“My life was in shambles,” begins Jason Otto as he tells of the journey that led him to Peoria Rescue Mission. Before coming to the Mission, Jason had just been put out on the street – for the second time – by his father. At age 29, he had already lived through a lifetime’s worth of struggles. He had gone through a divorce and the devastation of two miscarriages within that marriage. He had spent time in and out of jail since the age of 23 and he had grown to resent God and the world. Most everyone in his life rejected him, but his mother remained a constant source of support. Even so, his past created many issues that caused a constant state of depression for Jason.
Finding himself out on the streets once again, Jason turned to the Peoria Rescue Mission. “I ended up at the Mission in October of 2013 feeling ashamed, helpless, alone, and desperate – although I was welcomed in with open arms,” says Jason. Just two days after coming to the Mission, Jason surrendered his life to Jesus Christ after hearing the gospel message. Two weeks later, he was baptized in a local church. “I was a new Christian now,” explains Jason, “but I still lived in a dark place mentally. I didn’t know how to reap the benefits of Christ’s loving grace.”
But God began growing Jason and weaving characters into his life that would surround him with Christian fellowship. One day, as Jason was walking around town feeling especially discouraged, he met a woman at a bus stop. She invited him to a local church and Jason took her up on the offer the following Sunday. He immediately felt at home there. God had blessed him with a church family. Members from the church even invited him into their home for the holidays, and they have continued to do so for the last several years. God provided the healthy, loving family that Jason had so desperately needed and craved.
As things began to turn around for the better in his life, Jason’s spiritual life was also growing. He began to attend a second church and would visit one church for an early service and the second church for a later service. He desired to spend time with the Lord and to learn more about Him. He had become hungry for the Word of God.
The more time he spent with God, the more he could hear God speaking to him about a particular issue. It seemed that God was pulling him toward Victory Acres, Peoria Rescue Ministries’ long-term recovery program. At first, he began fighting God and this calling on his life. He did not feel as if he was ready for the Victory Acres program. “After changing my mind back and forth for several months, I finally made my decision to go – which turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made,” says Jason.
During his time at Victory Acres, he continued to grow closer to the Lord and fully surrendered everything to Him. “I have finally realized what it means to be a child of God and to be made into a new creation,” says Jason, “I now have a stronger foundation to build my life around – one that seriously cannot fall apart.” God had pulled Jason out of a life full of darkness and depression and given him new life full of hope in Him.
In June of 2016, Jason successfully graduated from the Victory Acres program. Jason has now returned to the Rescue Mission as part of the Discipleship Transitional Phase, where the men work on transitioning into normal daily life outside of the programs. He continues to grow in his faith and is involved in many local church communities. As the Mission’s “resident poet,” Jason often expresses his words and feelings in writing. Below are Jason’s words expressing thankfulness for the blessings he has received:
Peoria Rescue Mission
I was beginning to fall and doubt myself,
As I threw my positive feelings on the shelf;
I was drowning myself in the crashing waves,
Until I heard the beautiful words, “Jesus Saves.”
It’s the motto of the Peoria Rescue Mission,
Who have often answered all my questions.
They taught me how I was on a dark path,
Surely heading for the heavenly Father’s wrath;
I’m so glad they helped turn my life around,
And also showed I wasn’t too lost to be found.
So thanks to the staff for opening my eyes,
And to the people making sure I don’t die;
Thanks for helping us reach our accomplishments,
And also for your many words of encouragement.
Thank you for changing our lives in so many ways,
And I pray that God will watch over you always.
Thank You, Father
Thank you, Holy Father, for watching from high above
For allowing me to experience such amazing love
Thanks for sending your beautiful Son to Calvary
So that I could have that love for all eternity
Thank you for the air you allow me to breathe
And for the forgiveness which no man can conceive
Thank you for not allowing my soul to be lost
For my part of putting Him up on that old cross
Thank you for continuing to wake me day after day
So I can encourage others to live according to your way
Thank you for helping me through the world’s strife
And also for stepping into my heart and changing my life