Bethesda News

The Influence of Two Men in the Lives of a Boy and a Teen

Here at Bethesda Mission we have the privilege and responsibility to tell vivid stories to help us understand the formidable challenges that our guests face and how the introduction of God’s perspective into their lives creates opportunities which often lead to a transformed life. In honor of Father’s Day this month, I want to share reflections from the stories of Ryan and Leonard (nicknamed Video) to visualize the influence of a father or a man in a boy’s life…

What brought Ryan to walk up those steps underneath the Green Cross at our refuge on a hill, the Men’s Shelter, was a life full of conflict, chaos, disappointment and failed promises leading toself-destruction. See it through the lens of Ryan’s eyes:

“I grew up living through six divorces. I experienced domestic violence in my family. I got into fights from preschool through high school. I started smoking weed in 7th grade. The partying increased after graduating from high school; drinking and cocaine use increased. At 21, I snorted Percocet 30 mg while partying and got a girl pregnant, but it didn’t change my Percocet use. When Percocet didn’t work as well anymore, I started doing heroin at the age of 22. The relationship with my son’s mother broke down and failed completely because now I was a heroin junkie.”

“I went down this path because at the parties I felt loved and needed. Living with so many divorces, I felt unloved and used like a piece on a game board – to help the divorce go in someone’s favor. No ‘parent,’ no ‘man’ was ever steady enough in my life to be a role model.”

A Different Path
“I was invited to the Christian Life Assembly church in 7th grade; I stopped going because I was scared. A man named Jeff Ling was the best role model I did have and I also turned away from him. Accepting the love of Jeff, who was a Christian, and the church would have put me on a very different path. The reason I was scared was because I was afraid that the honest love that they offered me wouldn’t last. I thought they would end up tossing me aside, or that the love would turn out to be false. I backed off completely and didn’t go anymore. I ran away from what I was missing in my life and went toward self-destruction. If I had let the only positive male role model stay in my life, he could have led me down the path of love and growth. Again, since I was missing honesty, love, care and compassion when it was offered to me, I ran away and put walls up to protect myself. I shut out what I needed most. The guilt I felt for shutting Jeff and the church out just pushed me deeper into the parties and drug use. It made me forget and if I did happen to remember, it was just numbed and then forgotten again. If I had just accepted what I needed it could have lead me down a better path.”

Ryan completed our life recovery program last year and found good employment while here. He moved out during our extended quarantine because he was going to lose his job. His roommates relapsed and he reached out to Bill at the Men’s Shelter to come back …to the people he knew who were a positive impact in his life. He came back and is working at the same place of employment and was promoted to a higher position. Ryan is saving his money and meeting obligations for child support. He plans to start connecting with Christian Life Assembly again which will be his church fellowship when he moves out.

Ryan’s knowledge of Christ and his walk were lacking but he has made good progress in these areas. Through all of these recent trials Ryan did not use or detour from his goals of keeping his job, paying his obligations and saving for a car. He is staying on course and as of now has over $3000 saved to put down on a used car. Ryan has demonstrated great patience with all that has happened in his life, and we are joyful in seeing his growth and maturity. Ryan clearly and painfully recognizes the lack of a positive, manly role model, but he sought and is receiving that influence by the staff at the Men’s Mission. His future is bright!


Leonard has been part of the Community Center throughout grade school and teenage years. Everyone calls him by his nickname, “Video.” Why? In his words, “As a toddler, I enjoyed playing video games. When my dad wanted to get my attention, he said my name a few times but I didn’t answer. So he said ‘video arcade’ and I answered him.”


Hear Video’s reflection on growing up and the influence of godly men in his formative years: Bethesda Mission has been a home to me, helped me grow up to be the young man I am today. As a young kid, I was just a bad little kid. Going to Bethesda Mission helped me to stay off the street and not get into drugs and gangs. Having so many role models gave me another way to grow up in this city, showed me another way to live, a better life than what my city had to offer. I did not know anything about God when first coming to the Community Center. The staff has built something inside of me that connected me with God. Being around the Community Center helping kids like me is a passion that I would have never found without God and Bethesda Mission; God has a great path ahead for me.

Video goes to Sci-Tech, is an honor student, and is a pitcher for the Harrisburg High School baseball team. He is headed to Messiah College in the fall, looking forward to getting a good education, and desiring to grow in his relationship with God. Video says, “I will still be around to help mentor kids like what was given to me, to help them and encourage them to make a choice to live for God.”

Jesus Christ is the best role model we could ever choose, perfect in every way, perfect because of His amazing love for all of us. Our staff ’s desire each day is to model Christ’s example before every Ryan and Video that God influences to enter our doors.


In Him,
Scott Dunwoody
Executive Director

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as
silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of
life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the
precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
1 Peter 1:18-19

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