of Andy Brown came into my life at one of my jobs and Andy became my friend. I knew he was a Christian. I didn’t like that, that he was a Christian. He talked to me about God all the time and at one point I threatened his life if he ever talked about God again. And he never gave up. He quit talking about God, but he was always there. He never gave up on me. It was an opportunity for me to take a job in Kansas City and move away and it was a better job. It was a better position.
And so I accepted the position, because I knew if I wouldn’t that my wife would leave me. And I took it and there was a two-week period of time between the time I moved down to Kansas City before my wife and my unborn child moved. And he said, “You can stay with me. I’ll pay all your expenses. I’ll do everything on one condition. That you go to church.”
And I thought, “Here’s the God thing again, all over again. Great.” So I agreed. He said, “Well, where do you want to go to church?” And I thought, “My wife went to a Baptist church, so why not go to a Baptist church?” So he said, “Okay, we take our daughter to this church.”
And so I went for the first time and I remember I couldn’t get out of there the first time, I couldn’t get out of there quick enough and get back into my car to listen to AC/DC, Hell’s Bells, and get that stupid hymn music out of my head.
But as I’m walking down the steps, some guy met me at the stairs and it was the pastor and somehow, some way he knew that I loved to fish and I loved to hunt and connected with me through that. We built a relationship and then on January 31st, was a Saturday following a sermon that he gave, that told me… That just said, “Where are you going to go when you die?” And I’d heard that a hundred times, but that day I realized that I wasn’t going to heaven and it scared me.
I didn’t sleep for a week. And then on Saturday, January 31st, I went to his office and said, “I want to go to heaven.” And that’s the moment that I committed my life to Christ and it was like a radical change. Everything just started changing. The way I see things, the addiction, just everything went away. And it’s been an amazing ride since.
It’s so funny. I just shared this morning with my team. I pastored for a number of years and felt like that’s where God was calling me to be in my life, but after about six, seven years of pastoring, I realized that’s not the trajectory that I wanted in my life. We got into some places where I got hurt, my family got hurt.
My wife and I grew up out here in Seattle. Or were born out here, sorry. Grew up in different places. And my grandfather was out here and we felt like it was time to move back and start fresh. And then as I was working a secular job, I realized that I needed to get back into doing something and I had volunteered at other rescue missions, so I thought maybe that was the solution. So, I went on Seattle Junior Gospel mission’s website, and instead of clicking on volunteering, I clicked on careers and I saw a case management position.
I read through it and I realized, “Man, this is everything that I loved about being a pastor” and all the bad stuff wasn’t there. And I thought, “This is perfect.”
I took it to my wife, went through some interviews, then asked the inevitable question, “What does it pay?” And it was significant and we decided to step out in faith and take this position.
Then one week into the position, I got a call that my brother committed suicide and it ruined me quickly. And the president that was here when I first started Herb [inaudible 00:08:29], I had never met Herb. I’d only been at the job for a week, but Herb called me and said, “You don’t know me, but I felt like I needed to call you and tell you to hang on.” And I did.
After I got back, a week after I got back, I was sitting in my office and they called me and said, “Could you do an intake? There isn’t anybody else to do an intake. Can you do an intake?” And I’m like, “I don’t even know what to ask, but okay.” So I did.
The young man comes and he’s obviously scared to death, just scared. Hadn’t been on the street for very long, distraught, and I didn’t know what to ask him, so I’m like, “Why are you homeless?” That was the question I asked him. It’s been two weeks since my brother had passed away, and he said, “Two weeks ago, my brother passed away and it left me homeless and distraught.”
It was at that moment where I realized that all the stuff that I’d went through in my life had prepared me to be at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, and it’s been the same ever since. God continues to use my story and my tragedy and my life to make a difference in so many other lives.
In a city at times best known for its cold shoulder, Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission has been transforming lives for over 90 years. Back during the Great Depression, they started by serving soup to those in need. Today, they offer round the clock care 24/7 to thousands in the greater Seattle area.
Motivated by faith and hope, they want everyone to know that they are loved, cared for by us and by God. They’re more than just a shelter. They’re a place of healing. They address root causes and break the cycle of homelessness through relationships and long-term recovery programs.
Join the mission in Making a Difference. Volunteer, donate, and be inspired at ugm.org.
Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission where hope transforms lives.
Yeah, so search and rescue started. Bill Vanderver, who was the Director at the time, back in the early two thousands, looked out the window and saw a guy sleeping across the street. It was dead winter, snow on the ground, he had no blanket, he had nothing. And he just scratched his head and said, “Why are we making them come to us? Why don’t we go to them?”
So, that day, Bill got out of his office, went and grabbed a blanket from one of the beds, and took it over. Covered him up, brought him some food, and that’s where it started. And then after that, bill decided, we have vans. Why don’t we just load up vans and go to the streets? And so that’s where it started and that’s where it grew from.
Jesus. That’s what the difference is. It’s Jesus. We’ve all tried it on our own and it doesn’t work and we need relationship and the best kind of relationship is the one that offers grace, that offers forgiveness, that offers love at a deep level, one that’s unconditional, that isn’t based on whether you clean up your life or whether you change today. It’s based on that and that’s what makes us different.
We’ve had all kinds of relationships. I’ve had all kinds of relationships, and unfortunately a good portion of those are broken. Because they’re broken, I’ve never figured out how to do things healthy.
The importance of the relationships that we have now is what we refer to and have referred to for many years as a replacement experience. How do you have a healthy relationship? How do you enjoy life with somebody in a healthy relationship? And that’s important for us. It’s that. It’s showing the acceptance and showing the grace and showing the love and keep showing up just like Andy did for me, regardless of how they feel about me, we keep showing up and we keep offering what we can to build that relationship.
And eventually, we build trust and trust is what eventually changes somebody’s life, because they say, “Okay, he does care about me and I can trust that what he’s saying, that going here or doing that or doing this, I trust him.” And they take that step.
We’ve lived through God showing up in our lives and brought healing in these places, and as we’ve done that and we’ve walked through that part of our life, that’s what makes us so different, is that we have a lot of people that have taken what was meant to harm us and turn it into good. And continuing to use our stories to help people walk through.
There’s nothing greater in helping somebody than commonality. Than them saying… At the end of their story saying, “Is that all you got? That’s all you’re going through? Here’s what I went through and here’s how God stepped in and did this and did this. And he can do the same for you.” And inside of a relationship and inside of trust. That’s huge.
Outreach is a great opportunity. You can sign up to actually go on. We have teams that go out during the day, we have teams that go out during the night, and you can get involved. You can go out and see and come along and see what it looks like to build relationship. You can see what it looks like to put your faith into action. And the biggest thing is you get to see stories. All of us have thoughts of what it is to be homeless and I love those moments when somebody realizes that some of the folks that we work with and relate to never had a chance. Never had a chance from birth. And being able to see that and to build those relationships has been huge.
We also have a ton of other volunteer opportunities in all of our facilities that people can get involved in as well.
Yeah, I hear over and over again, “If they just get a job, if they just do this or they just do that, or they just do this,” and a lot of them don’t understand that they live on a life of lies that have been told them that they’re not going to be successful and they’re not going to be good, and that all the pain that they have in their life, they deserve to have it. And because that’s what they’ve been told in their life. And I think understanding that once you change those internal pieces, once you change those internal pieces, you begin to see that they are more apt to do that, because they begin to change their own perspective of life. They begin getting value back. They begin wanting and desiring to change their life and to do something different, because they have somebody beside them and they have somebody that believes in them. But then they start believing in themselves when some of those things and some of those lies get changed into truths about who they really are and who God sees them to be. And it makes a huge difference.
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