Born in Delaware, Maryland, a child of economic privilege and social standing, Bob Carey had all the prerogatives of upper middle class birthright. What should have been an easy ride into the creature comforts of a well-to-do life in the gated suburbs of Baltimore, turned into a pot-holed nightmare. Bob’s addictions drove him into the shadows of Baltimore where he begged for his life, grovelling daily for chump change out of dark alleys, hoping only for enough to get high. “I never thought I’d end up a homeless man carrying my life’s belongings in a bag, sleeping in missions and standing in line for food. But there I was.”
Now, twenty years later, he can tell his story without a trace of shame. He knows what he is. A child of a gracious God who forgave him his sins, adopted him and handed him an inheritance in Christ Jesus more precious than anything he could ever have imagined in the streets of Baltimore. He is blessed.
Bob sits in a high-backed chair behind a desk in his comfortable office in Seaford, Delaware. On the wall above his head hangs an oak plaque with a brass replica of his graduation certificate from Detroit Life Challenge. Bob serves as Executive Director at Delmarva Teen Challenge.
“I grew up in an upper-middle class home along the 16th fairway of the Newark Country Club in Newark, Delaware. I was a Boy Scout, played Little League baseball and attended Sanford Preparatory School. I did well in my classes and participated on the high school wrestling, track and football teams. All the ingredients for worldly success were in place.
“Life at home, though, became my undoing. I saw a lot of alcohol consumption. My parents separated when I was six, got back together, separated again when I was 14, and finally divorced when I was 18 years old. I became insecure and confused. I didn’t know how to deal with my emotions. I felt like a caged tiger. I was trapped and soon found the release that drunkenness provided.
“At the age of 23, I started working at the Dupont Chemical Company. I did well, but just couldn’t shake the alcohol. If I wasn’t drinking, I was planning to drink. My weekend binges extended into the workweek and I began missing work. Twice, I was sent to posh, private rehabilitation centers. Finally, after eleven years of employment I was terminated.
”My life seemed to swerve into chaos. I drove like a fool straight into multiple correctional facilities. In jail, I remember thinking to myself, ‘How in the world did I end up here? What happened?’ It only barely occurred to me that drugs and alcohol were killing me.
“I had caused a lot of pain in my family. I moved back home, trying to pull my life back together. I knew I was a disgrace. I felt it deeply.
”I couldn’t stay at home. I was 34 when I ended up a homeless man on Lombard and Pratt Street in Baltimore, Maryland. I was hopeless. I drank Thunderbird wine. I stood in soup-lines. I smelled of my own self-loathing. I could barely walk because of the open sores on my feet. My teeth were knocked out. My gums were swollen. My liver was rotted. At 6 feet 2 inches, I weighed 138 pounds.
“I awoke one day in Mercy Hospital. I had been laying for hours in the streets on a cold day in late October. I had double pneumonia and a temperature of 106 degrees. After twelve days of antibiotics and bed rest, I was sent to the Annapolis Shelter. Some Christian brothers took me to Teen Challenge of Capitol Heights, Maryland. A week later, I was transferred, still in a daze, to Detroit Life Challenge. That was in November of 1993.
”When I walked through the doors of Life Challenge I was ready to give any change a chance. God, in his mercy, gloriously revealed his son to me. I repented, I opened my heart and I was saved. I have never been the same.
“I was given a new drive and sense of direction. I no longer wanted to do anything that was offensive to the Lord. For the first time in my life, I had a desire to live life to good purpose and to serve him. God gave me an appetite to study his Word. He restored my mind and the ability to think clearly. I regained my self-respect.
”Since that time God has mended broken family relationships. He has given me a beautiful, godly wife, Cristina, to whom I have been married for 19 years. He has blessed me with three precious children (two attend Summit International Bible College) and provided the opportunity for me to continue my education at Central Bible College.
“I wanted to give back to the people and to the program that had shown me the way. I joined the staff at Detroit Life Challenge.
”Then, five years ago, I was approached to give leadership to what was then called the Mission of Hope in Seaford, Delaware. I told the board that I would do it, but I needed the call to be confirmed by my wife and by the leadership at Life Challenge. I also told the board that God had given me a vision to turn Delmarva into a Teen Challenge Training Facility.
“Today, I am executive director at Delmarva and an ordained minister. Most wonderfully, God has given me a passion to impact hurting lives, to be a difference-maker for him. In my tenure, we have graduated 137 men from our discipleship program. I consider myself an extension of the Detroit Life Challenge ministry. I count it all as blessing.We serve a mighty and a gracious God. I thank him every day for my family and for the family of God I was adopted into so long ago. My Lord has laid on my heart this beautiful burden to win as many as possible into that family, by the power of his Word, through the saving-knowledge of Jesus Christ.”
Really enjoyed this story. No matter what advantages we think we have in the world we’re not immune from addiction. Likewise His grace, love, healing and forgiveness is given freely and in great abundance. Just a simple choice away.
You know it, brother! I often think about the advantages I had as a child and how I squandered them. Now I know that the only real advantage there is comes by faith; it is the rich inheritance that God graciously bestows upon us when we are in Christ!