Being A Light

Being A Light

Every third Saturday of the month, Neal and a group of volunteers from City on a Hill church arrive at Nashville Rescue Mission ready to serve those in need. For Neal, the desire to serve comes from a place of intimate knowledge of the pain and suffering many of those struggling with addiction experience. Two years ago, Neal flew out to California to bring his son home. His son was battling an addiction and needed help.

“It’s tough to watch someone you love struggle with addiction,” said Neal. “As we drove across the country headed back to Nashville, I told my son he had two options—he could either figure out a way to make it on his own, or he could go to Nashville Rescue Mission and get help.”

With gratitude, Neal says his son chose to come to the Mission. “The time he spent at the Mission opened him up to the Scriptures,” said Neal. “And while he did not complete the program, he did experience radical transformation. This was his turning point.”

One year later and life is very different for Neal and his son. His son has been clean for over a year now and continues to participate in Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered recovery program. And Neal has started a church in the heart of downtown Nashville called City on a Hill.

“I spent most of my life in Los Angeles pursuing a music career. After years of struggling, we moved to Nashville in 1995,” says Morse. “And while I did find success in the genre of progressive rock, there was still something missing. I didn’t know what that was until 2002, when I became a born-again Christian.”

As Neal continued to write, perform, produce, and record music, his path increasingly revealed more of what his heart had sought all along. Yet he also began to find his career growing at odds with his faith.

“In prayer, God started speaking to my heart and it became quite clear that I was to start a church,” shared Neal. “So I did. In the midst of this, I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about Nashville Rescue Mission. I’ve performed at their Friday night coffeehouse and started volunteering on a regular basis. As a congregation, partnering with Nashville Rescue Mission makes perfect sense. We are both in the heart of downtown and trying to connect those who are lost and hurting with a God who loves them.”

“Serving at the Mission has been a great experience for our congregation,” said Morse. “Not only are we giving back to those in need, our members are building

relationships and connecting with each other on a much deeper level. I’m so grateful for the Mission and the services they provide to those in our community who are in need.”

Nashville Rescue Mission is thankful for Neal, his church, and other volunteers like them in our community who are committed to giving back and helping serve those in need. 

If you’d like to learn about more ways you and/or your church can get involved, visit this link.

Mission in My Words: Charles Esten

Mission in My Words: Charles Esten

I grew up in Pittsburgh. While the homeless numbers there are much bigger than here in Nashville, I must say, for the most part, I was shielded from it. I do remember a time when our church hosted a breakfast for the homeless. Word spread fast and the turnout was huge.

It’s really hard to see so many people in need and not know how to help them. Simply knowing that the need for a meal is only a small part of what these individuals face.

I find myself asking, “What can I do to help?” Because not helping … that’s not an option. I am hesitant to give out cash, not sure if it is the best way to help. At times my family and I have handed out Subway gift cards—hoping it might provide a hungry person with a meal or two. I’ve also heard giving out local bus passes can be helpful. These things might help, but only for a few, and only for a short period of time. I’m left wondering … what is the best way to feed and care for the most amount of people who are in need?

In Nashville, the answer is Nashville Rescue Mission. The Mission provides meals, clothing, and shelter to over 800 men, women, and children in our community. And yes, I said ‘our community.’ I love this city so much, I moved my family here and we now call this home. Yet for many who live here, there is no place to call home.

A few years ago a friend invited me to be a part of an amazing fundraising event at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center called Music with a Mission. It was to help the homeless and benefit Nashville Rescue Mission. I was delighted to be a part of it. In the process, I learned more about the incredible work the Mission is doing in our city to care for those experiencing homelessness. Performing at the event was an amazing experience. I got to sing with the Nashville Symphony, and more importantly, I got to give back, by helping raise awareness for a cause I care deeply about.

The show Nashville is what brought me and my family to this wonderful city. In the show, my character Deacon is an alcoholic, who struggles with a relapse, along with many other difficulties. I know this doesn’t make me an expert on this issue. In fact, I know I cannot completely understand what the homeless men and women in our community face. But I do care and I still have compassion for them and what they are going through.

It’s why the work Nashville Rescue Mission is doing is so valuable. Through their network of support and resources, homeless men, women, and children in our city have a place to go. They have outstretched arms ready to love, care, and comfort those in need.

It’s also for this reason that I support the work of the Mission. They are giving hope to many who might otherwise be hopeless.

Charles Esten is a recording artist and actor, best known for his role as Deacon Claybourne on the popular show Nashville, now airing on CMT. Taking an innovative approach to sharing his music, Charles launched #EverySingleFriday exclusively on iTunes where he releases a new single every week.

Her Heart’s Desire

Her Heart’s Desire

Despite her pregnancy and marriage at an early age, Polly was an overcomer. She graduated from high school with honors, attended college on a scholarship, earned her teaching degree, and found a teaching job she loved. She had everything going for her. That all changed when her marriage ended.

“After getting divorced, I needed to make some extra money,” said Polly. “I found a job detailing cars. Between teaching and raising my daughter, I was tired all the time. Someone I worked with told me he had the answer. I can still remember his words today—‘I have something that will keep you from being tired.’ That’s all it took and I was hooked.”

That something turned out to be crystal meth. According to Polly, it was “readily available and free.” But it cost her almost everything. Over the next three and a half years she lost her job, her car, her house, custody of her daughter, and found herself in and out of jail on drug-related charges.

“Just when I didn’t think things could get any worse, they did,” said Polly. “It was in February of 2007, I found out I was pregnant. I wanted to stop using meth, but I couldn’t. It went from bad to worse. I had been staying with a friend who moved away. I had nowhere to go. No place to live. I ended up living in a cinder block building, no power, no water. I slept on a box spring with no mattress until the day I went into labor.”

This former honor student and college graduate who had overcome some of the biggest obstacles anyone could ever face had no answer for the situation she was now in. At least, not until she met Jesus.

“Despite using meth every day I was pregnant … despite not having any prenatal care … despite my living conditions, my little girl was born perfect,” said Polly. “I know that had to be God. While she did have drugs in her system and had to stay an extra week at the hospital for observation, she had no side effects or permanent damage because of my drug use. She was a miracle baby.”

It was in that moment of hearing her newborn baby girl’s cry that Polly knew she had to break free. “Her cry jarred something deep inside of me,” said Polly. “It was the first time in a long time I wanted something different. I was done with drugs.”

Polly’s mother and sister stepped in, taking custody of her daughter, while Polly went to a detox center. “After finishing up detox, I needed to find a long term recovery program. I received a list of 32 different places with recovery programs. I called each of them. Nashville Rescue Mission was the only one that didn’t turn me away.”

“When I came to the Mission, I had no idea who I was,” said Polly. “But through the classes, counselors, church services, preachers … I had this broad view shown to me I’d never seen before. I finally understood what it meant to be able to choose to live for the Lord. Their program showed me who I was in Christ.”

“I had been at the Mission almost three months, when during one of those church services, I heard a still small voice—that I knew was the Holy Spirit— telling me the only thing I needed to break free from these chains of addiction was Jesus. A couple of days later at another service, I surrendered my life to Jesus.” This was the day life radically changed for Polly.

“I had been in church when I was a kid. I knew the process, but I didn’t understand what that meant for me. I found out when you don’t have Jesus you are just in survival mode. And that’s all I was doing in life until I surrendered to the Lord.”

Polly thought she had it all together. “I was wrong. Jesus is the only one that can take the overwhelming desire for drugs out of a person’s heart. Today, I have no desire whatsoever for any type of drugs. I am truly free. He changed the desires of my heart. He gave me the desires He wants me to have. I have come to discover that life with Jesus is so full and rich.”

Polly graduated from the Mission’s program in May 2008. Besides setting her free from drugs, Jesus also has restored her life. Today, at 38, Polly and her husband, Craig, and their two daughters attend Oakland Baptist Church in Corinth, Mississippi. She also has a relationship with the daughter she lost custody of, who is now 26. Polly works for Living Free Ministries as its Women’s Director and is helping women to overcome their addictions.