Category: Salvation Army

We lit the second candle of Advent and we called it love.

We didn’t have a time of sharing in our service this week. It’s busy with the extra bits put in for the season. Richard came to me after church, excited to tell me about another message he’d heard the night before. He was all smiles as he said it was the same thing. It was about love too.

During that service, they’d invited people to write a word on stones and he’d written Love. That was his word for this year. I remember him telling me that but it seems like a hundred years ago, not eleven months. I remember Richard saying he chose that word because he needs to learn to love himself.

These guys are good. They listen to the messages poured into them here. Messages from counselors helping them learn new ways. Even messages from me at times, reminding them that God makes them enough.

Terrace danced to words that sang about God loving us in our good and bad. It’s something Terrance has had to work on too – accepting God’s love.

Love is one of those things we’re better at giving than receiving. We allow ourselves to believe we have to earn love. We’re always trying to get ourselves right, to clean up our mess but we have it backward. Jesus sets us right. His grace makes us clean.

Last week we celebrated the hope found in Jesus. Next week we will proclaim his joy. All of this in the motion of lighting candles. Small flames will flicker great promises in their light.

The old song chimed ‘what the world needs now is love, sweet love; it’s the only thing there’s just too little of’. Real love came down in the form of a baby. We remember it in the glow of a small flame. Maybe, just maybe, I can carry a spark in me. A love that is freely given, not earned. Love that wants to shine like a city on a hill for all to see.

Enjoy this video of Terrance and his offering of his talent to our Savior who came to be love.

 

 

 

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My hope was they wouldn’t find these poster-sized coloring pictures childish.

My hope was that the story portrayed in these pictures would help their understanding of the biblical Christmas story.

And I really hoped they do them one at a time in accordance with the 4 weeks of Advent. That one hasn’t worked out so well as they’ve nearly finished them all.

Hope is a desire or expectation for something to happen.

Ous is an audacious hope.

We have many hopes for the men entering this 6-month rehabilitation program. We want them to regain their health, for families to be restored. We want them to find jobs and respect. Our deepest desire is that they’ll embrace a program of sobriety and walk hand in hand with Christ as their Savior. We want to see them give back as they live this example.

Some days are hard in this work where disappoint happens regularly. Six photos hang on the Christmas tree in the chapel this year. Photos of men who’ve passed this year as a result of their addiction.

Friends and family have asked how we can do this day after day. It’s because we have an audacious hope. Hope that stares in the face of relapse and addiction and says we believe in a power greater. We look at hope eye to eye because flesh and blood is wrapped around this Hope.

This is bold and living hope expressed in new lives. This is the Hope of Jesus. He is our only Hope.

In memory of Pat, who found hope in this song.

 

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Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, “The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.”
Mark 12:41-44 Message

I am sitting in the back of the room scanning the men in front of me. There’s a former teacher, an electrician, a business owner, panhandler, a day laborer. George was a jockey and Ken was a lawyer. The young ones were caught up in drugs before they knew who they were or what they could do. Jobs came and went faster than seasons change.

Their resumes are sketchy. There are gaps and blanks where there shouldn’t be and, for some, too many words to answer the questions about criminal background.

Regardless of degrees, titles, or resumes, today they are broken. They are empty. They are former construction workers and former office managers. They have nothing but what is listed on their property list.

But they are not without wealth.

The collection plate is passed each Sunday in our chapel. From the assortment of residents and graduates who return to worship with us more than $100 will be collected. The money will be sent to help support a children’s home in Haiti. Their small coins will become the bread and fish Jesus enlarged to feed the crowd.

It’s the broken who rush to help the wounded.

It’s the forgotten who take in the abandoned.

It’s why we have two dogs and a cat as residents. It’s why when one of the dogs got an injury requiring a $3000 surgery they wanted to give.

And they did. The amount collected doesn’t come close to paying for the surgery but their example shames my small offerings.

Like the story of the woman giving her small coins, they aren’t giving from their surplus. They are giving from their heart.

I’ve seen them sneak food to one sleeping on the sidewalk. The ones with cars take others to meetings or to Walmart. They encourage each other with their words.

They believe in second chances because they’re on their third, or fourth.

Gratitude isn’t always saying thanks. It’s about giving from all you have.

“…she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.”

 

Linking up with Holley Gerth for a little coffee for your heart.

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Sunday testimonies

 

“I’m thankful that today I’m not raising hell but going with my kids to church and sharing Jesus with them.”

“I’m grateful that God has given me the Holy Spirit in my life today.”

“This place is going to give you the tools you need to change your life. God is good all the time, literally.”

“I accepted Jesus in my life and everything has started to change. I’m a new man today.”

“Thanks to God I’m 5 months sober.”

“Thanks for welcoming me back and for my brothers who reached out to me.”

“So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord.” 2 Timothy 1:8a

 

 

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Addiction has its own time schedule and with Bo, it came during college.

Growing up, his family attended Sunday School and various church activities. Bo was confirmed and served as an altar boy.

By the end of high school, tensions at home were mounting with an older half-brother dying of AIDS and his sister running away. His parents separated and eventually split by the time Bo was 22.

He made it through these challenges without turning to drugs or drink for solace. Even touring the US with a couple of bands and seeing their indulgence, Bo stayed clear of what would later bring him to our doors.

His passion was culinary arts and it was working two jobs and going to school that the pressure mounted in Bo’s life.

He felt depression creeping as the cycle of work, work, school, never seemed to stop. After class, he hung out with friends at a bar. Drinking made him relax and helped hide the hurts in his life.

Bo managed to graduate with honors and had a new relationship. His drinking was manageable, or so he thought.

He got his first Driving While Intoxicated in ’97.

Bo took a job cooking at Club Med where his addiction had a chance to grow. His dad was diagnosed with cancer and alcohol seemed just the cure for Bo’s anxiety and depression.

By the time 2004 came around he was in a pattern of working to drink and when one job ran out he moved back with family. It was a sick cycle but one that became comfortably familiar.

Bo attended AA meetings but most of the time he was either drunk or headed out to drink after the meetings. Nothing was connecting with him.

He would go from his home in Baltimore to Florida to Canada where his new girlfriend was from. It would be six years of taking her on a “drunken ride” before he knew he had to make a change.

A video of him passed out on the floor when his girlfriend and kids came home was his bottom. It was also his reality check; his wake-up call.

He and Merri began researching free rehabilitation centers in South Florida, a place with which he was familiar.

Bo says:

“The miracle happened for me at their altar with the Chaplin and I gave my life and reconnected with Christ. That was the thing all these years that I needed to fill that ‘Hole’.

Celebrate Recovery meeting saved me. Salvation Army saved me. Getting back into Church here saved me. I used everything that God gave me in my teachings and meetings at the ‘Sally’ from what we call our ‘toolbox” to keep me connected, humbled, grateful and in line with all of my meetings.”

I now describe my life as a “pie chart”…..always re-evaluating my “slices” so that I spend time in all areas of my life instead of just the whole pie being split between ME and alcohol. It’s got to include others, my family, the kids, my business, ME time, my recovery and Jesus Christ as my savior.”

One of Bo’s cake creations – all edible

Bo keeps up with us through a private Facebook group for our graduates and staff. He often shares words of encouragement to new graduates. He is owner-chef of Wolfbay Cafe where he makes amazing cakes.

He is also a talented watercolor artist where he especially enjoys painting portraits of the felines helps rescue as a volunteer at areas rescue shelters and part of the Rescue Task Force.

Our thanks to Bo for sharing his redemption story. It’s a story with a guaranteed happy ending.

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There are some people you’re drawn to. You don’t always know why and I couldn’t tell you even now what it was about Mike that drew me. He’s not musical or with any other special talent. He’s not the outgoing sort. He was quiet but not introverted and I figured he was around my age.

It was Mike’s 4th time in our program. It was easy to welcome him back because there was something that gave me more hope.

I suppose part of what drew me to Mike is that he’s local. He grew up here and while I’m a transplant like most residents, this is more home to me than any other place. Mike graduated from my high school’s rival. We know the city and where things use to be. We talk the local language and he laughs at my silliness.

Mike had the God part down. He grew up in church and having a belief in Jesus wasn’t his problem. Alcohol and drugs were. He had prayed, his family had prayed, for deliverance from this addiction.

This time, Mike determined to do things differently. He was going to take suggestions and get a sponsor that was more than a name to tell his counselor.

When he shares his story he talks about looking for a sponsor. He figured the man would be a lot like him. African American. Mid 50’s. Christian. That didn’t work out too well.

Who eventually became Mike’s sponsor is a short, white man nearing 70. He was college educated and retired from a high-level government job. I call them the Odd Couple.

While Mike was still in the program, *Dale would come and meet with Mike in the dining room weekly. Four years later, they are still meeting every week in the dining room.

Mike moved out long ago and has been driving a truck for us since graduating. He goes with his sponsor to AA meetings, sometimes chairing the meetings. He’s at his church every Sunday and with us for special events.

You can count on seeing this odd couple every month at our Sobriety Awards dinner. You can also count on seeing them roar in laughter about anything and everything.

Mike knew God’s redemption from sin many years ago. In his addiction, he took his will back and until he surrendered to God’s will his story was incomplete.

Like many others, life isn’t problem-free in sobriety. Like redemption, sobriety brings peace. The combination of both is priceless.

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I can’t narrow it down to one year but a series of years that began shortly before I turned twenty. Over the period of the next four years, I’d marry, have two babies and buy our first home. Change always seemed to be around the corner but change that brought joy and blessings. We were too young to know what we didn’t have but old enough to know we were blessed. I’d have to say those were the best years.

Jack said this year was the best year of his life. The year he lived at the Salvation Army. That’s his best year. My mind has to let that settle as I can’t come close to imagining that. To think my best year would include walking into a place alone because there was nowhere else to go. Sharing a dorm room with nine other strangers and a shower room with no curtains or doors.

That’s the best year of his life.

He said it with enthusiasm. Jack is always thankful in that way that rings true. I don’t know much about his life before he walked through our doors at 1901 W. Broward Blvd. I only know no one comes here because they’ve heard we have Celebrate Recovery or because Friday night Bingo is on their bucket list. I never knew if he’d settle down when he first got here. He’s a younger man, a bit jumpy and you hope he won’t jump right out before his mind clears.

But he did. He stayed. He went to his meetings, he performed his work therapy assignments, participated in group sessions and did everything required of him. What we can’t require is for the men to take it to heart. We can’t make them change their thinking or find purpose. Those they have to do on their own. Jack did.

The best year of his life has been in a tired building with leaks, signing in and out when he leaves, and having to blow into a breathalyzer when he comes and goes. The random U/A tests, eating what’s served in the kitchen or go without and a curfew. He has to ask permission to have an overnight pass. But this has been the best year of his life. Not a good year. The best year.

He found more than comfortable living can offer. He’s found sobriety, peace, and purpose. He’s found redemption. He’s found a home.

“And now I have it all—and keep getting more! …You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus. Our God and Father abounds in glory that just pours out into eternity. Yes.” Philippians 4:18-20

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Every Sunday we are meeting across the country with residents of our ARC programs. We gather to worship in song and words. There will be a prepared message but often the real message comes from the men.

The church word is testimonies. Sometimes we just call it sharing.

It’s a little more real in our setting than it is in the traditional church. There is no need to pretend or dress up our words. When you’re living at The Salvation Army that tells its own story.

My sister-in-law tweets the words from their time of sharing. From in the large chapel in Dallas, TX, she listens and shares bits of their redemption stories.

“Grateful God is a restorer of broken hearts. Lost my wife 2 yrs ago. Grief owned me. I’m learning to see beyond my grief.”

“Recovery is not for those who want it. It is for those who work it. Recovery takes God, the Steps & hard work.”

“Returning here after a relapse that cost me everything I applied the principles & gave myself to God. He blesses.”

“10 years ago I entered this program. 7 1/2 years later I relapsed. What do I know? No God & no program means no recovery.”

Need more encouragement? Check out the hashtag #ARCtestimony on Twitter. You’ll be praising with us God’s redemptive grace.

faith recovery Salvation Army

faith 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.

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