The Mission Newsletter – August 2012

Sometimes it’s tragic what too much freedom can do to a child.

Growing up in Louisiana, my father was a mean, abusive man. My mother sheltered me from him — and the world — as best she could. When she finally couldn’t take his abuse anymore, she left him and moved us to San Diego.

I was 13 and tasted freedom for the first time. I saw all the big, bright lights and got a taste for the party life — marijuana, barbiturates, acid, speed, and PCP. I loved it all. Then, in 1987, I tried crack. My life spiraled out of control.

I finally moved to Los Angeles in 2006, where I had relatives who dealt crack. Within a month, I smoked away every last penny I had. My girlfriend and I ended up sleeping on the sidewalks of Skid Row outside Union Rescue Mission — we fell . . . all the way to the bottom of the world.

Every day we hustled for a few dollars and more drugs. Every night, we lay down on filthy sidewalks that reeked of human waste and slept in a drug-induced coma with giant rats that crawled over us in the darkness. In winter, we shivered in the rain, in summer — never bothering to eat or drink much — we withered, dehydrated from the heat. Summers on these streets sapped my body down to 150 pounds of skin and bones.

And I didn’t care. Because all that mattered was that next hit. By 2008, however, it seemed like the world was closing in on us. We were surrounded by the constant presence of police, drug dealers, and thieves, and I knew we couldn’t survive much longer. I told my girlfriend, “We can’t fight this anymore. We need help.” And I promised her, if she came into Union Rescue Mission with me, I’d take care of her for the rest of her life. So that’s what we did.

It was a challenge at first. So I prayed, “Lord, take this disease from me. Give me the strength to complete this program so I can live a Christ-like life.” I read my Bible every day, went to the classes, worked the 12 steps, and stayed close to God. Slowly I recovered my life.

In time, I even found a job for the first time in more than 20 years. And with that foundation, I kept my promise to my girlfriend. On June 19, 2010, we married.

That’s the power of restoration that Union Rescue Mission — and you — offers men like me.

It’s nearly impossible to describe the disaster we call Skid Row. It’s a filthy, violent inferno populated by people who are drug addicts, alcoholics, gangsters, predators, ex-cons, prostitutes, and those struggling with mental illness.

But is that all they are? It’s easy to apply those ugly labels to them. But these unfortunate men and women are more than that. They’re someone’s mom or dad . . . brother or sister . . . son or daughter. They are precious human beings who are suffering in immeasurable ways — and I’m so grateful they have people like you who care.

Thank you for investing in people trying to escape these streets. You’re helping them climb out of an underworld of disease and evil, and enabling them to rejoin a world of health and hope. Your gift is changing lives.


Andy Bales

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>