A Life Transformed to Help Others
by Don Koch, Director of Social Services
My name is Don Koch, Director of Social Services. I can relate to a lot of the men at the Mission, as I too was once homeless, addicted, and felt hopeless.
I grew up in a dysfunctional and abusive home. I was an angry, hurt, and scared young man. Eventually, I turned to drugs and alcohol and the people who used them. As a teen, I became homeless, sleeping wherever I could lay my head. I was unwanted at home and, frankly, the streets were, in some ways, better.
I seemingly pulled myself up from my bootstraps, had a decent job and an apartment in my senior year of high school. I even graduated! But the pain from my childhood caught up with me and I began to use drugs and alcohol even more heavily. My anger and addiction also caught up with me to the point of near death, prison, and deteriorating mental health.
When I was 28, everything changed. I went to church with a friend, and surrendered my life to Jesus. I began to see everything differently, and the Lord began to heal all the hurt, anger, and fear that I had carried for so long. I became a new person!
That was in 1996, and I have been drug and alcohol free ever since. Looking back, I see that Jesus was there the whole time through the Christian witnesses that He put in my life. There was a Christian couple who witnessed to me on the streets when I was 12 and friends who invited me to VBS where I learned about Jesus at a young age. Then there was the friend who invited me to church in 1996 when I finally surrendered to Christ.
Shortly after, the Lord placed on my heart that I would be used to help those going through what I had been through. It is my highest privilege to see God work in the hearts of people who are broken like I was, and see them transformed by His love.
We see many lives changed at Bethesda Mission. When men enter, I get to meet them one-on-one as the Director of Social Services and am able to share the gospel with every one of them. I am also able to assess how to help them: do they have mental health issues, substance abuse issues, physical health problems, or poor life-skills? Once that has been determined, they can be placed in either our drug and alcohol program, “New Beginnings,” or outpatient drug and alcohol counseling. If they have mental health issues, we can help them obtain mental health services; physical health issues, help them obtain medical assistance and a medical provider, or find assistance at our excellent medical and dental clinics here on site. We help our great veterans get connected with VA services. We help the whole person so these issues won’t again lead to homelessness and defeat.
The Social Service program is also enriched by a 5-week discipleship program to help men experience the love and presence of Jesus, coming to know Him as Lord and Savior, and growing in their faith. This is taught by our staff chaplain, Kevin Murphy.
One such transformed life is Brian. He had been here before and was often angry and stubborn, with a long history of drug abuse. At one point in his life, he was involved in gangs and, as a result, was shot and badly injured. He became a Muslim while in prison and practiced Islam for years. But this time, while here at Bethesda in Social Services, he went through our discipleship program and determined for himself that everything is pointing to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. At one point, he and his Dauphin County case manager were in my office, and she said, “I like the new Brian.” He responded, “that’s because I am giving my life to Jesus.” She could already see the changed and new person in front of her!
“Brian is truly a new man, serving God…[and] learning to live in the true freedom that only Jesus can give.”
Brian is truly a new man, serving God, and a member of a local church. He is going to counseling and has good brothers and sisters in Christ in his life as he grows. He will also be in a position to get a great housing situation soon. He enjoys serving and helping others, has a peace in his life, and is no longer an angry, downcast person. He is learning to live in the true freedom that only Jesus can give.
All glory to God!
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