From Skid Row resident to Mission volunteer
John takes his role as a mentor to program men seriously
John has made his past purposeful through volunteering at the Victor Valley Rescue Mission for the last eight years. He knows what it is like to be without a home and to feel hopeless. “We all come from broken homes,” he said. “We almost all have the same stories. I lived on Skid Row for two years in a cardboard box.”
Three days a week, the Mission provides warm showers to our homeless community. The shower ministry is a portable shower trailer that provides warm water, soaps, shampoos, and privacy. John drives the shower trailer to various locations throughout Victorville. He remembers being on the streets, unable to get clean. “I can relate,” he said. “I know what it is like not to have a shower and smell terrible.”
The shower ministry is more than just getting a nice warm shower, though. John uses this time to talk and encourage people. Each service the Mission provides is the chance to share the Gospel and to give hope. John knows and sees this—the importance of caring for others’ physical and spiritual needs. “I tell them about the cross and that God led them to come to the Mission,” he said.
“We all come from broken homes. We almost all have the same stories.”
When John is not volunteering during the week with the shower ministry, he is driving the men from the Life Recovery Program to church. This is another way John connects and speaks life into the men. He knows that becoming free of addiction can be a long road. “I tell the guys it does not happen overnight,” he said. “I encourage the guys that want to leave to stay. They need to submit to God and He can change their life.”
John said he finds taking the men to church is the most rewarding part. He builds relationships with them and fills missing spaces in their lives. “They call me their father or uncle or cousin or whatever they need me to be for them,” he said.
On drives back from the church, they discuss the sermons and uplift each other through sharing and praying. John Schmidt, the Mission’s program manager, sees that John is more than just a volunteer. “He has a great mentoring relationship with many of the men in our program who love him and look up to him,” Schmidt said.
John’s selflessness is evident in the way he speaks about his volunteerism. “We are here for the people,” he said. “We are not here for ourselves.” John finds joy in seeing the transformation in the people the Mission serves. “People show up with frowns on their faces and leave with a smile.”
John wants others to know the joy that comes from volunteering. “The Mission can always use more volunteers and all you need to do is just show up,” he said. “Come just to help and talk with the people.”
Helping out at the Mission reminds John that he “was once in their shoes” and does not want to go back. John stays motivated by being around the men at the Mission. “They help me and I help them and that is what keeps me going,” he said. “Their smiles bring happiness to my heart.”