Story of Hope: Larry

Whenever I told staff members at Union Gospel Mission that I was going to write a story about Larry, I’d get very excited responses:

“Larry? Wow. That’s one incredible story there.”

“He’s got quite the story. You’ll enjoy this one!”

“Well, that’s one heck of a story.”

Needless to say, my interest peaked, and I was very curious to know as to who Larry was and what made his story so extraordinary.

Larry Goestch is a resident of the LifeChange program, UGM’s addiction recovery program. At first glance, Larry looks like an average guy – tall build, balding light hair, a mysterious yet soft-hearted smile.

When Larry told me, “I came in here in 2007,” I was quite surprised to hear that he had been at UGM for so long. Statistically, residents who complete the program stay at UGM for an average of 2.5 years. It wasn’t hard to figure out that his story ran much deeper than it seemed.

Seven years ago, Larry was directed to LifeChange by some good friends. He had just gotten out of the prison system, and he was ready for a safe environment where could learn to be whole again.

Larry worked hard for 3.5 years at the program. He followed the rigorous daily schedule, completed all the necessary classes and counseling session, and had started to learn more about himself. Along the way, he built many deep and meaningful relationships with staff and residents.

“I was applying myself to the education I was provided with,” explains Larry. “They were teaching me how to develop interpersonal skills… I had some good education and had learned some great tools.”

Larry was merely months away from graduating from the program, when it all went wrong.

It started with a slow, yet poisonous process of self-doubt.

What am I going to do once I graduate? What can I accomplish in life? What do I even want in life?

Then, it turned into a mistrust of the leadership that had guided him through the program thus far.

Do they really know what’s good for me? Do they really care about my well-being? Do they even trust me?

And soon, Larry managed to get his hands on alcohol. He gave in. He relapsed.

In October of 2010, Larry left the LifeChange program with a heart full of mistrust and fear.

Larry was finally free to do whatever he wanted and to go wherever he pleased. But Larry was still lost, and had no direction at all.

He moved to Alaska, hoping to rekindle his relationships with family. But it didn’t pan out quite as he hoped.

Deep inside, Larry felt empty. He felt a thirst for a safe environment with a community that poured into him. He went from church-to-church, and fellowship-to-fellowship. But nothing prevailed.

“There was a disconnect between me and the body of Christ,” says Larry. “Spiritually, I was depleted, with no answers. And I wanted to get back in connection with a family of faith and with God. I had a desire to get back to listening to what God had, but I didn’t have that connection. I couldn’t find it.”

For Larry, this was the beginning of a reawakening, a slow process of self-examination and self-realization. It was a cat-and-mouse chase; Larry tried to run away from the pain he had created, but it kept catching up to him.

“I totally walked away from God – willingly and knowingly,” says Larry. “I gave up. I quit. I said, ‘No way, this is a lie.’ But over a period of time, [God] sewed back into my heart His love, the love that was sewn in there from the very beginning. My love and desire I had for him was revived. He had cornered me in a place where it was only me and him, one-on-one.”

Larry knew that he stood at a crossroads, two roads that led to very different places.

“I could continue with my rebellion. I could continue to walk in my lie, continue to use and drink…

“Or I could come back home, and build a testimony to God’s grace and faithfulness. I could continue that in which he was going to do from the beginning.”

It was set in his heart – Larry wanted to begin to reconcile the relationships he had left broken at UGM. It was at LifeChange that Larry found a community that genuinely cared for him. It was here where he had grown to forgive himself once. It was here where he had built relationships that had deeply impacted him.

Home was here, at UGM, at LifeChange.

Larry reapplied and rejoined the program in 2013. Though he was unsure what the reception might be like, Larry was surprised when everyone, even the ones he had hurt, welcomed him with open and grateful hearts. “The first week back was like a homecoming!” said Larry.

He is currently in the second of the phases – “Healing” phase. Larry hasn’t considered relapsing or leaving the program since his re-admittance.

“When I left before, it was a decision I made,” Larry says. “I could have stayed and worked through it. But I made a decision without counsel and without talking to people that God had put in my life. I’m not going to let that happen again. If I’m going to leave this place again, there’s going to be a group of people saying, ‘Amen! We’re all in the same boat on that.’

“I’ve got a lot of help here. I’ve got a lot of hope here. Whatever God has for me, he can work through this program and through the people here.”

CLICK HERE to read Story of Hope: Clint

CLICK HERE to read Story of Hope: Anna

CLICK HERE to read Story of Hope: Joy

CLICK HERE to read Story of Hope: Johnni

CLICK HERE to read Story of Hope Series Introduction



The Story of Hope series is authored by Leah Abraham, George Fox University student and Union Gospel Mission intern