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Chance Encounter Changes Lives


When Ruben reflects on his former life, he points to the abundance of tattoos on his body. “What you see is who I used to be.”

Ruben grew up in Los Angeles, and got involved with a gang young. He married and had kids, but both he and his wife were using. “We had children, so we needed to do something. We hit rock bottom. We were miserable.”

They moved to Hesperia to start fresh and be closer to Ruben’s family. “We moved up here to get away from all that crazy stuff,” Ruben said. “But I still got involved. If you look for it, you’re going to find it.”

But after receiving a flyer for a local church, Ruben felt called to attend. “My dad’s a pastor, so I grew up with God and church in my life,” he said. “I always knew I’d get back into church, I just didn’t know how and when.”

It’s there Ruben met Pastor John Schmidt, the program director at the Victor Valley Rescue Mission, known for his commitment to the men he mentors. “I jumped head in, and I was hooked,” Ruben said. “It was really good for me and for my marriage. It was a changing point in my family’s lives.”

Ruben, now 46, considers that meeting the end of a past life. Even though Ruben didn’t enter a program, he reaped the benefits of Schmidt’s wisdom. “I tried to get off drugs in the past and was never able to,” he said. “But miraculously, I just stopped doing everything when I started going to church. I didn’t have withdrawals or get sick or anything like that. It was a miracle.”

Ruben started volunteering at the mission’s thrift store a year-and-a-half ago, and was hired as a security guard six months ago. He was familiar with the mission and knew he would feel good about working somewhere that supported its programs.

“I knew I wanted to be here,” Ruben said. “I got to know some of the people, so when a position opened up, I jumped at it. I love it here. … I don’t know how long I’m going to be here—if God plans to keeps me here forever, that’s fine.”

Ruben has been married for 27 years now, and beams with pride when talking about his son, who just graduated high school, and his daughter, in her second year at Cal State San Bernardino. “Life is good,” he said with a smile.

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