Hitchhiking from Denver to Chicago, John Teeter suffered another stroke. It was his sixth and most debilitating one in three months. Sitting on a bench outside a restaurant, his entire right side drooping like melting wax, a bystander noticed and called an ambulance, sending John to a hospital in Des Moines. Iowa was the last place John wanted to be stuck.
A Safe Haven
Needing a place to recover, John was given a list of homeless shelters in the area. He chose Hope Ministries’ Bethel Mission emergency shelter for men. John knew he’d need to focus on regaining strength in his body, but once recovered, he’d promptly resume his vagabond lifestyle. Fortunately, he walked into a shelter that offered not only a safe place to stay, but a Christ-centered, scripture-filled rehabilitation program.
“Once you’re in, they immediately encourage you to pursue the program at The Door,” John said. The Door of Faith is a year-long recovery program through the shelter for men who are serious about overcoming their brokenness and addictions through a relationship with Jesus.
Men arriving at Bethel come from a multitude of difficult circumstances. Volunteers, some of whom are graduates of the program, firmly pursue these men to take action in recovering from their destructive lifestyles. “I told them, 'I’m not a drug addict or an alcoholic so I don’t really need it,'" John said. “But they said, 'John, you’re still in the same place you were when you came in. You’re still a broken guy. You still need help.' And they were right.’”
As he recovered from his stroke and considered their urgings, John read the Bible that was given to him and gave his heart to Jesus. At that moment, a spiritual and physical recovery was set in motion.
The week before John began at The Door, a group from Walnut Creek’s annual Mission to the City outreach came to serve meals at the shelter. John’s chore was to be in charge of the kitchen. “I had no idea what it looked like to be a Christian, but when I saw these guys I thought, 'That’s got to be what it looks like,'” John said.
Walk In Christ
After contacting the church, Kyle, a man John had never met, picked him up for his first church service. “We didn’t talk much at first because we were both kind of shy,” Kyle Kurtenbach said. “But over the summer, we became good friends.” John joined Kyle’s Community Group and served alongside him every week at Upward Sports ministry, often showing up before Kyle. “He’s always had a heart to serve," Kyle said.
Since the day Kyle put John to work, he has faithfully attended and served Walnut Creek Downtown, and also helped to start Walnut Creek South. John keeps active as a regular volunteer and speaker at The Door of Faith, sharing the truth of Jesus Christ with men in the same state he once was in.
“The reality is, the guys who come into Bethel Mission are no different than 99 percent of the people driving around on the streets. They all have the same issues. They’re all sex addicts, drug addicts, alcoholics, selfish. They just haven’t fallen and hit the bottom yet,” John said. “I tell the guys at The Door that they have an eternal advantage. They have people telling them about Jesus."
Mike Scott, an alumnus of the program, immediately saw what the Lord was doing in John’s life and was attracted to the genuine fellowship at Walnut Creek. Mike now attends the South location, as well as leads a scripture-centered 12-step recovery group for men called Overcomers Outreach. “I appreciate John,” Mike said. “He doesn’t just tell the guys when they’re being foolish, but he’s also a good encourager.”
Staying connected to both the church and The Door is important for both men. “It’s a way to maintain my own recovery by giving away what I’ve been through. We have a greater impact on these guys having gone through the program ourselves,” Mike said.
"There are reminders all the time of my past, but I won’t dwell on them. Now all I want to do is pay it back to Jesus. I want to love it back."
John has witnessed many stories of redemption and seen men turn from their sin to Jesus. He always encourages them to join a local church. "The important thing is that you learn. You build relationships in the church. You learn how to walk in the Spirit. You get in the Word, even if you're not doing it by yourself at first," John said. "It allows people to love on you. Love is so powerful."
For the man who wandered, aimless and defeated, John can now tell you confidently of his new purpose: to love and minister to other broken people for the rest of his life.
“I feel bad about the things I did in the past, but I don’t feel guilty anymore,” John said. “You will certainly pay the consequences of your sins, but your eternal debt is paid. There are reminders all the time of my past, but I won’t dwell on them. Now all I want to do is pay it back to Jesus. I want to love it back."