Linney smiled broadly as he described the moment he learned he had passed his GED test. “I was in the computer lab, and I threw my hands up in the air and shouted,” he says, his rough voice hiding little of his excitement. “Everyone came running in to congratulate me.”
Like most GED recipients, Linney was proud of his accomplishment, and the satisfaction of being honest with himself and his employers was a long time coming. After all, he finally earned his GED at 51 years old.
“I left school when I was in 10th grade,” he continues. “My mom was working two jobs and my brother and I were on our own. Both of us quit school.” His brother later earned his GED and got married, but Linney wanted to live his life by his own rules.
For the next 25 years, he spent his time drinking, smoking marijuana and working at various fast-food restaurants, lying about his education in order to get hired. In 2002, he got a job working on the maintenance and grounds crew for a small apartment in Fort Worth, Texas, and he kept that job for nearly 10 years.
When his father passed away in 2011, he gained a small inheritance and spent it partying and doing drugs in 2012. In the following weeks, he hurt his foot at work, and could not pass a drug test for the injury report, so he decided to quit. “Soon it was a year later,” he says, “and I had not found a steady job. I went through my entire savings …. Next thing I knew, I was losing my place to live.”
He tried staying with friends, before ending up at a homeless shelter in Dallas.
“A friend of mine found me on Facebook,” he says, explaining how he moved to Denver and stayed with his friend’s mother, hoping to find a job and a place to live. But all his plans came crashing down when he decided to go out drinking one night and he was asked to leave. Homeless again, he moved to Colorado Springs for a few weeks to look for work, but instead, he found others who encouraged his drug habits.
Eventually, his friend in Denver contacted him again, pleading with him to find help. Linney agreed, and asked them to drop him off at a homeless center in Denver. A day later, he was walking down the street and saw the “Jesus Saves” sign on the corner of the Mission’s Lawrence Street Shelter. “I stayed there for a few nights before I decided to join the New Life Program,” he says.
In the New Life Program, he found the encouragement, counseling and accountability he needed to move beyond his drug and alcohol habits. And he built meaningful community relationships at Bloom Church in Denver, where he still attends on Sundays.
Linney gained two important things in the New Life Program. First, he built vital relationships with people like his chaplain, Matt, and the Mission’s Education Coordinator, Jason. Matt helped him understand how to apply God’s Word to situations in his life and invited him on camping and hiking trips with other guys in the program, helping them slow down and experience a little of God’s presence in nature. Jason, on his part, helped encourage him to work hard to earn his GED, often staying late after work to help him study.
The second and most important thing he gained from the program was the confidence that comes from being honest with himself and others. In his 51 years, Linney worked at more than a few jobs, and after he earned his GED, he was finally honest on a job application for the first time in his entire life. “If it weren’t for people like Matt and Jason at the Mission helping me stay focused, I’d probably still be lying on my applications,” he says.
Today, he works at Quest Diagnostics as a courier, transporting medical supplies and samples, and even his interest in driving as a career came from his experience at the Mission. “I wanted to be a driver because I drove for the Mission,” he explains. “I helped pick up donations and took other guys to church and things. I like driving, and it gives me a way to get to know Denver.” And as an added bonus, he says the job makes him feel like he’s taking after his parents who both had careers related to healthcare.
For men and women like Linney, earning a GED is just the first step on the long road to recovery, discovering what it means to provide for their own needs and their families. Each New Life Program graduate is one more person working hard to be self-sufficient and confidently contributing to society instead of hopelessly camping out on a sidewalk, unsure what to do next.
But none of these life-changing opportunities are possible without the partnership of supporters like you. We rely on your faithful gifts to provide emergency services like meals and shelter, rehabilitation through the New Life Program, transitional programs for those experiencing homelessness despite having a job, and community outreach for people experiencing poverty in our city.
Thank you for partnering with us to make these positive, life-changing opportunities a reality for the people who come to us for help.
Letter from the CEO
Denver Rescue Mission has been very committed to education over the years, mainly because we believe one of the keys to getting out of poverty is education.
One of my favorite memories of all time is seeing a middle-age man in our New Life Program stand up and read his Bible out loud in front of staff and other program participants. Why was this significant? Because when he entered the program just 90 days before, he could not read at all. It was a powerful moment, and I am not sure there was a dry eye in the place.
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Linney's story was featured in the May 2017 issue of Changing Lives titled "The Importance of Being Honest"
Also in this issue:
- Summer of Hope
- Letter from the CEO