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Publisher's Summary

If we choose to trust unconditionally, how many lives could we change?

When Pastor Bruce Deel took over the Mission Church in the 30314 zip code of Atlanta, he had orders to shut it down. The church was old and decrepit, and its neighborhood - known as "Better Leave, You Effing Fool", or "the Bluff", for short - had the highest rates of crime, homelessness, and incarceration in Georgia. Expecting his time there to only last six months, Deel was not prepared for what happened next. One Sunday, he was approached by a woman he didn't know. "I've been hooking and stripping for fourteen years," she said. "Can you help me?"

Soon after, Bruce founded an organization called City of Refuge rooted in the principle of radical trust. Other nonprofits might drug test before offering housing, lock up valuables, or veto a program giving job skills and character references to felons as "a liability". But Bruce believed the best way to improve outcomes for the marginalized and impoverished was to extend them trust, even if that trust was violated multiple times - and even if someone didn't yet trust themselves. Since then, City of Refuge has helped over 20,000 people in Atlanta's toughest neighborhood escape the cycles of homelessness, joblessness, and drug abuse.

Of course, trust alone can't overcome a broken system that perpetuates inequality. Presenting an unvarnished window into the lives of ex-cons, drug addicts, human trafficking survivors, and displaced souls who have come through City of Refuge, Trust First examines the context in which Bruce's Atlanta neighborhood went downhill - and what City of Refuge chose to do about it. They've become a one-stop-shop for transitional housing, on-site medical and mental health care, childcare, and vocational training, including accredited intensives in auto tech, culinary arts, and coding. While most social services focus on one pain point and leave the burden on the poor to find the crosstown bus that'll serve their other needs, Bruce argues that bringing someone out of homelessness requires treating all of their needs simultaneously. This model has proven so effective that a dozen new chapters of City of Refuge have opened in the US, including in California, Illinois, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, Texas, and Georgia. 

More than a narrative about a single place in time, this radical primer for behavioral change belongs on every leader's shelf. Heartfelt, deeply personal, and inspiring, Trust First will break down your assumptions about whether anyone is ever truly a lost cause. Bruce will donate a portion of his proceeds from Trust First to the charitable organization City of Refuge.

©2019 Bruce Deel and Sara Grace (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“Bruce’s story shows us the incredible power trust plays in being a catalyst for change and serves as a reminder that everybody deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Inspirational!” (Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller and author of Everybody Matters)
 

Trust First inspired me beyond words. Through his nonprofit and his relentless love for the people he serves, Bruce models what a life lived for others looks like. With passionate storytelling and a posture of humility, Bruce reminds us that ‘there’s no expiration date on our commitment to people.’ Stirring, personal, and challenging, this book will win your heart and inspire action.” (Dan T. Cathy, chairman & CEO, Chick-fil-A, Inc.) 

"Through an intimate and powerful account of a twenty-year journey, Bruce Deel affirms that radical trust is a critical investment needed to humanize the fight against poverty and injustice - trusting people to do their best, and then stepping away to allow transformation to unfold. He illustrates how we have to re-think binary notions of success and failure, thereby ensuring that individual dignity and freedom remain intact.” (Michelle Nunn, CEO of humanitarian aid organization CARE USA)

What listeners say about Trust First

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Listen. To. This. Book. "TRUST" me!

This is an incredible book from a guy with an incredible heart. I am not a guy who cries often...but I found myself tearing up multiple times throughout this book in the way that Bruce and the people he works with have chosen to continually show up for the people in Atlanta who so desperately need help. Help that isn't fleeting...but constant. I am inspired and you will be too. So download the book and then share with your friends and family!

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I dare you to listen to this book!

We need more Bruce Deels in this world! I doubt you can hear his story without shedding a tear.

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Everyone should read this!

This book is so compelling I couldn't stop listening. My eyes and heart have been opened wider.

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The amazing story about City of Refuge

Bruce and Rhonda Deel have committed thier lives to serving others. In this book Bruce shares some of the stories, lives and relationships they have touched. This book inspires and encourages all of us. It demonstrates how those acts of kindness truly bless others and ourselves.

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Modeling behavior

I heard about “Trust First” after listening to the interview with Bruce Deel and Simon Sinek on his “A Bit of Optimism” podcast. The interview was so compelling that I immediately purchased the audio book.

I was so enthralled by every chapter and listening the voice of the man that started it all, was even more invigorating. Each chapter pierced my soul but it also was a mirror of reflection for how I treat the “less fortunate” and hard to love people in my life. As I heard the amazing stories of transformation and even the stories of unfortunate endings, I reflected on how I can make an impact like Mr. Deel. The book moved me to think about how I trust or don’t trust some folks. I even shed some tears. It’s helped me change my approach to loving difficult people, of which I can also be.

Bravo!!! Well written and well done. I’v been talking about this book to my Toastmaster Club, on LinkedIn and to anyone that may need a little help loving. 🙏🏼

You’ve imprinted my heart with love. ❤️

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Transformative Book and Relevant today

If you want to hear first hand that choices made by others could impact you for generations this is a must read. For those looking for a place to donate, you can't go wrong with City of Refuge! Thank you Bruce Deel!

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Fantastic !

Heart warming, frustrating , sad, and inspiring all at once. Oh, and laugh out loud funny in places too.

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Amazing stories about changes

These stories were great. I'm not an emotional person and do not cry. but I cried hearing these stories of God changing people through the people at C.O.R. by trusting first.

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Inspiring and Compellingly

I loved every chapter more as the story unfolded. I am recommending and gifting this book to everyone I know that wants to make a difference. Bruce Deel is my real life hero.

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Bruce gets it!

This is the first book on those living in the margins that rings true at every turn. Bruce gets it, he has the love and concern to really care! Really care!
He has lived it and it shows!