Category: Salvation Army

“It’s common for a person to relapse, but relapse doesn’t mean that treatment doesn’t work. As with other chronic health conditions, treatment should be ongoing and should be adjusted based on how the patient responds. Treatment plans need to be reviewed often and modified to fit the patient’s changing needs.” Understanding drug use and addiction

We are not a treatment center.

Our sign says Adult Rehabilitation Center.

 

Our goal is to provide this rehabilitation through addressing their problems which more often than not, include addiction.

While we differentiate between treatment and rehabilitation we do identify addiction as a disease. This can be hard for many of us to wrap our heads around. The common thought is, just stop. Stop drinking so much. Stop taking all your prescribed meds for the month in two days. Just stop it!

I don’t have the scientific knowledge or words to explain this. I can’t find the exact analogy that would make this more relatable. I only know that addicts aren’t this way by their own choosing. No one thinks they’re going to be an addict or alcoholics. There isn’t even a clear predictor of the cause of this disease. Yes, it seems to run in families but no family is immune.

David grew up in the church. His father is a pastor with regional oversight for his denomination.
Sue’s dad was a lawyer.
Arnie’s family all held white-collar professional jobs.
Sam’s brother was a neurosurgeon.

Some are the only ones in their family with this disease. Or maybe the only ones addicted to the “wrong” things. There are acceptable addictions like workaholism and smoking. We applaud one and frown on the other.

Sue was college educated and taught school. She never drank before college but once she started, she couldn’t stop. She ended up in jail in a DUI charge. Her family wouldn’t bail her out. She eventually lost her job. It took this well-educated, bright woman 11 attempts at sobriety before something clicked. Twenty-five years later she can’t tell you why it finally did. She is only grateful it did.

None of these people wanted to be who they became. All of them are thankful for who they are now. They are part of the redeemed.

I haven’t struggled with addiction. But I wasn’t who I wanted to be. Something was missing in my life. I knew it. I also knew the answer. It’s the same answer we offer them: redemption through Jesus. For some, he has miraculously removed the desire to use drugs. For most, he uses people, programs, and groups, to help in the ongoing battle.

It is the same with sin. There are temptations all around. They are not eliminated from our lives. God works through a myriad of ways to walk with us in our daily journey as redeemed. For all of us, life is lived one day at a time.

There has to be a willingness to change. There is healing. There is grace. One day. Every day.

faith grace recovery Salvation Army

I don’t know Margaret’s story. I only know her critical spirit matched with a voice like a sharp-edged knife could make my shoulders scrunch with tension.

It was our first pastorate. We were not what she expected. Their congregation of retired pastors and long-time members were entitled to more. She took it upon herself to let us know.

Margaret let us know plenty in the two years we were there. She and her husband invited us to dinner at their house. It was a simple meal meant to provide our need for food. No more, no less. This would be an indicator of Margaret’s way of life. No fluff, no need for compliments, just clear and direct.

Most Sundays she inspected me. She’d put her hands on my shoulders squaring me with her as she flattened my color or smoothed my lapels.

She marched into my office one day informing me our son had given her a real scare. He was crossing the street as she was parking their car. He hit the front of her car with his hand intending to make her think she’d hit him. He succeeded. More than startled, she was, let’s just say, not happy.

I listened, nodded yes in agreement that wasn’t appropriate behavior but inside, I was smiling. I could only think how she couldn’t see what everyone saw: she was an old biddy!

Margaret was a talented pianist. Hum any song in her ear and she’d pick it up and play along. Lead a hymn that is noticeably high for your range and Margaret magically lowered it to just the right key. No fuss. No need to tell her what a talent this was. She could have been the originator of the expression “it is what it is”.

She and her husband were faithful in attendance and giving. They gave of their time, talents and finances.

Whatever her hard edges were, Margaret was no stranger to redemption. While her rough exterior was evident, so was her desire to serve. She held her faith in Jesus dear. It just didn’t look the same way in her life.

Familiarity is comfortable. Even in redemption. We question the different, the unfamiliar. We question practices and which Bible translation is the “right” one. But His grace fits all. God’s grace isn’t limited to color, gender, geography or talents. Redemption is given to all who believe and accept Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

 

faith grace Salvation Army

Tuesday night is our Celebrate Recovery meeting. We start with an hour of singing and either a lesson or someone sharing their story. The lessons are the 8 CR principles which correspond to the 12 steps. It’s usually my time with the guys. I try to have some short videos playing before the meeting starts. It gets them in the chapel sooner because often the videos are humorous and we all need to laugh.

This week I pulled out the song we used as our theme song of the weekend when we had our annual camp retreat. The song, appropriately titled: I AM FREE.

The men, already on their feet, were into it from the beginning. Singing out, jumping up on the line “I Am Free to Dance” and then Felix happened.

 


There’s an instrumental bridge in the chorus. A rather lengthy one. So many men began hollering out what they’re free from I could barely distinguish their words.

“CRACK” “ALCOHOL” “SISTER-GIRL” “ANGER” “FEAR”

Their voices on top of each other. Not done yet, Felix, in sports-huddle style began hollering into the crowd. Again, I couldn’t make out the words as he turned to face the room, arm piercing the air as if he’s leading an army. He calls out, the men respond. Back and forth this goes until we all begin singing the chorus I Am Free.

I was taught you sing one of those “just above a whisper” songs to lead into prayer. Not tonight. Not tonight. This is in your face recovery and time for some big loud prayers. O.k. the prayer wasn’t that loud but the energy surrounding it was huge.

After the meeting was over Felix came and apologized. Apology? For what?  This is church, your church. This is an expression of worship and praise. Not an imitation but pure.

Just what God wants from us. The pure, honest expression of praise. It doesn’t have to be loud, sung or spoken aloud. Just true. And offered to Him because He is.

faith recovery Salvation Army

faith grace recovery Salvation Army

Even the deaf use words.

John signs as he uses his voice to speak to me because he really does talk with his hands. While I need the spoken word to understand, his comfort is forming the words with his fingers.

I thought John had been using sign language most of his life. At 18 months old he was sick with a fever that spiked so high it made him deaf. The only life he remembers is one of not being like the rest of his family. Not hearing when everyone around him did. His mother wouldn’t allow him to learn sign language until he could speak with his voice. He learned to form the words with his mouth by watching the lips of others.

John attended hearing schools. Somehow he kept up with his classmates but he never felt like he fit. It wasn’t until college that he found himself in his world, a world that would be silent to us but came to life for him. For the first time, he found his tribe, his place. He belonged.

Already his story is one of triumph and victory, overcoming limitations and finding new talents but it takes another turn. The college keg parties turned into alcoholism for John. Friends, family, the normies who can stop drinking at will don’t understand why he can’t. John doesn’t understand why he can’t. A marriage becomes a divorce as his family backs away. He is walking the streets of Fort Lauderdale with an art portfolio in his hand. His drawings are his only possessions now. The evidence that there is some good in him.

In a moment of clarity, he realizes he needs help but he finds place after place telling him they can’t help him because he’s deaf, until he comes to our door. We don’t have anyone who knows sign language. We have no interpreters. We only have space for him. It won’t be easy. But John has been in hard places before. Maybe it was his schooling in a hearing world that gave him the determination or maybe he was just sick and tired of being sick and tired but he made it. He made it through the group meetings where he strained to read the lips of the counselor, sometimes getting it, sometimes not. He sat on the second row in the chapel to get the best view of the speaker’s mouth shaping the words but too many words got lost.

William Booth as drawn by John T.

I’ve tried to imagine what it was like for John but I can’t come close to knowing the silence that surrounded him. Even now I hear the whirring of an air conditioner in the office and faint voices in the outer room. I have the luxury of turning down or up the volume.

John was recognized as Man of the Year for 2013, an honor that took him by complete surprise. He stays active in the recovery community and comes back for our Alumni events.

He happened to be in front of me in line at a convenience store one day. He turned around and said, “You saved my life.” I knew what he meant. It wasn’t me. It was God’s redeeming power working through all of us that gave him renewed purpose. What a mighty God we serve.

hope recovery Salvation Army

Some personalities are hard to capture in words. Lettie is one of those.

She was a force.

I never knew her age but somewhere in her 60’s when we met her she was as energetic as ones half her age. Her days were largely spent helping others. She seemed to know just the right time to drop off flowers to someone feeling especially lonely that day.

Lettie was one of the pillars of this tiny congregation we’d been appointed to. She took leadership over a group of senior women working more behind the scenes. She was most comfortable in the kitchen although she didn’t shy away from talking.

Wednesday nights often found Lettie in the church kitchen helping feed the 30 kids who came through our doors. From pre-school to high school they lined up to give her a hug as she held her arms open wide.

Somewhere in Lettie’s life, she’d found herself in AA. It wasn’t something she talked about nor was it something she hid.

Life hadn’t been easy for Lettie and while she was giving of herself to others most days, once a month she’d make the 5-hour drive north to visit her husband in the state prison. In many ways, her husband’s imprisonment was her freedom. She made no bones about his wicked ways. It was as matter of fact as was her being in recovery.

Through Lettie’s giving, she received the gift of gratitude. It seems an oxymoron to get when you give but her life bubbled over with gratitude. She was grateful for God’s saving grace. She was thankful for daughters who loved and served God. Gratitude doesn’t make room for pity or complaining. She did neither.

Lettie was as imperfect as the rest of us. But she was faithful to the one who was restoring her life one day at a time.

grace Salvation Army

Randall comes from a line of artists. His grandfather designed Dugan glass, his oldest son teaches art at a university in the midwest and he is a floral designer. He also curates our silent art auctions, decorates our facility for every holiday including 7 Christmas trees, the Advent table and every holiday in between. Randall is my right hand. He’s also an alcoholic.

It wasn’t Randall’s decision to walk through our doors over ten years ago. His younger son gave him an ultimatum: get help or I’m done.

He was in the program when we arrived. He quickly told me he was good at making floral arrangements and volunteered to help if needed. I was hesitant. I asked him to show me something first. He’s made every arrangement we have since then. It’s not a talent I have nor something I think about other than something on the dining room tables.

Quite simply, he’s amazing and our building wouldn’t look as good without him.

 

 

Randall culls through the donated bits and pieces and fashions beauty from others have cast aside. In the right hands, the old and dirty are given new life. In the hands of a loving Savior, we are given new life too.

More than that, Randall has become a grandfather and it makes me smile when he shows new photos of his grands. He is a welcome part of his son’s lives.

His redemption story is played out every day. I’ve never seen him in a bad mood. He didn’t complain when he had to ride the bus to work. He doesn’t bemoan not having a high paying job. His life has struggles but he doesn’t need alcohol to cope with them.

We are thankful for the family members who’ve made the hard choice to demand their loved ones get help. We know it may be the hardest things they’ve done. But that is love. Love wants more. Love wants the best. Redemption answers with grace.

 

faith recovery Salvation Army

I saw his grizzled face, breadcrumbs around his dry mouth, as he offered a smile that looked genuinely happy to see me. I returned the smile that probably showed more concern than joy. He didn’t look well, not like the last time I saw him. He was much thinner, unkempt, but his eyes eager to be seen, to be welcomed ‘home’.

He’s not the only one I’ve seen worse for wear lately. Jay is still too thin after being back a month or so. Joe looked good but he’s just come from jail and detox so he’s had time for life to brighten his face again.

This is our work.

Whether they leave or stay, for this moment, they’ve been rescued.

There are few who speak of being delivered from their addiction. The kind of deliverance church folks talk about when they said God delivered them from smoking. They put the pack down and that was the end. They never had a desire for another cigarette.

Can’t say as I’ve heard that in our 13 years of working with folks in recovery. I believe it happens, but not often.

The way we’ve seen it, delivery comes one day at a time.

Sundays my husband is at the pulpit, I’ve planned the service and we worship with this unlikely group of seekers. I sit in our small chapel, large enough to hold our 100 men and an extra twenty or so. They come in wearing the clothes we’ve given them: all in ties, some in full suits. Their shirts are always tucked, their hair groomed, faces shaved…We start with the small changes. My husband tells them they look like a room full of doctors or lawyers and collectively, they know plenty of doctors and lawyers.

We sing old hymns that only a handful of them know scattering some newer songs they’ve taken more of a liking to. They raise their hands when we sing Amazing Grace and every week we sing Amazing Grace because it is and they are living trophies of that grace.

Those sitting up front will get called on to be ushers and collect the offering.

Another will read the selected scripture for the morning. It’s as if we have a front row seat to God’s redemption story watching these men labeled addict, alcoholic and thief be part of this time of worship. Yes, they’re required to attend and some will be pulling their ties off the minute they’re out the chapel doors. Some will not hear a word of God’s message. But this is not for us to decide. Ours is to be obedient to sharing his message of hope and every one of us in that room needs hope.

“It’s God’s job to judge. The Holy Spirit’s job to convict and my job to love.” – Billy Graham

grace hope recovery Salvation Army

Jason stood up to share during our testimony time. “This is the best-kept secret in Broward County.” He was talking about this place, this program, this residential facility, a place I call Grace-land. He was talking about The Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was talking about our ministry, our people, our heart, our prayers. He was talking about redemption.
Granny and mama both saved Green Stamps. As a child, I helped put these stamps in little booklets that mama would take to the Redemption Center. She would hand the required number of stamps to a clerk in exchange for something she could use in our home. Redemption was a process of exchanging one item of lesser, or no, value (the stamps) for something of greater value, for something of use.
The Oxford Dictionary defines redemption as the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil: God’s plans for the redemption of his world.
Redemption stories are testimonies of the priceless value of God’s grace in the form of his son, Jesus, being exchanged for the wreckage of our lives. This is amazing grace.
 

We were gathered in our chapel for our regular Sunday worship service. The congregation is made up of the residents who are required to attend and other men we call Alumni; they’ve completed this 6-month month program and are living on their own. Sometimes we have family members join us but most Sundays the only two women in the service are our paid pianist and me.

Our surroundings are humble. This 55-year-old building that has kept winds and water at bay through a few hurricanes doesn’t look like much from the outside. The street in front of us is one of the busiest in town. Yet, the thousands who drive past us each day aren’t aware of what goes on behind the concrete block walls. The sign spells out Adult Rehabilitation Center but really, we are a redemption center. Like the Green Stamp store, we’re exchanging hope and grace for broken lives.
As Jason said, we are the best-kept secret in town.
Write31days is an annual event joined by thousands of bloggers. The challenge is to write every day of the month. As I write through 31 days, I want to share stories of redemption.I want to share about addiction and disease and hope and restoration. We’ll share stories of living in this place I call Grace-land.

SaveSave

grace hope recovery Salvation Army

This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that.” Matthew 5:45 Message

Routines are good. Routines feel safe. On Wednesdays, I plan our Sunday worship gathering. Our congregation is men living in our residential rehab program. They are believers and doubters. Catholic, Jew, Protestant, and Atheist. They are local and from far away and on Sundays they are, what some describe, our captive audience.

We don’t have Sunday School campaigns or church growth programs. We don’t have elders or deacons or church quarrels and budgets. We have truth-tellers and grace-givers. Some are searching and others are existing one more day.

Every Wednesday, I choose songs, scripture, and all the elements traditionally part of a Protestant church service. We give it a twist with throwing out all the rules when it comes to who can participate. Addicts and alcoholics are our readers and ushers. The share when it’s testimony time and their words will pierce your heart.

These are the men in our care and these are the men who we’ve become a shelter. That word takes a physical meaning in the shadow of Hurricane Irma that is pressing our way. All we know is we don’t know. There is no certainty with nature, there are only ifs.

Because of our location and best predictions, my husband and I will be evacuating with about 60 of the men to the northern part of the state. Some men will leave to be with family but most have chosen to go with us. We hope to be there no longer than the weekend but on the other side of this storm is more uncertainty. What will we have to come home to? Will there be power? Yes, we have a generator at our facility but what toll with the storm take on our community? Will be able to get food deliveries and gas for the generator?

With all of this in mind, I plan for a time of worship. I’m planning for a time of thanksgiving because why not? I have been wrought with anxiety watching the details of this storm slowly take shape. I’ve lost sleep and been worn out from the not knowing. Yet, what came to mind was we need to give thanks. I need to give thanks. I need to be reminded of God’s goodness and faithfulness, even when our prayers for this to go away, haven’t been answered with yes.

It’s easy to thank God in the good times. It’s easier to forget to give thanks when all is going our way. It’s necessary to give thanks in the uncertain times.

We will gather with our men in a camp outside the little town of Keystone Heights. We will set up board games and dominoes, chess and checkers. The spade players will have the cards out and the readers will have their paperbacks.

We’ll take frisbees and footballs, a basketball and volleyball. If the sky is clear we’ll play outside and take cover in the rec hall when the clouds come. We will scatter and gather and we will look to the skies and we will give thanks to our God who rains on the just and the unjust.

We will make thanks our routine as we find our shelter in Jesus.

faith hope recovery Salvation Army