Church members impacted by addiction lead unique and confidential addiction recovery program

Date Posted: 1/14/2021

By Lindsay Peyton - En Español
You are not alone if your life has been touched by addiction – whether it’s you or a loved one who has struggled. That’s a message that Bay Harbour UMC in League City hopes to communicate with members and area residents alike. The congregation’s addiction recovery ministry is unique, welcoming and supportive to those in need of a helping hand.
Don Oden, a long-time member of the church, said the recovery ministry, Safe Harbour began about 13 years ago. The first objective is to increase awareness about addiction, he added.
Each year, the church hosts “Recovery Sunday,” devoting the day to learning about addiction. Instead of Rev. Paul Clines taking the pulpit, one or two people share their own stories.
“They’ll talk about how they suffered from an addiction or had family members suffer,” Oden said. “It varies from person to person, year to year. Then, they talk about the role Christ has played in helping them with the situation.”
Pastor Clines said the testimonies are moving. “The stories are phenomenal, just jaw-dropping,” he said. “Everyone’s road to recovery is different. It always involves steps forward and backward, stumbles and falls along the way. This ministry gets that. There is so much grace and patience.”
On Recovery Sunday, Oden will ask who in the room has been affected by addiction. “Everybody raises their hands,” Clines said. “It points to how vital this ministry is. It’s so powerful.”
Usually, Recovery Sunday is held in October but will be rescheduled because of COVID-19 this year.
Oden explained that the church volunteers offer to walk alongside those suffering from addiction. “Our team includes recovered addicts themselves or who may have had a spouse or a child who have fallen victim to a serious addiction,” he said. “We have counselors on the team too.”
That’s a trait that sets the recovery ministry apart, Clines said. “One of the things I appreciate and value so much are that the people leading and providing help have personally been impacted by addiction,” he explained. “Their care and compassion are born out of their own backgrounds. It’s a very real ministry.”
When someone calls for assistance, Oden or his wife Margie will pair them with a team member best suited to help, often someone who has faced the same challenges.
A lot of times, a family member will seek assistance for a loved one, and Oden will recommend they too are supported and connected with a counselor. “A lot of times, the victims are family members or loved ones,” he said. “They need help often as much as the addict.”
The volunteers connect those seeking recovery with resources. “We don’t do treatments ourselves, but we meet with an individual and go through a list of resources,” Oden said. “We sit down with them and see what we can find that they’d be willing to try.”
Sometimes, members of the church call for help, or visitors call Bay Harbour based on their reputation for assisting with recovery.
The ministry was developed to reach out to people who might be reluctant to go to church, fearing that members would be too judgmental and close-minded.
“We wanted to change that, to make Bay Harbour a place where you don’t need to be afraid,” Oden said. “We embrace you and help you. We set about trying to bring about the change you’re seeking.”
Clines said Oden and the recovery team have built an accepting and welcoming environment.  “God brings people to our church’s front door who would never have come to church, because Don and his team have built a place for them here,” Clines added. “This is a place where you can get help. Not judged. Not fixed. But helped. We want to do everything we can.”
No one is turned away, Oden said. The ministry works with substance and alcohol abuse, as well as gambling addiction.
He said another important part of Bay Harbour’s recovery program is prayer, turning to the God for help. “The Lord still does healing miracles today, just like he did back then,” he added.
People relapse but some break free from a dangerous cycle, Oden said. There are often times when recovering addicts will tell him about how their lives have changed for the better.
“The Lord comes through for us, time after time,” Oden said.
This is a program, Oden and Clines agree, that any church can adopt. “We can create a ministry where we listen, talk with and pray for God’s healing, and point people to resources,” Clines said. “Any church can do this. There’s not a church that hasn’t been touched by addiction.”
After all, the pastor added, aiding in recovery is one way a church can act as the hands and feet of Christ.  “It’s the church doing what the church is supposed to do, and that’s so beautiful,” he said.