Tuesday, December 14, 2010

To Keep It, Give It Away

Saturday afternoon, roughly 150 people gathered in a nondescript church building in an industrial area of Orange County to celebrate the recovery of 17 individuals who "graduated" our Chemical Recovery program. The setting was appropriate. A building that if you didn't know it, you would never guess a church met inside its walls. The building looked just like all the others in this industrial complex. In the same way, addicts blend in with the rest of the population. Unless an addict is suffering a physical response to their drug of choice, they look just like you or I. Some are powerful executives, some are homeless. Some have perfectly functional families, others have had their families torn apart. Addiction does not discriminate based on age, gender, race, or economic status. Regardless of circumstance, addicts cannot overcome without divine help. (Even AA requires the acknowledgement of a "Power greater than ourselves")

So we rejoice in the Lord when we see others delivered from their addictions. This day was filled with prayer, with song, with the preaching of the word, and with personal testimonies that didn't leave a dry eye in the place. The graduates came from every corner of the LA region (and even a brother from as far away as Bakersfield), represented every race and gender, every age, and every possible drug.

I want to share a couple of their stories.

One brother first used Meth at the age of 14. Just three years later he was arrested for am armed home invasion robbery, where he tied up an entire family with duct tape. He spent 8 years in jail. While in jail his brother sent him the book, Some Sat in Darkness, and his life was changed. "Finally I could explain what was wrong with me," he exclaimed. Out of jail and 10 years sober (8 in prison), he wants to start a Spanish-speaking recovery ministry.

Another brother is a successful Korean businessman. His career required him to base himself in Korea, leaving behind his family in LA. His addiction alienated himself from his family and eventually he saw that he could not maintain his lifestyle. He returned to the US to reconcile with his family. They wouldn't. His minister recommended he go to this recovery group. He didn't want to, but did anyway. He didn't want to follow the directions given him, but he did anyway. He didn't want to be open, but he was anyway. Eventually, he broke free from the slavery of his addiction, became reconciled with his family, and wants to start a Korean-speaking recovery ministry. (I chuckled inside at the consistent theme) Not only that, but he wants to go back to Korea and start this ministry there.

The Twelfth Step of AA is to "...carry this message to alcoholics." To spread the word of recovery. In other words, to keep it you have to give it away. Paul was thinking along those lines when he instructed to "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." (Romans 12:15) In sharing with others' joys and sufferings, we do more than sympathize or empathize, we spread the love of Christ and participate in the rejoicing in heaven where "there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." (Luke 15:7)

This post is one of many, part of a Blog Carnival being hosted by Peter Pollock. This week's theme is "Rejoice". Be sure to visit others' entries to appreciate the diversity of thoughts and opinions present in the Body of Christ.


Michael Perkins said...

Frank this is amazing. Praise God for His restoration.

Lisa notes... said...

Excellent. Great stories! My church co-sponsors a similar program, and it's always great cause for rejoicing to see men turn their lives around and back toward the Lord. Nothing is impossible with God.

Glynn said...

The chuckling at the repetition -- they want to give to others what they have been given. And they know, better than any of us, what the gift means to them and others like them.

Fatha Frank said...

Thank you all for rejoicing with me!

@Glynn, I chuckled not in a mocking way, but in a "yep, that's God for you!" kind of way.

Jumping on the soapbox for a moment, what these brothers are doing is so significant because of the segment of the population they represent. Both hold masculinity in the highest regard and admitting addiction is a sign of weakness that could cause you to be ostracized. Yet both cultures desperately need this kind of ministry, from the Latin gangs to the high-powered Asian business execs. Please pray for them!

Hazel I. Moon said...

Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, which is the other end of rejoicing. Weep with others, can be a form of giving them joy as we share their burden and assist them to lift it up to Christ. I am so happy for those who completed the program! Giving it away will complete the circle as they share with others who need restoration and deliverance.