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Addicted Rebel Finds Hope At His Lowest

Ashley Andrews - 700 Club Producer

Rusty Boruff liked people looking his way. “I liked people laughing when I would do something dumb. I felt like I had to do the next thing and the next thing and the next thing. I just took it too far.”

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” — 1 Corinthians 13:7

“I grew up in a pretty normal, blue-collar family, awesome parents. Very loving mom,” he said. His mother Lori shared that he was, “Always smiling. He had a wonderful sense of humor, a lot like his dad. He could always crack a joke and make you laugh. He was just a sweetheart.”

But at 11-years-old, Rusty began to question where he belonged. “At that age I was trying to fit in,” he confided. “Just trying to impress kids and have people like me and be the cool kid. I wanted people to love me, I wanted that acceptance, I found it in anybody who would give it to me.”

Everyone in small-town Illinois took notice…especially those in church. He described how he was raised in church but that, “It was a rules-based church. That yearning to be liked, that yearning for acceptance, I didn’t find that in church, I didn’t find that in God because that wasn’t the God that I knew. I didn’t know about His grace, I didn't know about His love. The God I knew was rules. And when you didn’t live up to those rules, when you didn’t live up to those standards, God didn’t have any room for you.”

And when his best friend was killed in an ATV accident, Rusty pointed his finger at God. “‘If God was good, how could He allow this to happen?’ I’d already felt like God had started throwing the towel on me. That was the first I remember kind of me saying, ‘Okay, right back at You, God. I’ll throw in the towel on You.’

He shut out God…and everyone else. He shared, “I felt like if I got close to someone else again, then in the end, I get hurt. That’s what my heart, that’s what my mind, my emotions, told me, was don’t get close to anybody. Life for me was pretty lonely. And I think that’s what drove me wanting everybody to like me and do whatever I could to get that attention, and went to extreme measures to do that.”  

Smoking, drinking, stealing, cocaine, acid, arrests – Rusty lost all faith. But for Lori and her friend Deb, faith was all they had. Deb recalled, “Oh, Lori and I clung to prayer so often. We had Scriptures almost every day that we prayed.” Lori said tearfully, “We’d pray do whatever it takes to bring him to You.”

Then, at 17, Rusty was sent off for a semester at military school. There, he got clean and attended mandatory chapel. He started seeing “these like people during worship raise their hands and stuff. I’d never seen that type of stuff. I’m like this is weird. But then it got to the sermon point. He started talking about the prodigal son – how when the prodigal son comes home, not only is just forgiven, but it’s a time to celebrate. And that’s where I started feeling emotions like joy and peace that I had never felt before.” But even though he saw what he was missing, he wasn’t ready to trust God. “All I had to do was to take it – to take His grace, to take His forgiveness, to take His love. But I had a tough time trusting the Person who was giving those things to me.”

A year later, he relapsed on cocaine. Lori and Rusty’s dad Rick had no other choice. “It’s so hard to tell your child that he could not be in his home,” Lori cried. But Deb was quick to remind her, "‘God loves Rusty more than you.’ And I thought, ‘Oh, was that enough?’ And then a few days later she said, ‘Deb, I cling to that every day because it’s true.’” During that time, Lori listened to God – “The Lord kept telling me, things aren’t what they seem. He designed Rusty. He created Rusty. He wired Rusty. I mean, if I didn't go to God, what would I have? He was my hope.”

Out on the streets, Rusty got what he wanted from other addicts. “They accepted me for being a drug addict. They accepted me for being an alcoholic. When I was homeless, they were homeless with me.” But he was miserable. “I hated it. It was like the pit of my existence. I had that internal fight inside of me because I had enough taste of who God was to know that what I was doing was wrong. It was my fault. It was my fault. I didn’t feel like I was worth loving or deserving of love either.”

At 20, he was charged with criminal sexual assault when his 16-year-old girlfriend became pregnant. Only 1 thing kept him from running from a 14-year sentence. “I need to do whatever I needed to do to be there for my kid,” he said. “I didn’t want my child to go through the pain of trying to fit in like I went through. I wanted him to always feel even if no one else liked him in the world, he still had me.”

At his lowest, he found hope in the jail’s only volunteer — a 90-year-old christian named Merle. “Merle,” he remembered, “would come in every Sunday. He wasn’t the most exciting person to talk to, but it was never what Merle said to me that really made a difference. It’s what he did. He showed me God cared by being there. You know, I mean, what else would drive this 90-year-old guy to come and talk to me? Out of all the things I had done wrong in my life. It showed me that God could forgive me.”

Finally, he was ready. “I didn’t have the drugs, I didn’t have the alcohol anymore – it was just God. My prayer was – was very raw. ‘God, if You’re real, if I can actually trust You, this is the time I need You.’"

Months later, the judge reduced the charges and sentenced Rusty to 75 days. “The judge knew my reputation, he knew my criminal history, he knew everything I had done. And so how I didn’t go to prison that day is –is literally a miracle from God,” he grins. For Lori, all she could do was praise God. “It was, ‘Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus.’” That day, Rusty told himself, “Now I have a purpose. If God wants, I’m going to let Him use my life."

Rusty was released just before the birth of his son. He’s now a husband and father of two. He’s also the founder and director of One Eighty, a non-profit ministry that provides housing and counseling to those overcoming addiction and homelessness.

Deb shared, “It’s amazing. It is nothing short of a miracle. Just trust in God and that’s it. Never, ever, ever, ever give up.” For her and Lori, Rusty’s turn-around is proof that prayer works. “I know the power of prayer because I have experienced it. And I know it was Jesus. I know He was right there,” Lori said. And for Rusty, the blessings in his life all come down to God’s love. “God’s love has no barriers. It didn’t matter my reputation, all the hearts that I had broke, all the bad things I had done. There is nothing that can keep God’s love away from us.”

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