Having a ministry to men was not something Pastor Garland Gauthier Jr. ever envisioned, but he has long been committed to sharing what Jesus has done in his own life. By founding a rehabilitation home in Perris, California, Gauthier has seen similar miracles take place in more than 1,100 graduates since 2005. These former prisoners, substance abusers, gang members and others now live for Christ.
Hacienda Christian Life Campus is part of God's Helping Hand Ministries, a nonprofit corporation that reaches out on behalf of His Light Assembly of God in Menifee, California, which Gauthier, 68, has pastored since 1990. Among GHH's efforts are four thrift stores Hacienda men and staff operate, making the ministry self-supporting, along with donations of money and goods from the business community.
As a substance abuser in 1984, Gauthier says he only cared about his next high and on plotting the death of his mother's murderer. Instead, after a nine-month bout of depression, he cried out to God and accepted Jesus as his Savior.
"My life just completely turned around," says Gauthier, now presbyter of the Riverside section of the AG Southern California district. "That's the passion that motivates what I do. I lived in darkness and am so appreciative of God's divine power, so I wanted to reach out to people who had the same problem."
It started with Gauthier and his wife, Carolyn, taking in a man, and later five more. Eventually, they got the chance to rent a facility that became the Hacienda. It grew to 18 men, becoming a formal ministry eight years ago, and today has a 74-man capacity.
It is a structured environment, including job and Christian discipleship training. The ministry is an around-the-clock commitment open only to those willing to change, complete an extensive intake procedure, and sign a contract for a one-year commitment.
|Ray Darby graduated from the Hacienda program and now directs an extension campus.|
"They have to want what we have to offer and be able to convince us they want and need to be here and be willing to do whatever it takes," says Donnie Callihan, 70, campus director since 1995. "We're not just putting up a shelter and giving free 'hots and a cot.'"
It is also not about following a program; instead, Jesus is held up as the answer, and entrants are led to cultivate a relationship with Him.
"It's not about saying no to drugs; it's about saying yes to Jesus," Callihan says. "We expect spiritual growth in every individual and expect the positive influence in their lives."
Callihan says ministry leaders are indeed seeing fruit, with men formerly going nowhere becoming assets to the community. The Hacienda's high success rate has even caught the attention of the California court system.
Several jurisdictions have recognized the Hacienda as an alternative sentencing program, and some offenders now petition the court to participate. Parole officers also ask the Hacienda to interview convicts for possible acceptance. Several police departments likewise use the Hacienda as a re-entry facility.
Graduates can ask to remain after their year, if they feel more time is needed to rebuild their lives before returning to society. They must remain productive, either working full time in the ministry or part time there and part time elsewhere. About half the Hacienda's staffers are graduates.
Assistant Director Brad Young, 53, joined full time upon graduating from the program in 2005. Among his duties are thrift store and vehicle donation administration, and teaching anger management classes as a certified facilitator.
In and out of jail on drug charges, Young heard about the Hacienda from his parole officer. About three weeks after entering the residence, Young says he was transformed during an altar call. He now loves showing others there is a better way to recovery, both practically and spiritually.
"A lot of them have never had a job, so it's great just to see them for the first time get a paycheck," Young says.
Evan Reading, 40, graduated in 2010 and now works full time off campus and part time as a Hacienda volunteer. A self-described alcoholic by age 16, and methamphetamine addict by 21, Reading voluntarily became homeless, living out of his car so he could devote himself to drugs and alcohol.
He heard about the Hacienda from a woman on a bus. Reading had just been released from jail on a drug possession charge and was crying in despair about what to do next. Though he has had his challenges, Reading knows how important it is to remain faithful to the Lord.
"If you don't let the Lord in, then who are you letting in?" Reading asks.
Ray Darby, 46, is director of the Hacienda's extension campus in Lompoc that began in 2011 under the supervision of Pastor Darren Hunt of New Hope Christian Church (AG).
|Brad Young (left) and Donnie Callihan have hearts to help men.|
A former white supremacist also in and out of jail on drug charges, Darby heard about the Hacienda from his parole officer and entered in 2004. Upon graduation, he eventually obtained an associate in arts degree from King's College, and became director of the boys' ministry at His Light Assembly under Gauthier before taking his current position in Lompoc.
Though Darby knew something positive would happen from the first day he walked in, he says he had to deal with pride issues during counseling sessions with Callihan before he reached a point of surrender.
"Once I did that, the blinders came off and I was able to see," Darby says. "I had to see God's way, not my way; then my eyes were spiritually opened. Now I'm just overjoyed God would use me in ministry."
Meanwhile, Gauthier remains passionate to continue fulfilling the Hacienda's motto: "Restoring People to Useful Lives."
After reading a brochure about the Hacienda, Roger Rodriguez Jr. decided to visit, figuring it sounded too good to be true. Rodriguez, a retired detective from the Escondido Police Department gang unit, was amazed and inspired to see everything just as the brochure stated. It particularly moved him to see once-hardened men singing and praying for each other.
"Some of these men had once lost the respect of family members, friends and other loved ones," Rodriguez says. "But they have regained what was once lost, including themselves."
Author: Chuck Goldberg, Pentecostal Evangel