I came to Wagon Hope Ministries back in 2010, broken, battered, head down. I was struggling with addictions, depression, anxiety, no feeling of self worth or direction for my life. I had no love for myself, and would wake up in the morning disappointed that I woke up again. Through Buck's outreach, his patience, guidance, and father like mentor-ship, I slowly crawled out of that pit. Every day he would remind me if the going gets tough, pray it out, and keep my eyes on God. Working on the farm, with rescue horses, kids from all walks of life, and people with special needs, I learned how precious life is and how to love myself so I could love others. Through the steadfast teachings, patience, and prayers, I learned valuable tools and traits; the value of hard work, the drive to keep pushing through the storm of life, as well as my own self worth. I remember one day I was really down and out and Buck came and sat with me, and he told me this, "I believe in you. I know you can do this. You must believe in yourself." Those words stick with me to this very day.
Before coming to Wagon Hope Ministries, I had been through two other rehabs. Neither one of those had helped address the true issues I had, I felt like a number, not a person. However, Buck's outreach is much different. You are not a number, you are a person, an individual needing help, healing, compassion and guidance. I can say with out a shadow of doubt it is because of Buck and Wagon Hope that my life is turned around for the better. I now have two jobs, a place to call home, and the battles with addictions and depression are being won. God is in my life. If God hadn't directed my path to Wagon Hope Ministries, I would be homeless, addicted, and dead.
"I believe in you, I know you can do this. You must believe in yourself." Those words stick with me to this very day.
I know I just felt lost, scared, venerable, and confused. My Dad left us and left us with nothing. The car got repossessed and the house went into foreclosure. My Mom, who was a stay at home Mom, had two children with no vehicle or home to live in.
I just felt alone and lost. My poor Mom, at one point, was up to working three jobs just to provide so I barely got to see her. I became that kid with a big chip on my shoulder, and I just did not care about anything but my Mom. The memories I did have of the past life were always violent and upsetting. I became very introverted and I had no idea why I was feeling the way I was. School became an issue. My grades suffered horribly; I did not want to even go. I ended up in multiple fist fights. The only way I knew how to protect myself was to fight. It was learned behavior. My Mom, at times, felt she was going to lose me to the streets. At the period of my life no one could tell me anything. I wanted to do what I wanted and that was it. This took a big toll on the relationship I had with my Mom. (And my Mom is the world to me).
In 1992 when I was around 10 years old, I was offered the opportunity to help out at a horse farm. I’ve always loved horses since I was small. I took this opportunity not knowing what this farm and what the horses would do for me. It took some time to get acclimated to the environment, and build relationships with the other kids and farm helpers. I needed to feel that I had a place and a purpose and I yearned to know what trust and unconditional love really was. Everyone took me in with open arms, and for the first time ever, I felt I had a place where I was accepted, felt safe, and that I had a purpose. The instant bonds I made with the horses were incredible. It was as if I did not have to tell them my story - they just already knew and accepted me for who I was.
I felt like the horses took me on as their project to heal. I never wanted to go home. Hillside was and still is my happy place. Bucky, I felt understood me without me verbalizing what my needs were. He would often sit me down and have positive talks with me to help my confidence and to assure me I was going to be okay and that I was safe on his property.
Working at the farm taught me respect, leadership, love, compassion, teamwork and a great work ethic. And I started to engage with the clients and I loved it! I loved to help them - it was a rewarding feeling. Because of this I got into human services - I work with many different people with disabilities. I’m in college seeking a career in Psychology. Hillside is my saving grace and I’m forever grateful for all the life lessons and values I’ve learned there. I can’t forget my Mom! She never gave up on me and wanted the best for me; she feels Hillside was my saving grace as well.
In 1999 I was just out of prison. I was a new person. The old me was no longer. God was alive in my life and this time I wasn’t going to walk away from Him. He was going to show me His power, if I trusted. So I trusted.
I went looking for a job and many doors closed in my face. Who wants to hire an ex-con, a mistake or an ex-drug dealer? That was how I saw myself. Discouraged and mentally exhausted, I finally went to a horse farm where I had heard of a guy who works with people who have different needs. From kids, to disabled children, to adults, troubled teens or broken families - he tried to help them all. He agreed to interview me and during my interview he told me, “There is no mistake, which God can't restore". He said that God watches out for him and keeps an eye on his farm. And with that I was hired. The ex-con had a job!
I had walked away from God as a young child. My own father was a believer, but like any rebellious kid I wasn't going to listen to my father who claimed God is the answer.
In my new job at Hillside, I began to see certain things in Buck Kalinowski that I once saw in my own father. I kept wondering why he gave so much of himself to these kids. So one day I just asked him and he said, “I don't know. Ask God because that's how He made me". I saw then, the direction that I wanted to go in. Equipped with God now living in my life, I wanted to please Him. I studied God’s word and watched someone who truly loved the Lord do work that blessed others. I came to know deep in my heart that was my life’s purpose.
Today, I work with individuals who are broken in spirit. I share what God has done in my life. Once I had lived a broken empty life, until I found the true joy, the natural high, in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is now what I'm all about. I guess you can say God planted a seed in me years ago, but not until I gave it the right nutrients did it begin to grow and bring forth fruit. I'm not a mistake, I'm a miracle. I look at everything with different eyes. Thank you Jesus. Amen. Amen. And believe this can happen to you.