20130819_untitled_0108kaitlyn, renato and eric

The stories, sometimes, are sad ones. Stories of men who have come hoping for freedom, praying for strength, that leave and fall back into drugs and drink and life on the street. Those stories can pile up and make us wonder if there’s any hope for any of them and then along comes a Clessio.

And our eyes are opened again to the greatness of our God and the wonder of a life completely transformed by the Gospel of Grace. When he’s taken home to heaven, we think too early, but we do not know the end from the beginning. So we wait again, lead these broken men to the door of the rehab and pray long and hard that they will make it.

And Renato does.

We visit him at work. He’s smiling when he sees us, genuine joy as he watches us make our way across the street to the shop. He’s wearing a bright orange shirt and he shyly shows off his sweet smile, teeth all fixed after his visit to the dentist.

When Lori took him, he sat outside in the waiting room with Stephanie. A little girl, bored and waiting too, started pestering, asking questions:

“Why are you here?”

“To get my teeth fixed.”

“Who brought you?”

“My mom.”

He’s 25, an addict with teeth rotted from crack, and the people that love him, the lady who brought him to the dentist, he calls her mom because that’s who she is to him.

Renato works for a christian family who owns a clothing and accessories store. Taking care of the pet store, complete with guinea pig and dog food, was Renato’s first job. They closed the pet store, expanded the other half of their business, and decided to keep Renato on. He’s a hard worker and they want to help him as he puts his life back together. Having a boss who lives for Christ keeps him accountable. It means he’s got someone there who can help, can keep an eye on him– someone who doesn’t mind seeing Renato’s bible sitting on the counter where he reads when business is slow.


He stands under bags and shirts hanging for sale in front of the store and talks to us about his struggle to get to this point in the war against his addictions.

What can he do now? How can it be more than just a constant struggle on his own?

He’s not alone and it’s not just him– he’s got a family, he’s got a Savior who will never leave him or forsake him. And there’s a lot of other men struggling right beside him.


Do you think you can be a help?

He looks at us and nods. Yes. “I can, I can help. I can give them the Word.”

The Word that is life. That can cure. That’s real victory. No one’s telling them it’ll be easy. This isn’t a one and done, come and go and your cured. It’ll be an all your life, all the time kind of battle, but isn’t that the flesh? We all fight. Only Christ wins.

Renato says it plain: “The first time you come you’re not going to want it. You have to want it. Not for your family, but for yourself. You have to really want it. Not to show anyone else.”

And there we are, all of us sinners, tripping and falling so long on how to get past the loving our sin, trying so hard to live Christian-like without the Light and it never works. We have to really want it, His free gift, or we’ll never get it.

Renato smiles again, peaceful. This crack-addicted, shell of man has been set free.

And he knows this: “It wasn’t by my own strength, it was from Him.”

For by grace.


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