Testimony of the Month
Editor’s Note: We are often asked about people who have shared their testimony in the Rescue Mission’s newsletter, “How are they doing now?” So every once in a while, we like to bring you follow-up stories about New Life Program graduates whom we have featured in The Rescuer. These “where are they now?” editions help paint a picture of the successes and struggles that the formerly homeless face as they transition away from the Rescue Mission and into everyday life, all while trying to maintain sobriety and a close walk with God.
This month we bring you an update from Doug MacMillan, whose testimony was first featured in the Rescuer’s October 2014 edition. You can find Doug’s original testimony here.
Two weeks ago, I was baptized for the second time. Yes, I realize God only calls people to be baptized once, but after growing in my relationship with God during the last 18 months, I realized that my first baptism was a sham.
The first time, I was baptized for the show of it. I did it so people would take notice and think I was a spiritual person. But after developing a real relationship with God, learning to depend on Him and trusting His people, I was baptized for the right reasons. I wanted to obey God and show others that He made me into a new person.
These past 18 months have been a great time of growing in sobriety, employment and trust in God. When I last shared my story in the Rescuer, I was preparing to move into the Terri Timmerman Freedom House. Now, having lived at Freedom House for a year and a half, I feel like a real person again, not the homeless drug addict I once was. My worst day sober is 20 times better than my best day getting high.
Living here at Freedom House, the Rescue Mission’s transitional home for men, I have learned to get along with roommates. We work out our differences, deal with each other’s idiosyncrasies and still show love. It’s not always easy, but learning to live with other people, all while staying sober, is one of the most important things God has taught me.
And as He has been teaching me, He has been blessing me. I have steady work, mostly on road construction projects. And after 20 years of not holding a driver’s license, I am driving again. The process of getting my license really tested me. While I had a license in the past, it was so long ago that I wasn’t in the DLD’s computer system. The Driver’s License Division could find no record that I had ever passed driver’s education or been licensed to drive. So after a written test, a driving test and 90-days on a learner’s permit, I finally got my license.
While that might not seem like a big deal, the headache and hassle of trying to get my license is something that would have driven me to substance abuse in the past. I thank God that I can now deal with these semi-frustrating life issues without turning to drugs or alcohol.
Owning a license and a car, which I saved up for and purchased, has made a big difference in my ability to work. I have been employed on road construction projects and have worked as far away as Blanding, Utah. Without my car, I wouldn’t be as employable as I am. I feel like a real adult now. I even pay my car insurance in six-month increments, which probably seems routine for most people, but for me—someone who has been habitually in debt and addicted—it makes me feel empowered. I feel like I am a responsible person who is taking care of himself, even as I realize it is God who is really providing for me.
But it wasn’t always like this.
I spent 17 years of my life in prison or jail and many more on the streets. I started using drugs when I was 10 years old (after my brothers taught me how to shoot heroin) and suffered abuse at the hands of my parents, who both died before I was 20 years old. My life was a complete mess of crime, drugs and homelessness before I came to the Rescue Mission in February of 2013. When I walked in, tattoos from head to toe and only a few teeth left in my mouth from years of street life, I am sure most people thought I would never make it. But the Rescue Mission staff and counselors loved me, believed in me and, most of all, taught me about God and His forgiveness. Receiving God’s forgiveness through His Son, Jesus, allowed me to forgive all the people who had ever wronged me, including my parents. Receiving forgiveness and being able to forgive others changed me as a human being.
Today, I have a great church family at Midvalley Bible Church. They don’t treat me like a formerly homeless person, but like a friend. When my car broke down and I couldn’t afford to fix it, they pitched in and helped me out. When I don’t show up for church on Sunday, people come up to me the following week and ask me where I was. I need that kind of love and accountability.
Of course, the biggest blessing in my life continues to be Rescue Mission volunteers Jim and Claire Devore, who have basically adopted me like a son. They regularly have me over for dinner and treat me like family. I know if I ever need anything, they will be there for me.
I still need prayer for my own biological family. I haven’t been able to connect with my daughter, who is now 13. As an addict and homeless person, I wasn’t there for here. Now that I have been sober for three years, have steady work and am a healthy person again, I would love to have a relationship with her. Still, I realize why she and her mom may be reluctant.
I left my phone number and address with my cousins, who often see my daughter, and asked them to tell her that I would love to get in touch. But as of yet, she has not reached out to me. I believe my best course is to trust in the Lord and not be overly persistent in trying to contact her. I know that God’s timing is perfect and when, or if, she is ever ready to contact me, she will. It’s difficult for me not to have a relationship with her, but I understand it was difficult for her not to have contact with me growing up. I have to trust that God will work it out somehow, someday.
I continue to seek God’s will about when I should move out of Freedom House. I know it is not common for someone to spend 18 months in transitional housing, but my life is so good right now, that it’s hard for me to seek change unless I see God clearly opening up a new door for me. Right now I have everything I need. It’s not everything I want, but it is everything I need. I pay all my bills, maintain a clean house and get along with my roommates. I am truly blessed.
Please continue to pray for me. I don’t think I will ever use drugs again, but please ask God to help me continue resisting. Ask God to restart my relationship with my daughter, if that is His will. And pray for His wisdom about when I should move out of Freedom House and into a place of my own. I have come so far, it’s almost unbelievable, and I pray that it would be God who continues to lead my steps moving forward.
To learn more about what is happening at the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake in June, check out our monthly newsletter, The Rescuer: