Church recovery programs help those in need

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 21, 2013 

ROBIN TRIMARCHI/rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.comMuscogee County Jail Chaplain Neil Richardson, left, Patrick Grant, Dano Colombo and Jon Embola are involved in a network of Christian-based recovery groups throughout Columbus that work together to assist former prisoners in building new lives without drugs and alcohol, and the crimes that are often associated with addictions.


Patrick Grant was down and out. He was involved with drugs and says he was fortunate not to have ended up in trouble with the law.

"I was broken," he said.

A friend, Derrick Shields, just beginning work in a pastoral role at Christ Community Church, introduced the Columbus man to Celebrate Recovery, a biblical program that helps people overcome "hurts, habits and hang-ups" through a structured recovery process based on the teaching of Jesus Christ.

Through his association with the church, Grant turned his life around and now is a leader in the Celebrate Recovery ministry there.

"I had to have Jesus is my life," Grant said. "He had a better plan for me. Everything I do is to try and please him."

Grant said there are many recovery programs, but he is convinced the most effective programs are Christian.

He is not alone in that way of thinking.

The Christ-Centered Recovery Network in Columbus, consisting of about 27 churches, will be hosting a National Recovery Month Celebration from noon to 5 p.m. Sept. 28 at Lakebottom in Columbus.

Snacks will be available at the local event. Bands will be playing and testimony given. There will be prizes. Information booths from various churches and recovery organizations will be present for those seeking help either for themselves or someone they know.

Neil Richardson, chaplain at the Muscogee County Jail, said the theme for the celebration is "There is Hope."

The network falls under the umbrella of the Chattahoochee Jail Ministry.

Jon Embola is chairman of the network. He has his own nonprofit counseling ministry at Calvary Baptist Church called the Onesimus Programme, the goal of which is to provide help through prayer ministry and other Christ-centered tools in order to improve the quality of contemporary family life.

"We work to equip people with ways to properly manage their emotions," Embola said.

Dano Colombo, the central Georgia state representative for Celebrate Recovery, said the key to changing a person is to work aggressively to get to the root of their problem. He said many people who have troubles in life will turn to alcohol or drugs.

"We want them turning to Jesus," he said.

Most of the people the organization works with are in jail or have been there.

Richardson said drugs and alcohol, either directly or indirectly, have played in a major role in the lives of 80 percent to 85 percent of those incarcerated.

Of those, Richardson said, 54 percent are back in jail within six months of being released.

"They go back to their old friends, their old habits," he said.

The network focuses on Christ being the only source of freedom from bondage and addiction.

Richardson said that when someone is sentenced in jail, they are the only ones being sentenced. It is family, too.

"We are there for all of them," Colombo said.

For many it is in jail that they first come in contact with the network. Pastors visit the jail and there is a faith-based dorm,

In that dorm are 18 beds. Richardson said of the 100 who have been in that dorm, only 22 have returned to jail, most, because of a parole violation.

There is plenty of help for prisoners when they get out. An example is The SafeHouse, operated by the Chattahoochee Valley Jail Ministry. It is a resource center located near the jail. Among the many resources offered there are G.E.D. tutoring, support group meetings, bible class

es, computer training, bus passes, clothing and free lunch.

Several of the churches in the network have scheduled meetings where those seeking recovery can find help. A 12-step Christ-centered 12 step program is available. Those churches are Fourth Street Baptist Church, First Baptist Church, Greater Mount Zion Church, Rose Hill United Methodist Church, Christ Community Church, Grace Baptist Church, Wynnbrook Baptist Church and Glenn Anthony Baptist Church. Recovery meetings are also held at Open Door Community House "Most have food because Fellowship happens at the table," Richardson said.

"There is something every day," Colombo said.

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