By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
"God has raised up a special group of people who aren't afraid to go to the fringe," says Worley. "As a matter of fact, we'll walk into it, and if it gets too soft, we'll go look for another place."
Over the years, His Place pastors have grown accustomed to picking up vans full of people, bringing them to church from sober-living homes. But many hear about His Place through word of mouth.
Scott Troske, a former bassist of OC punk heroes Drain Bramaged, as well as the Addicts, went from doing a bid in the state penitentiary to now serving at the church; he teaches youth Sunday school and hopes to become an ordained minister. "I used to sing songs and be in bands that openly mocked God and religion—that was just our way of life and how we looked at the world," he says. "I look back at some of those old songs, and I see a totally different person. Am I perfect? No—but nothing like I was."
In fact, Troske's sentiment is actually the slogan on the church's marquee, the first thing people see when they drive up: "A Perfect Place for Imperfect People."
* * *
The His Place Furey preaches in now resembles nothing of what it was when he started. The original congregation was little more than 30 people in two schoolhouse-looking buildings totaling 5,200 square feet, with just two toilets. Most of the parents were über-traditional God-fearers who home-schooled their kids. Though Furey was ready to unload his knowledge about recovery, his gritty message wasn't very welcome.
"There are people who didn't like the whole recovery thing, who didn't feel like they needed to recover from anything," says Soumokil, who has been with the church since its Huntington Beach days. "Their lives were apparently just perfect. So they left."
Soon, most of the conservative congregation—including the board of directors—decided to split. The crowd on Sundays turned into a hodgepodge of the homeless, feisty Southern Baptist types, alcoholic bankers, prostitutes, punkers and people barely holding themselves together.
Furey preached several times each week in an effort to rebuild the church crowd while also serving at the Rescue Mission as a chaplain. Meanwhile, his family had been put on the back burner. His own kids were also developing a negative outlook toward church; each of them dabbled with drugs and alcohol. "I became a workaholic for the Kingdom of God," Furey says. "And my kids paid the price, and my wife paid the price."
Still, he was understandably shocked when one of his daughters, Bridget, wound up pregnant at age 16. The other, Sarah, joined the Navy at 18. Gabe had grown into a bright guy with dyed jet-black hair and tattoos and was an accomplished drummer in local Christian metalcore band Iron Sharpens Iron—and he was developing a secret addiction to pills.
"My siblings all felt it," Sarah says. "And it's understandable because my dad was running the entire show and didn't have the people to back him up. I understand now, but back then, it was more like we came second."
But that resentment from his kids did not compare to the devastation from Gabe's tragic death years later, just when everything seemed to be going right for him. On Aug. 17, 2011, Gabe was found dead on the floor of the family's downstairs bathroom in Orange. He was just 29 on that hot afternoon. Gabe and his new wife, Katie, had just moved back in with his parents while starting up a new business, playing in his band and coping with his pill addiction. Authorities found only one needle mark on Gabe's arm, but it was from the lethal dose that took his life. The loss was indescribable.
"I was pissed off," Furey says. "I felt like God didn't have my back. I felt like, for 25 years, I fought to help people in this arena, and he let it take my son. That just ain't cool. . . . It's the most devastating thing that ever happened to me."
He was at his lowest point since his days as an addict, Furey remembers. Days after Gabe's death, he stood in his back yard at dusk, holding a Bible in his hand, challenging God to make sense out of what had happened to his family. "Arrogantly, I said, 'I know this thing pretty good. Even the best theologians don't know the fullness of God's word. What can you show me to comfort me?'"
It was then, Furey says, he heard God's voice again, booming in his ears. "You want comfort; I'll show you heaven!"
Throughout his spiritual journey of street-level ministry, rarely had Furey done any in-depth studies on heaven, even as a pastor. The epiphany started him on a three-month obsession to find everything he could about the pearly gates. He poured over books and scripture that described the place he believed his son had gone.
The search gave him solace and strength, enough to start a new grief-recovery ministry at His Place. After crying every day for the past two years, Therese is finally starting to feel joy again. In the process of grieving for her son, she has realized, along with Furey, that they are now comforted by the church community they created. Instead of judging them or whispering about them in the pews, the outcasts they've helped to save are the ones who helped them through their darkest time.