September is National Recovery Month. Throughout this month, North Alabama United Methodists are sharing their stories on various aspects of recovery ministries and how they bring transformation to people, local churches and communities.
I have had many people ask me why I love the recovery ministry called Celebrate Recovery, or CR. Celebrate Recovery is a street ministry that occurs inside the church walls. CR is a Christ-centered 12 step program. Participants ask Christ into their hearts, as their Lord and Savior, so the full path to recovery can begin. CR is not solely a recovery program for addicts with chemical and alcohol addiction. It helps people find healing of wounds caused by abuse, grief, overeating, gambling and unhealthy relationships of many different kinds. It is a program that helps to remove the chemical bandage of addiction but also helps to heal the deeper wounds of hurts, habits, and hang-ups.
Celebrate Recovery is a ministry out of Saddleback Church, written by John Baker and Rick Warren in 1993. It is now published in more than 23 languages. This ministry is in thousands of churches and reaches more people outside of the congregation than you can imagine. In CR, there are many different levels of people who train others and help programs to succeed. From Saddleback Church, you will find Reps who travel the world to help set up CR programs; National Reps who hold trainings at yearly summits on the east and west coast; State Reps who help with the training at the summit events plus work with local CR programs; and now UMC District Reps, such as myself, who help local programs of each district within the UMC to start up and continue with training as needed.
Each week, around the world, the participants who attend a Celebrate Recovery meeting will experience fellowship through food, worship in a large group, a teaching or testimony aligned with the 12 steps, an altar call and a chip call to celebrate the milestones of recovery. After a small break, the participants attend a small group that is gender-specific and hang-up specific. It is critical for anyone who is wrapped in physical, mental, emotional or spiritual bondage to have a safe place to heal so there is a saying for small group: “What is said in group stays in group!”
In 2012, I was asked to be part of the CR leadership in Springville. I did not really think it would take up much of my time since I did not have a chemical or alcohol addiction. First, I managed the Facebook page. I would sit in the back of the room and listen to the message. On Saturday morning, I would make a post to spark conversation. I realized that some of these people had experienced the same abuse that I did. The following year, we took CR into the jails. This is where God really worked on my heart. My initial attitude was simple: I did not put the needle in your arm, so why should I feel sorry for you? It was in the jail ministry where God broke the walls around my heart, and the women behind bars ministered to me more than I could ever minister to them. God put it on my heart to go back to school to learn more, so I completed two Bachelor’s degrees in Psychology – one in Crisis Counseling and the other in Addiction Recovery. I wanted to know how and why the body reacts differently to different things.
It was CR where God revealed my ministry to #SpeakLife every chance I could. I have seen so many people feel like there is no escape from the generational curse they were born into and they have accepted that they are worthless. During the five years I served on the leadership T.E.A.M. in Springville, I met close to 2,000 women. I have seen so many of them humble their hearts and obey God’s will for their lives. I have seen so many success stories. I have tried to keep in contact with as many as possible. I tell everyone that being involved in CR is God giving us a front-row seat to the greatest show on earth and that show is called restoration and redemption. I have seen marriages restored, children restored to parents, first cars bought, first homes bought, and these same people answer the call on their lives to serve God in their local CR ministry.
In recovery, there are a few foundational beliefs:
My heart will forever belong to a recovery ministry. If the church is the hospital and God is the Ultimate Physician, then CR is an emergency room where Jesus is always on call to reach one more wounded soul.
There are many avenues to which local congregations can connect to become part of a supportive village for persons going through recovery.