Arising from the Ash Pile
There is no greater thrill in life than to see that which was broken and considered worthless be restored to wholesomeness and great value. Last Thursday, Oct. 16, several hundred people gathered at the Bay’s renovated Convention Center to applaud a great restoration. Only this was not a celebration of the magnificent reclamation of this building, but a heartfelt praise to God for the restoration of hundreds of broken men redeemed from the deathly grip of addiction to a promising life of righteousness and service to their families, friends, and their communities.
The occasion was a celebration and a free fish fry put on by a recovery ministry known as John 3:16, headquartered in nearby Charlotte, Arkansas, a small community just miles from Batesville. More than 100 men, residents of the ministry, clad in red tee shirts carrying the imprint of “John 3:16,” lined the entrances and the serving tables of the large banquet room of the Convention Center, greeting and feeding over four hundred people coming from near and far to honor, acknowledge, encourage, and support this ministry so dear to their hearts. Imagine the joy of the those heartbroken for so many years over the destruction that these men brought to themselves and their families and friends, now to see them restored by God to whom be blessings to the very ones they brought so much pain to. This was a room filled with red-shirted “prodigal sons” coming back to their loving families after years of pure misery and despair.
The evening celebration was highlighted by the testimonies given by six men, four current residents and two former residents, but now instructors, at the ministry. Each man told a very similar story outlining how the decisions they made led to addiction, broken relationships, criminal activities, jail and prison, homelessness, self-loathing, and stark emptiness. The men described how at a very early age, they chose a path seeking the thrill of running with the crowd, leaving the values of their families behind them.
The rebellious crowd seeks to live under no authority but their own, rules are for chumps, and pleasure is their goal. The common denominator to all these stories is how the early euphoria (coming from alcohol and drugs) leads to a compelling desire to repeat this “buzz,” unaware of the destructive power of addiction that awaits them. Once on this road, the addict has only one goal in life: to get high, drunk, stoned, zoned, and totally blotted. Everything else in the addict’s life is moved aside, giving way to the compulsive need to obtain and use addictive substances. Family, job, reputation, possessions, health, morality, and judgment are all sacrificed to the “Beast,” as one man put it.
Every red-shirted man in the room shared this experience. There were also many in the room who, while not part of the John 3:16 ministry, knew exactly what these men were talking about, including this writer.
Another thing that each man had in common was that they had all reached the point in their miserable lives that they wanted to get out of the death grip of their addiction. They were now finally broken enough to seek help, knowing that they were unable by themselves to escape. What they needed was what the ministry offered: to replace the horrific power of addiction with the awesome, unlimited power and teachings of Jesus!
Quoting from the ministry’s brochure, “John 3:16 Ministries is a spiritual boot camp for men with addictions. It is a place of refuge where men can heal mentally, physically, and spiritually. This is a volunteer program designed for men who really want to make a change in their lives, not men looking for a free ride.” The program is for men over 21 and requires “that a man must be at his ‘rock bottom’; he must be humble and admit he has a problem with drugs or alcohol; he must believe God can take and heal him of his addiction; he must be willing to follow guidelines and direction of the ministry; and he must be able and willing to do physical work, as this is part of the healing process.” The program runs for six months to a one year.
There is no greater work of the Lord than the liberation and salvation of broken people. These people are God’s loving and willing agents. Check them out at John 3:16 Ministries on the net: www.john316thecure.com.