FAIRFIELD — Locusts had eaten into their lives for years – but now they’ve approached the mountaintop and are standing with the Lord, said the senior pastor at St. Matthew Baptist Church in Vacaville of the 13 men and women who graduated Thursday from Mission Solano’s Rays of Hope program.
The Rev. Vic A. Russell said it was a time to celebrate – and the more than 100 people packed into the chapel at Mission Solano’s Community Outreach Center on Travis Boulevard did that with shouts, standing ovations and hugs.
People stood to applaud when Clarence Trotter, 44, finished reading his poem that began by noting how death, dishonesty and despair had been Trotter’s allies. His poem went on to say, “if I knew you, I robbed you.”
Trotter acknowledged the graduates who completed the six- to nine-month Helping Other People Escape program that includes the physical, psychological, spiritual and social behavioral – and he spoke about his own arrival at Mission Solano.
“I was broken financially and spiritually,” he said. “I was worse than wounded.”
Program graduate Amorette Florez, 26, of Vacaville, said after receiving her diploma, “I will put God first and just keep pushing forward.”
Raymond Courtemanche, chief operations officer at Mission Solano, spoke near the start of the event and told those gathered, “We believe in a creator who does not create junk.”
Maybe the world has tainted us, he said, but like St. Paul’s transformation on the road to Damascus, people have been brought to Mission Solano, where they recover.
“It’s all about purpose for us,” Courtemanche said.
Graduates embrace the healthy and wholesome, he said.
Gene Ahu, program manager for the Community Outreach Center, proclaimed, “this program does work.”
“We try to stay away from the ‘want,’ ” he said. “We try to do what people need.”
Ahu said: “We can still learn – so touched by the things people can bring to us when we think we know it all.”
He said if he’d had only once chance in life he wouldn’t be at the ceremony Thursday.
“God works in mysterious ways – and I’m one of them,” Ahu said.
Ernie Schnaible, who manages Mission Solano’s car lot program, is a 2010 graduate of Rays of Hope and said without it he, too, wouldn’t be at the event. He said of efforts to assist people: “If you don’t show me you want the help, I ain’t got time for you.”
A hundred other people out there want what Mission Solano provides, Schnaible said.
Francis Cunanan, 35, of Suisun City, who leads the men’s celebrate recovery group, spoke about graduating last year from the Rays of Hope program that he said changed his life. Cunanan said he felt like an outcast when he came to Mission Solano, but the Bible tells of Jesus touching the lives of others and that still happens, Cunanan said.
“I’m living my life as a testimony,” he said, to “God’s grace, God’s goodness.”
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.