Category: Salvation Army

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.

recovery Salvation Army

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

faith recovery Salvation Army

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.

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.


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