"There Is Still Hope"
Almost before I can finish my question, “So how did you get here?” Ben’s one word answer leaps out of his mouth, “God.” My own mouth curls in surprise as I look at Ben, bearded and grey with an Air Calvary cap. I wait, and he looks away, nodding in thought. “I thought I was directing myself,” he says, breaking the silence, “but it wasn’t me. It was Him.”
Slowly, Ben begins to tell me his story. It’s a story of a life of drug addiction and difficult relationship with his wife. He winces as he says the word, “Addict. That’s a hard title.”
“I’ve smoked pot for 46 years. I came to Washington because it was legal. That’s the whole reason I moved, so I could continue what I was doing and not get in trouble for it.” Ben moved with his wife from Florida earlier in the year. He had been a northwest resident earlier in his life and he had a longing to come back. “But God said, ‘you’re not going back on your own terms.’” Ben’s hand squeezes his knee and he nods again, this time with raised eyebrows and a look of slight amusement. He found his way to Walla Walla through the Veteran’s Hospital in town, which he checked into for two days before hating it and leaving. “I’ve tried rehabilitation programs before. They always ended the same.” He explains. But now the money he had saved up was spent. His wife was in Spokane, and he had nowhere to go.
“I checked into the Christian Aid Center with Mary Jane in my stash. Quitting wasn’t my plan. But it was God’s.” He sits for a while before he says he can’t explain his change of heart except that it was the Spirit of God. He dumped his stash of pot down the toilet the first week, and has been clean since. “The Christian Aid Center is not just a building, not just a place to live and somewhere to eat. It’s made an immeasurable difference to me. I am finally around things I always desired – fellowship, and companionship, people who believe the same things as I do.”
Ben calls himself the prodigal son. He says he was first saved at 17, but then he was in the military, and into smoking pot, and he married a non-Christian and fell away from God, but as he says, God brought him back. “The people here are open and honest, and I try to be the same. I’m tired of putting on a front, you know, doing things so people like me. I don’t have to do that here.” Ben turns 63 this December. He shakes his head and says, “So much time wasted. But I now have another chance. It’s never too late. There is still hope –I’d like to share that.”