By: Isaac Stooksberry, Founder & Executive Director

By the time I was 23 years old, I had completely messed up my life. I really felt like it was over. “If this is all there is to life,” I thought to myself, “I don’t want to live anymore.”

I was addicted to opiates, and my life was spiraling out of control. I got arrested, and when I was in jail, a detective came to talk to me. He told me that if I would come to his office when I got released, he would help me get into a program. But, I didn’t take him up on his offer. Instead, I went to New Orleans and partied for the weekend. The next week he found me, but to my surprise, he didn’t arrest me. He escorted me to a Christian recovery program, and the only reason I stayed was because jail was the alternative.

Encountering Jesus

One night after hearing everybody talk about Jesus, I asked the Lord to help me sleep. It was like He came down and sat at the foot of my bed. I had never felt a presence like that before, so I began to weep and repent. The Lord met me in that moment and transformed my life. He began to teach me how to love myself and the people around me. I had hope in my heart for the first time in so long, and I just wanted to share it with everybody!

Then I began to feel like God was calling me to ministry. There were some mentors in my life who introduced me to a school of ministry, and God divinely connected me with some people who were starting a recovery ministry in Anniston. The Lord was gracious to give me a position there as a dorm supervisor, which led to my becoming a mentor and counselor, and eventually men’s program director.

Called to Baldwin County

Near the end of 2014, my wife Rana and I began to look at Baldwin County and ask the Lord if that was where he wanted us to go. Through a lot of prayer and fasting over the next six months, there were many confirmations that God was leading us to the Gulf Coast, so we moved with faith and a vision.

On February 29, 2016, we started Big Fish Ministries with just Rana, myself and our first staff member. We took in our first two students that day, and since then we have grown to over 70 residents in several different homes across Baldwin County. We have housed and provided services for 620+ residents and more than 170 have graduated from our programs.

It’s just a beautiful thing to see transformed lives.

We teach men and women that their lives aren’t over—there is a new beginning. Isaiah 61:3 says that God brings beauty from ashes. Shame and guilt from your past do not have to dictate your future.

What’s in a Name?

Our name, Big Fish Ministries, is based on the story of Jonah. Inside the belly of the big fish, he repented and became a changed man. When the fish spit him out, he went directly to fulfill the purpose God had for his life.

That is our goal for every man and woman who comes to our ministry—not just to pass a drug test, but to leave full of purpose, knowing what their next step is.

From the beginning of my story to where we are today, it all comes down to relationships. It was the detective’s relationship with someone at a ministry that led to my life being changed. Relationships opened the door for us to come to Foley and start a ministry that has impacted hundreds of lives. And it is the relationships with our partners that will help us carry forward the vision God has given us.

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