Story of Hope: Terry
51-year-old Terry Eccleston, with his neatly slick back hair, thinly trimmed moustache, and broad grin, shakes my hand and replies, “Good! That’s my new word of the day – good. Instead of saying I’m fine, I want to say that I’m good.”
He leads me to his office that’s located behind the kitchen, at the end of a stairwell. His office is decorated with various posters, comic strips, a calendar with marked dates, and a quote from John Wooden that reads, “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” Above his desk lays the three framed pictures depicting the three principles of LifeChange, “Take Ownership,” “Think Ahead” and “Johnny on the Spot.”
Every morning as Terry walks into this office, he is welcomed by three other men that are sipping coffee and casually sharing jokes with each other. After a brief exchange of greetings, the atmosphere softens as the men settle down in the crammed office. Terry opens up his Bible and reads a passage while the other men listen, soaking in every syllable they hear.
“I’m sort of an unofficial mentor to these guys,” Terry confesses to me later. “They come to me when I have a problem. We spend so much time together, they feel comfortable with me.”
Terry, along with the other men, is a resident of LifeChange, UGM’s addiction recovery program. As part of the program, all residents have to complete their work therapy – a 9-5 assigned task. The men in Terry’s office serve as stewards; Terry supervises all the resident stewards.
After reading from his Bible, Terry delegates their tasks for the day, prayers over them, and sends them on their way (but only after patiently answering their questions and handing them the cleaning supplies). He then sets off to complete his work therapy which includes sweeping, moping common areas, taking out the trash, and cleaning the bathrooms.
Terry proceeds to the lobby to mop the floors. Outside, he sees homeless men and women aimlessly wandering down the Burnside Street. He briefly looks, and then turns back to mopping.
More than seven months ago, that was him. Terry had lost himself to the treacherous clutches of alcohol.
“I had nothing going on in my life,” says Terry. “I didn’t want to do anything, didn’t want to go anywhere. I had quit my job, so I was just living and drinking every day.”
It started with a sip in 8th grade – a sip that turned into an obsession that started to affect everything in his life, including his relationship with his daughters. However, it was his oldest daughter that gave him the key to restoration.
She handed him a stack of apartment listings, urging him to find a new place to live. Uninterested, Terry tossed the listings in the garbage, ready to walk away. But something caught his eye – a small handwritten note fell out of the stack of listings. It read: “Dad, if you ever consider sobering up, consider this place. It is probably really good for you.” The note was attached to an application for the Union Gospel Mission’s LifeChange program.
Terry stared at the note for several moments and sighed.
“What the heck, I have nothing to lose,” he admitted to himself.
Soon, Terry found himself filling out an application for LifeChange, talking to Alvin Taylor, UGM’s Outreach Pastor, and joining a program he knew very little about.
However, Terry did not adjust the disciplined lifestyle residents were expected to follow. The combinations of classes, counseling sessions, work therapy, Bible teachings, self-evaluations, and other programs he was expected to follow overwhelmed him. And soon, he was contemplating leaving the program.
Even with a rocky start, the relationships Terry fostered with the staff and other residents helped him choose to stay in the program. “So every time I thought about leaving, talking to my friends and praying helped me stay here,” says Terry. “That’s one of those things where you pray and you really, really hope that Jesus answers you. I’d pray, ‘I’m here to do what you want me to do, Jesus. If you want me to stay, I’ll stay.’ Jesus answered my prayers! Someone always came up to me and said, ‘We want you to do this’ or ‘We’ve seen you’re doing a really good job of this.’ Not because they’ve heard that you’re leaving, but because it’s an answer to your prayer. So I said, ‘Well, okay. I’ll stay around for a while.’”
Seven months later, Terry has stuck it out, and has learned to find the structured lifestyle very helpful. After working diligently, he is almost complete with the second phase of the program, is eagerly waiting to graduate into the third and final phase.
Terry is committed to working hard not only to complete the program, but also to use the kindness he has received and give it back.
“I think God wants me up there in leadership. My plan is to renew my EMT license, then come help out here [UGM]. Maybe work at a hospital.”
The Story of Hope series is authored by Leah Abraham, George Fox University student and Union Gospel Mission intern
CLICK HERE to read Story of Hope: Larry
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