Story of City of Refuge to be Released

Bruce Deel, founder of the City of Refuge in Atlanta, has authored Trust First, a book billed as, “A True Story about the Power of Giving People Second Chances.”

Deel, an ordained bishop in the Church of God, founded City of Refuge following an assignment to close a struggling church back in 1997. The story is an incredible modern-day testimony about the possibilities of witness and raising a family in one of the most dangerous and crime-ridden areas in the country.

City of Refuge has been adopted as the 2018-2020 project for Church of God Women’s Ministries, where the hope is to raise $500,000 to partner on the House of Cherith project to establish the first home for trafficked women and their children in the Atlanta metropolitan area.

Pastor Deel never expected to spend more than six months in inner-city Atlanta when he relocated on a short-term project to shut down a church. But then a young woman approached him after a service and said: “I’ve been hooking and stripping for 14 years. Can you help me?”
Soon after, Bruce founded City of Refuge rooted in the principle of radical trust. While 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, Bruce believed that 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.

Presenting an unvarnished look of the program’s successes and failures, Trust First: A True Story about the Power of Giving People Second Chances (Release date 7/23/19; Optimism Press) takes readers into the 30314 zip code of Atlanta–known as “Better Leave, You Effing Fool,” or “the Bluff,” for short—where City of Refuge serves a neighborhood with the highest crime rate, the highest incarceration rate, and the highest homelessness rate per capita in all of Georgia. The one-stop shop provides holistic care to tens of thousands in the local community, including on-site medical and mental health care, childcare, and vocational training, with accredited intensives in auto tech, culinary arts, and coding.

Trust First is both a radical primer for mindset and behavioral change and a meaningful window into the lives of ex-cons, drug addicts, human trafficking survivors, and displaced individuals, revealing the systemic nature of opportunity injustice while challenging our assumptions about whether anyone is truly a lost cause. Bruce’s work with City of Refuge – as told in Trust First – is proof that there IS a way to fight these problems. It all begins by extending trust.

Dan T. Cathy, chairman & CEO, Chick-fil-A, Inc., said “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.”

In addition to leading City of Refuge, Bruce Deel is Senior Pastor of The Mission Church and a graduate of Lee University. As a result of his experience and success, he has become a highly sought after speaker and serves as a consultant to numerous non-profits around the country.

A portion of the proceeds from Trust First will be donated back to City of Refuge. Bruce and his wife, Rhonda, have five daughters.

To learn more about City of Refuge, visit To learn more about Church of God Women’s Ministries and the House of Cherith project, visit To inquire about obtaining a copy of Trust First, email [email protected].

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