June 19, 2012 in City

Graduating in grace

Union Gospel Mission encourages rebuilding lives
By The Spokesman-Review
Colin Mulvany photoBuy this photo

Derek Mobley will graduate from homelessness this evening after two rigorous years in the Union Gospel Mission’s Grace Program. He has gone from abusing drugs and alcohol to working as a chef at the Spokane Country Club.
(Full-size photo)

Derek Mobley will be the first to tell you that he made some bad choices growing up in California.

“Did drugs, sold drugs, gang violence,” said Mobley, 49. “I’ve been stabbed. I’ve been shot. We all did things that were a product of our environment.”

Now, Mobley, who grew up without a father figure and has struggled with drugs and alcohol on and off since he was 12 years old, is working as a chef at the Spokane Country Club and has been sober for two years. He is one of 12 people – five women and seven men – who will be recognized for their completion of the Union Gospel Mission’s Grace Program in a graduation ceremony today.

Mobley said he now plans to “take the hustle I learned when I was a kid and hustle for God.”

Prior to enrolling in the program, Mobley worked on a natural gas pipeline, where he made good money but lacked a connection to his family, himself or God. Eventually, he said, the emptiness and loneliness got to him and he started drinking again.

“I relapsed and went downhill fast,” he said.

But Mobley is now working toward building healthy relationships, rebuilding ones broken by years of drug and alcohol abuse, and getting involved in his church and the community. He volunteers at a food bank.

He attributes much of that success to the Union Gospel Mission’s faith-based recovery program. The rigorous, 18-month program includes one-on-one counseling and daily classes teaching a variety of life skills.

After completing the program, participants have to prove they can live successfully on their own, clean and sober, for a minimum of six months before graduating.

“They want you to be successful,” Mobley said. “These are men who listen to me talk. You get to lay out your whole life map, and we can figure out why we do the things we do. You can see what put you on that path.”

His counselor, Dave Edwards, said the program is more comprehensive than most 30-, 60-, or 90-day drug and alcohol programs. Rather than imposing a set of rules and achieving conformity by giving participants a to-do list in order to graduate, a method Edwards calls “checking the boxes,” participants in the mission’s Grace Program seek “the heart change,” or a real desire to rebuild healthy lives.

The recovery program was revamped in 2008, and since then 67 people have graduated.

It’s free to participants and is funded primarily through private donations and grants.

“It’s really a life-recovery program versus a drug and alcohol program,” Edwards said. “We obviously require that the men be sober and stay sober during the program. However, we see drugs and alcohol as a symptom of the problem, not the problem.”

He added, “So what we go after in the program is the fact that most of the men are deeply hurt and angry.”

Edwards called the affable and talkative Mobley a “mover and a shaker.”

“He’s not exactly shy and bashful,” he said. “I told him, ‘You’re going to lead no matter what, whether it’s in the right direction or the wrong direction.’ ”

Mobley intends to continue in the right direction.

“I plan on doing a lot more for my community and for people,” he said. “It’s a better life for me. I can sleep well at night. I’m at peace.”

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