Confidence Restored in Christ: Stephanie’s Story

Many women who come to the Rescue Mission are fleeing from domestic violence or abuse.  It is heartbreaking to see women and children, fearful and broken, living on the streets or moving from motel to motel.  Which is why we are so grateful to be a safe place for these families as they arrive at our doors looking for help.

We welcome these women and children with open arms and watch as God restores their confidence and reminds them of the worth that their abusers tried to strip away.  I have incredible respect for these women who come from such difficult circumstances, but have the will to start over and provide a better life for their little ones.

One of these mothers is Stephanie, who is currently a resident at the Village of Hope.  Please read on to her story.

Stephanie’s Story

Stephanie could feel the darkness closing in.

Her husband had come home in a rage, and though she hadn’t done anything to provoke him, he came at her. And then she was fighting to stay conscious while his hands tightened around her neck.

Just before Stephanie blacked out, someone pulled her husband off of her.  Gasping for breath, Stephanie’s first thought wasn’t for herself. What she thought was, Did any of the kids see?  Stephanie would do anything to protect her children from the monster her husband had become.

Life had definitely taken a dramatic turn for Stephanie.  Before she got married, she was an independent, stable woman with a good job as a dental assistant.  But soon after they got married, her husband began to emotionally abuse her, which quickly escalated to physical abuse.  It was bad enough he had started drinking and abusing drugs, but his family did nothing to stop him or get him help. In fact, they seemed to turn a blind eye.  They even blamed Stephanie for her husband’s problems.

Once so full of confidence, Stephanie began losing her sense of self-worth.  While she struggled, she was most afraid for her two girls — and another on the way.  Mentally, physically and spiritually exhausted, Stephanie just had to get out.  Desperate for an answer to her situation, Stephanie prayed.

“The Lord told me either I stay here and I would die, or I have to get out of here,” Stephanie recalls. “I prayed, if I don’t make it out of here, just save my kids.” At that point she knew she just had to flee.

On a day she remembers well, she took her girls and left.  Soon after she arrived at the Rescue Mission, and Stephanie says, “I thought it was a miracle. I thought, we’re finally safe. We finally had somewhere where we could change our lives.”

At the Rescue Mission, she found a community of caring people and a renewed relationship with God.  Stephanie shares, “It took me time to grow, but I focused on my studies, on the Bible. I focused on what would help me, and asking, why did I end up in this type of relationship?”

Today, Stephanie is thriving with her three daughters and working as an intern at the Rescue Mission’s Hurtt Family Health Clinic — a position she took the initiative to pursue since no resident had ever worked in the clinic before.  “It was a process,” says Stephanie. “But they liked my idea and in the end, everybody said yes.”

Now, Stephanie feels confident that after she graduates, she’ll be able to make it on her own and provide for her daughters. Most of all, she hopes her new life will be peaceful.

“I’m working really hard,” she says. “I want to be able to do the best I can for my daughters.”

You helped Stephanie find the hope she desperately needed to start a new life for herself and her daughters.  And between now and May 31st, you can help even more families like Stephanie’s by giving your gift to be doubled today. 

Giving online is easy, safe, and quick. Your donation will make an immediate impact to provide meals, shelter and services for a homeless family in desperate need of a hand up to self-sufficiency.


OCRM Employee Highlight

Each month we like to highlight an employee who exemplifies the mission, philosophy, and values of our organization.  This month we are delighted to highlight Denise Nelson-Finster as our Employee of the Month.

Denise faithfully serves as our Horse Master at our Double R Ranch program in Temecula.  This unique program allows single men to experience the healing effects of hard work in the outdoors with animals at our working horse ranch.  Denise is a crucial part of this, as she comes alongside the men in the program to teach them how to care for the horses and other livestock.  And she does it all with such joy, as she combines her love for horses with her passion for caring for the Least, the Last, and the Lost. It is an honor to serve alongside of you, Denise!

Tell us a little about yourself.  My name is Denise Nelson-Finster. 

I was born in California but was raised in New Jersey.  I am married to my husband, Kevin, and have two grown kids, Alexis and Jeff, as well as 2 foster kids.  In my free time, I like spinning wool and cooking.

How long have you worked at the Rescue Mission?   How did you hear about the job opportunity?

I have worked for the Rescue Mission for 14 years and I have been with the Double R Ranch for 18 years!  The Rescue Mission bought the Ranch and I was already working there.

What do you love most about your job

I absolutely love my job.  Helping people work through issues using animals is wonderful to be a part of.  I get to use my love for horses, goats, and dogs everyday to help men of all ages come to know the Lord Jesus.  Best job ever!

What is the hardest part of your job

Watching men self-destruct.

How have you grown since you began working at the Rescue Mission? 

The Mission has been a huge influence on my life.  I have been exposed to some of the great “movers and shakers” in the world stage.  I have watched as men’s lives have actually changed.  Watching the Lord influence and direct the “lowest of the low” is miraculous to be a part of.  I’m humbled every single day as I am able to watch the Lord’s “wilderness” change lives and men’s hearts. My heart is filled with peace each day I work here.

Favorite verse?  

I absolutely love the Book of Revelation.

Motivation to keep going, even on the tough days:

The Lord’s will is all that matters.  He is at the Rescue Mission, the Double R Ranch, and all of our programs almost visibly.  I feel His presence all the time here. I love the kid’s reaction to the animals when they come to the Ranch for Family Camp.  It’s exciting to watch the children experience a “different” lifestyle as they collect fresh eggs and food from the garden.  I love speaking into newly married couples lives during Marriage Camp.  And I love speaking to women about being “a woman” during the women’s camps.

Giving online is easy, safe, and quick. Your donation will make an immediate impact to provide meals, shelter and services for a homeless family in desperate need of a hand up to self-sufficiency.


Deadline Approaching: Double Your Gift and Make Twice the Difference!

Here’s your chance to do twice as much good with one act of generosity.

With every $1.48 you give, you’ll provide TWICE the meals and care for hurting neighbors, thanks to a $30,000 Matching Grant. But please don’t wait to respond! The match expires on May 31. 

With the need rising in Orange County, the $30,000 Matching Grant combined with your gift, couldn’t have come at a better time.  The most recent one-night count of the homeless population in Orange County showed a 7.6 percent increase in those sleeping outdoors, in their vehicles or in transitional housing.  Of course, behind every number is a precious life — a man, woman or child.

Today, your gift will go further to give them much-needed help . . . It starts with a plate of hot food, but for hurting men and women,  it means so much more.  A break from worry. Feeling human again. The opportunity to focus on making changes for a better tomorrow. That’s the power of a meal — burdens lift so HOPE can flow in.

With so many broken and hurting people coming into the Mission every day, your gift will go a long way to provide real help and hope for someone like Stephanie.  “I had to find a safe place for my children and regain my relationship with God. I couldn’t have done it if I weren’t here at the Mission. All of the programs, having church here. I’ve been blessed in every area,” Stehanie shares.

Will you give someone the chance for a new life today?

But we need to hear from you by May 31. To be sure your gift qualifies for the match, please hurry and click here to give right now. You’ll help more people experience healing and restoration, as they take steps toward a better life. Thank you for giving!

Giving online is easy, safe, and quick. Your donation will make an immediate impact to provide meals, shelter and services for a homeless family in desperate need of a hand up to self-sufficiency.


Leaving a Lasting Legacy of Hope


James’ family accepting gift of gratitude from students living on campus.

Recently we were blessed with an extremely generous gift from one of our longtime donors, James Raspe. What is so touching about this gift is that it was a planned gift, left as a legacy after he passed away last year. I am humbled and so thankful that James cared so much about Orange County Rescue Mission to include us in his will! His gift is already making an incredible impact here at the Mission.

James was a donor to the Rescue Mission for 18 years. He was even part of our ground-breaking of the Village of Hope in 2002. James struggled with renal failure for years, but rather than let his illness defeat him, he said instead that it gave him the gift of empathy and a purpose to serve others. He passed away in April 2017, but he left the Rescue Mission one final gift.

I am so grateful for our donors and partners like James – people that come alongside the Rescue Mission and believe in our mission to minister the love of Jesus Christ to the Least, the Last, and the Lost. Our donors become part of the Rescue Mission community, and it is through their support that we are able to do the work that we do. Because of your generosity, lives are being transformed and restored.

And James,  thinking ahead, is able to continue making an impact on the lives of homeless men, women, and children in Orange County through his planned gift. It was the best legacy he could leave, and such a great representation of his character.  Through this gift, James’ passion for caring for others will live on in the lives he helped to restore.

If you would like additional information on how you can leave a long-lasting impact on Orange County Rescue Mission by including us in your trust or will, please contact Taylor at Please also let us know if you have already named the Rescue Mission in your trust or will so that we may properly thank you.

Stories of Hope: Spring Graduates

It is always my pleasure to introduce you to our graduates. It is a great honor to me, and one that I do not take lightly, to continue to remind our community that homelessness has a face. Real people have experienced real pain and brokenness – and now they are experiencing real redemption.

And that is where the joy comes in. While my heart breaks as I meet people like Gina and hear her story of being pregnant while living in her car, I rejoice all the more as I watch her and her now one-year-old daughter walk across the stage in her graduation gown. To know the pain and darkness of a person’s past makes the transformation and restoration that much more beautiful.

So I invite you into these stories, to share in the victory and celebrate the restoration of families like Sarah and Jimmy who found hope at the Village of Hope right before their daughter Olivia was due to be born, men like Yorel whose heart and life was forever changed at our Double R Ranch program, veterans like Jerlayah who came from a human trafficking situation into our Tustin Veterans Outpost program, and teen girls like Lorena, Skye, and Cristina, who are now hopeful and excited for their future after living at Laurel House.

Please take a look at our Spring Graduation video to hear these stories, and others, for yourself.

Congratulations Heather, Shawn, Branden, Jimmy and Sarah, Michael, Yorel, Julia, Sarah, Gina, Craig, Jerlayah, Lorena, Skye, Cristina, Shauna, and Sharon!

Giving online is easy, safe, and quick. Your donation will make an immediate impact to provide meals, shelter and services for a homeless family in desperate need of a hand up to self-sufficiency.


“Contradict”; Can All Religions Lead to God?

Over the past few months, we have had several gifted speakers teach on tough topics at our Rescue Mission Apologetics class.  This month, we welcome Andy Wrasman!

I invite you to listen to Andy as he answers the question, “Do All Religions Lead to God?”.  Andy is a Concordia University graduate with a B.A. in Theological Studies and an M.A in International Studies.  He currently teaches World Religions and Christian Apologetics at a private high school in Orange County.  He is the author of a book entitled Contradict – They Can’t All Be True, which addresses the same question he will be speaking on.

Everyone is welcome to join us for the event at Village of Hope on Monday, May 14th at 6:30 pm.  For questions about the event please contact Taylor at

This is a great opportunity to learn and be inspired. Invite your friends and family to join you!

Giving online is easy, safe, and quick. Your donation will make an immediate impact to provide meals, shelter and services for a homeless family in desperate need of a hand up to self-sufficiency.


Urgent Need: Food Donations for OCRM Food Box Program!

You most likely have heard about the homeless crisis in Orange County, and the effect it is having all across our communities.  If you are looking for a way to participate and offer some help, one way you can do so is by donating food for our Food Box Donation program.

And we are currently experiencing an urgent need for food to fill these boxes. Mission assembles and distributes food boxes to needy and homeless families of Orange County.  And we are currently experiencing an urgent need for food to fill these boxes.  Some useful food items we are in need of are:

  1. Meat (tuna, beef, chicken) – up to 16 oz. cans 
  2. Peanut Butter – 16 oz. containers
  3. Rice – 16 oz. packages
  4. Pasta sauce – up to 16 oz. cans (no glass containers)
  5. Cereal – normal box size

And to make it even easier to donate, we can receive donations ordered online and shipped directly to our warehouse at 1 Hope Drive, Tustin, CA 92782.

These food boxes provide families across Orange County with a meal when they otherwise would not have one.  With your help, we can make sure that one less family goes hungry, with each food box we distribute.

Thank you for helping the Rescue Mission to care for the Least, the Last, and the Lost of Orange County!

Giving online is easy, safe, and quick. Your donation will make an immediate impact to provide meals, shelter and services for a homeless family in desperate need of a hand up to self-sufficiency.



Mike’s Story

“Most people just looked away.”  That’s how Mike described his experience as a homeless person on the streets.  You can probably relate.  It’s difficult to see someone who “looks like he just came out of the garbage can” as Mike described himself.

But the beauty of Mike’s story is that God never gave up on him, and neither did you.  Because of your support, Mike and others like him are able to come to Orange County Rescue Mission and receive food, shelter, and so much more.

Mike’s story started as one of heartbreak and brokenness, but now it is one of hope and redemption.

Mike’s Story

Mike should have died when his heart stopped – for the seventh time.

But after waking up very much alive, Mike could only conclude that God was keeping him around for a reason.

It wasn’t like he felt he deserved any second chances. Growing up with a dad who disciplined with his fists taught Mike how to fight, take a punch and be angry, just like his dad. Mike finally ran away at age 13. And with anger simmering just below the surface, fighting was always Mike’s first and last solution to his problems.

Not surprisingly, as an adult Mike was shot at, stabbed, arrested for DUIs and thrown in jail more times than he cared to remember. Mike was making an epic mess of his life. But God was just as determined to send Mike an epic message.

So He pulled Mike back from the brink of death one more time.

But then Mike’s best friend died of an esophageal hemorrhage. Four months later, the love of his life died in a horrific car accident. “When she died life was over for me. The lights went out. My world was total darkness.” Everything changed for the worse.

Deep in his grief, Mike lashed out at the world and ended up losing everything.

“For a long time I had a Honda that I lived in and slept in,” Mike says. One night, a couple guys tried to carjack him. Mike got hit over the head with a tire iron and the would-be carjackers ended up totaling Mike’s car.

“Then I was living right on the concrete,” Mike says. “I looked like I had just come out of a garbage can. Most people just looked away.”

But God wasn’t going to stop pursuing Mike. Mike shares a story of a night he took shelter in a doorway: A car pulled up and I thought it was someone who wanted to mess with me. He was a big man. I couldn’t see him — just a silhouette from the headlights. He came and sat down with me and asked if I want a smoke. “Yeah.” Are you hungry? “Yeah.” He came back with a big bag of McDonald’s and a leather bomber jacket. Then he sat down and talked with me for 30 minutes. And then I never saw him again. I always think if I ever had contact with an angel, that was it.

Living on the streets and completely out of hope, Mike found his way to the Rescue Mission. He wanted to change his life — but he wasn’t looking for a relationship with God. “It was so beautiful here, but I was so ugly,” he remembers. But it was at the Mission that Mike finally encountered the God who never gave up on him. Mike started reading the Bible and listening to worship music.

“I was such an angry mess, but as time went on I began to find my heart again with God’s help,” says Mike. “No one is more shocked than I am.”

Today, Mike is employed in a new field that he loves, after discovering he has an aptitude for maintenance work through his volunteer work assignment at the Rescue Mission.  He has successfully completed the program and graduated last night at our Spring Graduation!  He is now moving on to the next step on his journey to self-sufficiency.

“Now I open my eyes in the morning, I thank God that I slept in a bed because so many nights I slept in a jail cell, or in my car, or out on the streets,” Mike shares. “What happened to me was kind of miraculous.”

Or if you prefer, I invite you to listen to Mike’s amazing story in his own voice.

Your generosity helps people like Mike let go of the past and take steps toward a better future.  Thank you for your support!

Exchange Club of Tustin is a Vital Partner for Tustin Veterans Outpost!

Since the Tustin Veterans Outpost first opened in 2016, the Exchange Club of Tustin has been a vital partner.  Over the past two years, we have seen many homeless veterans and their families come through our doors, and find a home at the TVO.

Being a civic club, the Exchange Club of Tustin encourages the Tustin community to unite together to support important causes. So, when they presented the Tustin Veterans Outpost with a generous check for $37,500, this gift represents a donation from many local businesses!

I give a special thank you to the Tustin Veterans Outpost 2018 Supporters: Woodbridge Glass, Enderle Center, CR & R, Dr. Richard Nelson, Waste Management of OC, Blue Buoy Swim School, Hunsaker and Associates, Rose Equities, Camel Financial, Tustin Field Gas, Sterling Collision Center, Care Ambulance, West Coast Arborist, OC Auto Team, Tustin Community Bank and Tustin Arco. The Exchange Club’s Supporters Program has helped to keep Tustin Veterans Outpost operational for a second year in a row.

I am so grateful for the support of the Exchange Club and the way they have spread the word about the work happening at the TVO throughout the community.

The OC Register published a wonderful article highlighting the Exchange Club, which I encourage you to read here.  They are much deserving of the kind words and recognition!

Thank you Exchange Club of Tustin for your support and partnership as we work together to serve homeless veterans and their families in our community!

Giving online is easy, safe, and quick. Your donation will make an immediate impact to provide meals, shelter and services for a homeless family in desperate need of a hand up to self-sufficiency.



My Heart for the Homeless

I have such great joy, serving as the President of Orange County Rescue Mission over the last 25 years! I can’t thank you enough for your support, which has provided a hand up, instead of a hand-out, to more than 28,000 people in need last year.

In an age when it is commonly believed that the sole issue of homelessness is the lack of a home, rapid re-housing is considered the most effective solution. In my experience, when you look under the surface of homelessness, you often find things that cannot be addressed by handing someone keys to an apartment. Things like pain, addiction, physical illness, abuse, mental illness, sex trafficking and a lack of resources and skills.

At the core of homelessness—at its heart—there is brokenness that can only be addressed by restoration through Jesus Christ. Which is why a relationship with Jesus Christ is the foundation of the care that the Rescue Mission provides. I have seen thousands of men, women, and children experience this restoration and journey to self-sufficiency.

More than just meals and shelter, our programs offer comprehensive services that touch every aspect of life. As God leads, we develop new programs and facilities to meet needs in our Orange County community.

Recently I shared the Rescue Mission’s statistical outcomes for 2017 ( But even more meaningful than statistics are the stories of people who represent the true heart of homelessness—broken lives that are now restored. These are people who have lost much, but have now gained a new life.

Through the stories we share, you are able to share in their hardships and their victories. To learn more of how getting to the heart of homelessness has given new life to so many, read our stories or view our Orange County Rescue Mission You Tube channel.



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