YOU ARE THE
Giver of the Feast (pictures enclosed)
Hanna says that this is what she and John live by. “Forgiveness and grace. That you have to have in a marriage, in any relationship or community. People can’t change unless they receive grace from the Lord and from other people. That’s my two key words. That’s what we are all about, John and I; teaching and showing grace to other people. And I’ll be honest, we have a long way to go. Even after everything we have been through and how much we longed for forgiveness and grace ourselves, I’m still very judgmental and want to put people in a box, or check them off because they have made bad decisions.
“But we are can’t allow ourselves to do that, to judge others, because of what we have gone through. And it seems like, if I start to forget,the Lord will check me and John; will remind us of the grace we have been given. So, when the old headlines come up in the media, what it does for me is make me stop and think about whether I’ve started to let that judgmental spirit take hold again. God just brings it right back around, for me especially, that you cannot judge people based on what they have done or what you have heard. Judging is part of our evil nature, but God comes in and gives us grace. What John and I wanted in our lives when all of that was going on, what we needed the most, was exactly that.
“And that is what our message is about; what we want to share with people. It’s only by grace that John is where he is at. In different ways, we both received and gave grace. We received and gave forgiveness. That that is what life is about. That is how we are going to change our world, if we can extend grace and forgiveness to other people. Because it doesn’t matter, no matter how bad the situation you have been in or what you have done, there is always room for that to take place in your life too.
“That’s what I love about what John is doing now at the Rescue Mission. That’s what the Mission is all about. It is quite amazing that the very thing that he has gone through, he able to now be a part of. It’s pretty awesome that God can take such a situation and be able to find the opportunity for our story to be used again. What amazes me in this is that even though this was all six years ago, the Devil still tries to turn it around and break us down, but I love it, because God can’t help but be glorified in this, not matter what, how, and when.”
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. –Colossians 3:12-13
“God wants to turn your mistake into a miracle. He wants to reinstate your faith and elevate your life to the old heights — and even higher ones. He did it for David after a terrible cycle of sin, denial, scandal, and depression. He did it for Peter on a lonely seashore following a flat out betrayal. He did it for Joshua after a crushing loss to an inferior foe.” Steven Furtick. (2010). Sun Stand Still. Multinomah Books.
Looking back to June 2011, in the midst of devastation, Hanna McGee says she can see the the miracle God was beginning to perform in the life of her family. Hanna says, “We have been married for 12 years; June 24th was our anniversary. When we met. I had been interested in politics for awhile and had done and internship with a Christian organization in Washington DC. I had a heart for politics, I just didn’t know what it was going to look like. I came back to Boise and studied political science, but still just didn’t have a direction, and so someone suggested I volunteer on a campaign to get some experience. I was able to do that for a friend who was running for state legislature. John and I were running in to each other at political meetings and John ended up asking the friend that I was working with to introduce us. So he set us up on a coffee date that night and we hit it off really very quickly.
“I have to confess, I did throw a challenge at him right away. When he asked when we would go on our first official date, I told him he had to ask my dad like all my dates had done when I was in high school. John invited my parents to dinner the next week and asked my dad if he could officially date me.
“I remember my mom telling me that night, ‘you deserve someone like John.’ That really struck me because no one had ever said anything like that to me before.
“A year and a half after we started dating, John surprised me by proposing one night on the floor of the Senate. And that’s the thing, I was so happy for him, his campaign had gone so well, he had worked really hard for this and his dream, I was just totally being in his moment, and I was just so proud of him, so happy, and then he gets down on one knee and proposes.
“From there, it was a whirlwind. He was starting his career in the Senate, and I was helping him, and working in my own job in the political realm. Right away politics is what connected us. So that is what we had in common, and because I was such a newbie in a way, I was just eating it up and learning so much. It was just a perfect fit for both of us; that was our life and I really enjoyed it. Especially now, but even then, I think it is amazing how God was preparing my heart and my interests for our life together.
“But along with all of that, even before everything had happened in 2011, we also had some issues in our marriage. And, instead of dealing with the issues we had head on, I just started taking it on as pretty much my fault. I knew deep down that it wasn’t, but to me, it just felt that way.
“The nice thing, though, was that we had politics; we had our life that we knew we had been called to, so I could sweep everything under that rug. We had our cause, and you know, that rug was nice and bid and pretty and huge and it was easy to sweep anything under there.
“But we all know that sweeping things under the rug doesn’t make them actually go away. There was a point where I had to look at it all very honestly and when I finally did that, God gave me an entirely different perspective and allowed me to open my eyes. So I finally just prayed, ‘Alright God, here you go.’ I finally truly gave it all over to Him. In the past, I had given little parts of my hurt and disappointment to Him, but this time it was, ‘All right, here is all of it, because I need a miracle.
“I didn’t know it was going to happen in such a different way, but when all this started with John in June 2011, I truly feel like it was our miracle. It was all just so out of character for John. He drank on occasion, but certainly not all the time. It all started out as a bad decision to drink too much on a hot day; he didn’t drink any water, so the alcohol hit him really hard and all that kind of just started the chain of events that followed. And it just kind of went haywire.
“Because of the, John started shutting down. He was ashamed and humilitated; he really felt like he had let so many people down; not just me and our family, but everyone. So John just began to close in on himself. As the stories and speculation in the media started to snowball, things just got worse and worse.
“I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know how to be there for him, or what to say. At the same time, our long time pastor was called to a new ministry in a different state, so John lost that spiritual support. I didn’t know how to help him through it all, and I don’t think he knew who he could trust to talk to himself.
“From day one, it was horrible and I finally told John, ‘I need to go get some help. I don’t know how to deal with it and I need help.’ So I went to a professional counselor. And, I’ll be honest, I thought I was going to deal with our marital issues, just how to be, how to deal with this that was going on. But, of course, what really happened was that he helped me with my issues, we worked on me. And, in doing that, in working all of my stuff out, I could just let go and be encouraged, and my faith was renewed. You know, when you go through difficult time, you are weak, and you are tired and you just need to be built up a little bit. My counselor was able to help me deal what I needed to, so then I could be strong again.
“While God was doing that work in my life, He was also preparing John for the work He was going to do in his life. Our new pastor came and reached out to John and I think, because John was so broken, that he had nowhere to go but up, and having our pastor, Dave, be there with him just kind of guiding him along the way, helped him to turn the corner and start to have hope again.
“When his final court date came up, and his sentence was not at all what we were expecting, it felt devastating. I was so frustrated because I wanted to defend him so badly, and I wanted to write my own article, because I knew the truth and had been living through all of it with him.
“But he went to jail and the truth is, I know now that it was the best thing that could have happened. Because, in all that time he was completely alone. So he had to deal with his own demons for the most part on his own, and really face himself, and forgive himself. And it was crazy the transformation that happened in John in those 30 days.
“John would tell you he used to be a person who would give God little pieces of his life, or his faith, but he would not open the door to completely expose himself or become vulnerable or anything like that. He is a very reserved person spiritually, and I think I always prayed that God would change him and transform him, but never did I ever really think that it would happen so quickly and in such and amazing way.
“I totally did not expect it that way, especially not while he was in jail. He was just suddenly very peaceful. When we would talk, just his voice was different. And suddenly he was no longer closed in and wanting to hide from the world.
“There is a tradition we have as a family; we all go to the Corn Maze together. So my mom was starting to plan that for right after he was possibly getting out of jail and I just assumed he would not want to go. But he said, yes, I want to go. He said, ‘I can’t hide anymore. I’ve forgiven myself, God has forgiven me, what do I have to hide from?
“So yes, God definitely has done a work in John too. When he came out of jail, he was transformed into a new person. And that change has only increased over the past six years. He is so much more peaceful; he is compassionate; the empathy he has for people that have gone through difficult situations is unbelievable. He will reach out, he’ll see a news article or hear that someone is going through a hard time, and he will reach out to them with encouragement or an offer to go to coffee, or just to say, ‘you can do this, it’s okay.’ And those kinds of things, its like, that was never something he would have done before.
“From my perspective, his transformation was just phenomenal and the opportunity he has to work with people at the Rescue Mission is another expression of that. I think he does particularly have a heart for people in jail and prison. And I think his biggest message to them is that, just because you have made some bad decisions doesn’t mean your life has ended.”
Years ago, we worked to come up with one concise phrase to identify the work we were seeing God do in and through us at the Mission: He was and is Restoring Faith, Hope, and Family.
What a powerful thought. The hope of the gospel is that lives can be restored; no matter what the devastation or wounds. As I walk through our shelters every day, I see people in all stages of restoration.
Most of our guests come to us at a point when their faith is shaken, if not lost; hope is non-existent, and for most, their families are broken and seem beyond repair.
In the lives of our guests and program members, the loss of faith, hope and family is raw and visible, and at times, it is heartbreaking and painful to walk alongside them and try to help them know about the God of the universe who loves them unconditionally and has forgiven all of their sins.
This message of love and forgiveness, in every case, is shared with the people we serve by staff, volunteers, and even guests and program members who have, each and every one, experienced those very things. We have each come to understand that, no what defined our pasts, our present truth is that, through acceptance of God’s forgiveness and grace, our lives; our faith, hope and family have been restored through the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our Vice President of Development, John McGee, his wife Hanna, and their two children, Madalyn and Max, are members of our Rescue Mission family who can attest to the power of the truth and hope that can only be found in Christ.
In a recent conversation, Hanna share with me their family’s journey with God through brokenness to healing, and their heart for serving and sharing the hope they found with others.
“If there was something I wanted people to know about us, it would be that we are a couple, and a family, just like any other. It’s just that, at the most painful part of our journey to restoration, our lives were turned upside down in a very public and even humiliating way. But the truth is, we are so much better for it.
“We have a wonderful family. John and I have two incredible kids: Madalyn and Max.
“Madalyn is 8. She will be in third grade this fall and she is a firecracker, she is just a lot like her dad. She is a lot like me too, but she is very competative. She is driven, and I think there is not too much she doesn’t think she can do. When she competes, whether it is sports or a board game or whatever it is, she wants to win; She has fire in her eyes. In that way, she is just like her dad, because John is the same way. But she also has a sensitivity to people like I do, and it’s fun because, sometimes, her responses are very mature. It’s fun to see, as she continues to get older, just how her personality is maturing.
“Max just turned 7 and he’ll be in first grade this fall. And, of course, he is so different from Madalyn. But he is also so different from John and I, I think partly because we are both the eldest in our families. So John and I are very similar in a lot of things, we are not opposite like some couples might be.
“We find a lot of commonality with our daughter becase she is a first and very similar to how we are; she is a people pleaser like us, wants to be good, doesn’t want to be disciplined so she usually does things right the first time. Madalyn loves everything, and will do everything. But Max, he goes through life at his own pace. No matter what you try with him, he’s going to go at his own hurry up pace. Where Madalyn will be right there, he’s kind of like, “I don’t care. It can be funny and frustrating!
“He’s just his own guy and he walks to the beat of a different drummer than what we are used to. Max is super smart too and he likes plans. He likes to know what’s going on, what is the plan for the day. And he does get very unsure about what is unknown to him until you can show him the plan and tell him, okay, this is what you are going to do.
“And that is where, like with sports, he will never complain, he’ll show up and play, but there’s not that fire like Maddy. Or, I should say, I never saw that fire in his eyes until he started playing flag football. But I think that was because John would give the kids plays to run; they
would have a plan. So for me, it was just amazing what that did for Max; giving him a plan and telling him, ‘Okay this is your job and everyone else has a job, so you just need to do this one thing.’ It was just amazing how much more excited Max got about playing. And also more upset if the plan did not go right. He knew what he needed to do. He knew what his team needed to do.
“The incredible thing about being a parent is watching your kids become their own selves. It’s been fun, as they get older, to try to find new ways to participate in the things that that are each interested in.
(We’ll continue our conversation with Hanna in tomorrow’s post)
I was serving coffee and donuts at my church’s coffee bar Sunday and one of our former City Light guests came in with a big smile. She was with a girl who had been in our Kids Program at the Mission; quiet, very sweet.
Years after this girl and her family moved out of the Mission, she is still coming to church and still connected to our programs. Sunday, her Mom, Dad and little brother were with her and I can’t tell you the blessing it was to see them all there together.
I asked her about her summer, school starting back up, and what grade she was going into?
My next favorite question: “Where are you going to college? Without missing a beat:
At that point she and her father began a good-natured argument about her choice of schools – he wanted her to attend a different one.
We talked for a few more minutes, then they went into service, and I had to turn and pretend to wash coffee pots because I was starting to choke up.
For years, our Kids Program has worked to instill a love of school in the kids we serve, and convince them that they really can go to college. So many of our Mission kids have come in thinking college was out of reach for them and they didn’t have a chance. Now they are arguing about which one to attend. As more and more of them graduate from high school and attend college and trade schools, it really is the fulfillment of a dream.
To God be the Glory – what a great Sunday it was!!
Chief Operating Officer
The turning point for Courtney was watching her one-year-old daughter wave goodbye as her mom was driven away in the backseat of a police car. “I thought, ‘Something has got to change,’” Courtney says. Courtney had been arrested for dealing methamphetamine to an undercover informant while her daughter, Olivia, was with her.
But her darkest moment was a clear sign from God. She recalls crying out just a few days before her arrest: “God, please. I do not want to do this anymore. Help me.” Courtney had tried turning her life around before, including when her oldest child was born and then taken away by Child Protective Services when it was discovered she had used meth while pregnant. “I remember when they took my son from me and my dad called me and said, ‘How could you,’” she says. “And that’s what I was thinking on the way to jail, ‘How could you.’ Putting my daughter in that situation. That was going through my mind.”
Courtney came to Boise Rescue Mission immediately after she was released from jail and soon entered the City Light program. She’s been clean for the past three years.
“That day truly saved my life,” she says. It also saved Olivia’s. Courtney remembers never leaving the house when she was using meth. She never took Olivia to the park, but would stay up all night, peering out the windows in paranoia.“ Who wants that kind of life? Your life is being wasted away. And it wasn’t a good life for my daughter,” she says. “I’m breaking the cycle.”
Olivia has been living with her mom at City Lights for the majority of the program. She loves the Rescue Mission and is thriving. Courtney also has fostered healthy relationships with her other two children now that she’s turned her life around. “I don’t ever think about using or going back to that lifestyle, because I see my kids and I have a great relationship with them now and with my family,” she says. “This life is so much better than that old life and I don’t ever want to go back.”
NO LONGER ON
A Path of Destruction