Sometimes, as the saying goes, you really do need to hit rock bottom before you can start climbing … or crawling … your way upwards.

Yesterday at Helping Up Mission in east Baltimore, where hundreds of men fighting homelessness and addiction find hope every day and night of the week, a number of us from Redeemer heard one man’s testimony.

As he tells his story, Matt had given his life to the Air Force — his days and weeks lay ordered and planned before him — until he suffered an accident in which he broke his sternum. His injury made it impossible for him to continue the work he loved with the Air Force, and he found himself without a job, without a career, sinking into desolation and despair, consumed in physical and emotional pain. Alcohol became his one consistent, dependable source of solace and relief; eventually, he found himself consuming 2-3 liters a day, while his body weight dwindled to 117 lbs.

It wasn’t until he found himself living in a shed in the backyard of an acquaintance that something inside of him stirred. He realized, he told us, that he had come to a point in his life where he had burned all his bridges; and that anyone he might have thought of, to call for help, would no longer return his call.

“And I don’t do homelessness well,” he smiled. So after 3 days of shed-living, and having identified Helping Up Mission as the closest shelter to him, he walked the 12 miles from the shed to the Mission’s doors, in the cold and rain.

The first words he heard, upon entering Helping Up, were: “Welcome home.”

“Sure,” he confessed he thought to himself with annoyance and skepticism, back then.

Three months later, Matt is a new man. He has found a community of brothers who understand his pain and what it takes to lift one another up. He is surrounded by a dedicated web of staff and volunteers, supporting him to identify and meet his physical, medical, psychological, emotional, educational, and spiritual needs; he has also been connected with the Veterans’ Administration, to receive benefits and training for a new job in the military that he can, in fact, do. Following the 12 steps of spiritual recovery, he recently reached out to his parents to make amends with them (Step 9); he told us it wasn’t as “dramatic” as he had thought it would be, they simply encouraged him to stay on the current path he is on. He is now working on taking Step 11: to seek through prayer and meditation God’s will and to have the power to carry it out. He seemed to enjoy speaking to us and sharing his story of hope and redemption.

Thanks to Matt and others at Helping Up Mission, our group from Redeemer was reminded yesterday that hope and redemption are indeed ever present and all around us, if we take the time to stop, look and listen.


P.S. Helping Up Mission is expanding to also serve women and children. Click here to learn more about their current campaign to make this new vision a reality: