21 Jan Chuck’s Story
It was a rainy day in February 2013. With only the clothes he was wearing, Chuck left the house where he’d been staying temporarily with one goal in mind: Find a downtown Des Moines drug house.
But at the last minute he turned on to 6th Avenue and saw Hope Ministries’ men’s shelter. “I said out loud, ‘I am not going to that place.’ But the rain got heavier,” he remembers. “I’m standing there cold and soaked through. I’m thinking, ‘I got nothing left in me.’”
He crossed the road, stepped up to our front door . . . turned away. “I went back and forth across that road three times,” he says, until finally—desperate, broken and hurting—he made it inside.
That was six years ago. Chuck is a different man today, inside and out. But the journey to who he is now wasn’t easy . . .
Rescued from his past
In the circumstances Chuck grew up in, “it wasn’t strange to be a criminal,” he recalls. “Drugs were always around.” He tried marijuana for the first time at 14. In the 1980s, he moved on to cocaine. By the late 1990s and into the 2000s, he’d started using meth. “My life was a mess. I’d always say I wasn’t going to use again, but I always did.”
His drug use contributed to his divorce and affected his relationships with his kids, as well as his employment and living situation. “I went through treatment in the past and I learned a lot about myself. But I know now that I was always missing the key piece.”
Chuck found that key piece—God’s transforming love—at Hope Ministries. “I could feel it when I walked through the door,” he remembers. “Something was different here. I didn’t know what at first, but I felt hope for the first time. They loved me at Hope Ministries like no one else. They cared for me and it was just . . . profound.”
As he looks back to that time, Chuck says he’s still amazed by what happened in his life during his year in our life recovery program. “I became accountable for the first time in my life. I learned how to be dependable. I realized I didn’t have to be alone anymore.”
Restored to his family
One of the sweetest pieces of Chuck’s story is how God restored his relationship with his then-ex-wife—LaVonne. They’d been divorced for many years before Chuck came to Hope Ministries, but had stayed in contact. “I wanted to go home eventually,” Chuck says, “but not until I was the man I needed to be.” Halfway through our program he emailed LaVonne to let her know he was okay, but it wasn’t until his eleventh month in recovery that he met with her in person. They were remarried by one of our case managers, an ordained pastor, about a year after Chuck completed our program. “God restored so much. It’s amazing. I never could’ve imagined it.”
But Chuck still had a hard road to walk. In the summer of 2015, the couple lost both his dad and hers within 13 hours of each other. That fall, Chuck had a stroke. And only months later, Chuck and LaVonne lost their son. “Honestly, I didn’t think we’d get through it. I don’t think that grief ever goes away. It’s only by God’s grace that I’m sustained. He’s seen me through so much.”
Committed to sharing hope
Today, as a member of our Hope Ministries staff, Chuck finds purpose in all he’s gone through. He’s part of our maintenance team, spending much of his time working at our men’s recovery center . . . which means he has countless opportunities to talk with men who are right where he was years ago.
“I love that I was healed, restored and loved here, and now I get to be a part of what was already in motion before I got here,” he says.
Chuck says if he hadn’t come to Hope Ministries in 2013, he’d probably still be using, possibly in prison . . . or worse, he might not be alive at all. But today, “My worst day now is better than my best day back then. God has taken my guilt and shame and replaced it with hope.”
These days, in addition to working at Hope Ministries, Chuck loves spending time with his grandchildren. “My grand- daughter fell asleep on my lap the other night and I looked down at her and thought, ‘I know there’s a God . . . and He loves me.’”