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‘Moral mechanic’ reflects on life-changing time in the program a decade ago

Jun 29, 2020

Jim struggled with drugs for 30 years, starting when he was 17. His family moved from Bishop down into the city, where the offerings were more plentiful. “You could say I was hanging out with the wrong people, but the blame’s on myself,” he said. “There’s not a whole lot of that where I moved from, and suddenly I started doing everything under the sun.”

After three decades of using, Jim had alienated everyone around him. “God has a mysterious way of bringing you to your knees,” he said. “I had worn out every parent, every family member—they were all done with me. I ended up with nothing. I was living in a shed in someone’s backyard. I called over to (the mission) and they had one bed open. God brought me where I needed to be.”

Jim ended up having to leave the program to serve time for a crime he had committed. During a work-release program he relapsed. After a year-and-a-half away, Jim returned to the mission. “I came in on Dec. 2, 2008. And Pastor John (program manager) started Dec. 3rd. I knew something had to work, but whatever I was doing wasn’t it.”

On his second day in the program, Jim remembers being reprimanded for some comments he made. “Next thing I knew I was in the office, talking to John,” Jim said. “He told me what I said was rude, I was being a child. I apologized to everyone and bible study started after that. It began with a verse: ‘When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.’
“My whole life flashed before me. After that day, I turned into a complete sponge on the bible. I began living it.”

After Jim graduated, he went on to intern at the Ventura County Rescue Mission, a sister mission, doing vocational training at the auto body shop the mission used to run in Santa Paula. He got his license and helped train program men at the shop for two years, utilizing his background as a mechanic. He then returned to Victorville and ran the shower program and taught bible studies at the mission.

Jim met his wife Beth when they were both volunteering at the Ventura County mission. They took the program men on outings—everything from go-kart rides to the Harvest Fest at Dodger Stadium. They married when he was 50. When the mission closed the auto shop, Jim won the bid on the leftover equipment, and the couple moved to Bullhead City, Arizona. Beth passed away last year of cancer. “The Lord gave me a beautiful wife,” he said. “Meeting her put a total blessing on my life. It’s tragic that we’ve lost her. It’s hard, but we keep going on.”

Jim, now 58, runs a church out of his auto shop, The Moral Mechanic, where 85-100 people show up for services every Saturday night. “I went from a 46-year-old drug addict to a business owner. When we moved everything from Santa Paula, it was a complete shop. It would’ve taken a lifetime to build this glorious business. I know it wasn’t me. Only God does that—not man.”
Jim said he wrote five books while he was at the mission chronicling everything he was taught. He still uses them, leading bible studies with the lessons he learned at the mission. “When I go back to the mission, and Pastor John is teaching, some of what is on the whiteboard is in those books.”

Now Jim focuses on helping others. “One of the best gifts I got from the mission is that if someone needs help, I have a place to send them. We’ve probably sent 20 guys over there,” Jim said. “When you’re completely confident, when you just know that they’ll be able to get what they need, it’s easy to send them there. It’s up to them then, to receive what is being offered.

“I’d encourage anybody who needs help, if they’re ready, to contact the mission. If they’re ready for change, they have a place to go.”

Recently the landlord of the building next door to Jim’s shop informed him that he was going to gift him the building so he can expand church services. “It’s amazing,” he said. “We’ve been praying for that space for seven years. I can picture Beth making it to heaven, and saying, ‘I know I just got here, but I have a request, and I’m not leaving until I get it.’ She was persistent. I was talking to someone about it and they said, ‘It’s a shame that Mama Beth isn’t here to see this.’ But what she’s seeing is so much better than this. The rescue mission gave me a whole new life.”

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