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Celebrating and Supporting Recovery

by Anna Sherod, Kingdom Workers' Field Manager

Hunkered down over a taco salad at the home of an agnostic acquaintance on the White Mountain Apache Reservation this spring, Open Bible Lutheran Church’s alcohol recovery program came up in conversation. “I’m glad you have that program. You’re saving lives. Some of those guys have told me it’s the only hot meal they eat all week.” I paused, mid bite, thinking of the people I saw every Friday night; hungry, for food and for connection.  Our conversation turned to the motivation for the program: Christ crucified.  

                  Three years ago, Open Bible Lutheran Church in Whiteriver, Arizona explored different program models for members and non-members caught in the vicious cycles of substance abuse, depression, and codependency. Church member Jimmy Cassadore, sober for only a few years himself, felt passionately about helping others. Along with other church leaders, he sought training and founded a modified Celebrate Recovery (CR) program. The program has become a community staple, with forty to sixty people in attendance many Friday nights.

                  Each Friday evening, from around 5PM to 10PM, up to a dozen volunteers cook a community meal, then host a 12-step style group meeting followed by small peer-counseling groups. The evening often ends in prayers and specific help for several of the attendees who are facing particularly tough circumstances. Although substance abuse is the symptom addressed, the gender-divided group sessions share emotional histories of sexual abuse, domestic violence, and other hurts.

                  The core CR group is close knit. Inside jokes abound. Former alcoholics now help serve meals. Jimmy was even a witness to the Valentine’s Day marriage of two CR participants! On a reservation where most people are distantly related and secrets travel like wildfire, the group promises kindness, confidentiality, and help. 

                  Some of the attendees are vagrant. Sleeping outdoors, in cars, or shifting from home to home, their dependence on alcohol or drugs have harmed many relationships. CR gives them a place to be welcomed. “COME AS YOU ARE!” Jimmy bellows, sometimes with tears, “YOU ARE A CHILD OF GOD!” Many are hoping to gain control of their lives so that they can be welcomed back under the roofs of family members. They often walk long distances on footpaths through the hills in search of resources or friendly faces.

                  This physically grueling lifestyle is especially hard on feet. For many with diabetes in the community, clean feet mean the difference between walking and amputation. That’s why CR is planning to test an expansion of its services to include foot-washing in 2016. Following the example of Jesus’ love in John 13, in this context foot washing will be a stinky, kind, and potentially life-saving act. Kingdom Workers is partnering with CR to provide start-up materials: soap, towels, trash bags, hand sanitizer, buckets, gloves, clean socks, and more. Kingdom Worker volunteers will also be recruited to help teach best practices for medical foot washing procedures.

                  CR’s weekly meal and activities are funded mostly through in-kind donations from local Apache members who live in one of the most economically challenged areas of the United States. Please keep them in your prayers and consider partnering Kingdom Workers through prayer and donations as we work with our brothers and sisters to share God’s love on the Apache reservation.   

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Anna Sherod

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