Wednesday, July 27, 2016

MANY THANKS

I am so very thankful for the dozen volunteers that helped paint the Transition House. We basically painted it 3 hours at a time…but thank you Jesus, it is almost completely finished. The week we are away at CentriKid Children’s Camp, we should have the last of the trim painted. I am, however, calling in the professionals to paint the ceilings. I thought we might get by without painting ceilings, but just as the rest of the house, many of the ceilings needed repairs as well as fresh paint. So again, thank you so very much for helping. Also, a big thanks to Pastor Sean and the Youth group for cleaning the Transition House yard. It was in desperate need of attention and the youth group and volunteers gave it the attention it needed. They made this a part of their Love God/Serve Charleston project. This week, we should have volunteers in staging the furniture to see what we have and what we still need. If all goes well, we should be open for residents by the end of August.
CHILDREN’S CAMP
By the time you read this article, we will be finishing up a week of Children’s Camp, CentriKid, at Gardner Web University. This is an outstanding camp and we have a great group of kids going. I have every expectation that these children will come back having great worship experiences, learning great Bible stories and having had the time of their lives at a camp. I know that some of the first time campers will be anxious. I share that feeling with them. For the first time in over 7 years, my grandson, Noah will not be a camper. He aged out! How did that happen? The good news there, I have a host of grandkids coming behind him that will keep me busy at camp for the next decade!

Keep us in your prayers, see you Sunday, good Lord willing.

Pastor Tom


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Reading the Bible Through This Year

It has been a while since I read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. This year, I decided to incorporate that into my spiritual disciplines. So, I started with Genesis and am now in Isaiah. I have to admit some places are far more enjoyable and interesting than others. I love Genesis and Exodus and thoroughly enjoyed Joshua, Judges and Ruth. Not as thrilled about Leviticus…and the judgments of Isaiah are slow reading. One of the benefits is the extra reading I do to remember people and places. My Bible Dictionary is always nearby, so I often refer to it to look up names and places. I had forgotten that the phrase “By the skin of your teeth” comes from Job. I usually read three chapters a day, then a Psalm and then the passage from Romans that I will teach the next Sunday. My point is not to say you should read the Bible through, cover to cover. It is a good exercise that has blessings associated with it. My point is to encourage you to put in the work necessary in spiritual disciplines. It is God’s design that they have reward and benefit. Things like “Thy Word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against Thee”.

Every now and again, it is good to change up your routine. As they say “Variety is the spice of life”. So adding a little variety to your Bible reading or daily quiet time, could just spur some additional spiritual growth. Try a new translation of the Bible or a different Study Bible. You could order a Celebrate Recovery Bible and read the Bible and work on the 12 Steps and 8 Principles of Celebrate Recovery. I am currently using John Maxwell’s Leadership Bible. It is the Bible filled with tons of leadership principles from one of America’s greatest Christian leaders.

So here is how my quiet time usually goes. First, I am at my home desk with my Bible, my notebook, whatever current book I am reading and my hymn book. As I read my scripture for the day, I take notes on what I think God is saying or I just copy verses that speak to me (sometimes those are the same thing). If a Bible verse really speaks to my heart, I write it on a sticky note and put it in my car to be a constant reminder. Then I read a few pages in whatever book I happen to be reading. I do the same, recording what stands out to me or what speaks to my heart. Then I will close with a hymn of praise.

That is what I am doing currently in my Bible reading. Come January 1, I will most likely change it up and read a different translation and use a different method. The point is to consume the Word of God. Look to His Word daily for help, guidance, encouragement, correction, etc. I believe our Father is still speaking to us through His Holy Word. I don’t want to miss it and I don’t want you to miss it. Stay calm and read on!

Pastor Tom


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Transition House: Stories From The Residents

Over the past weeks I have been writing articles about the Transition House Mission and Ministry. If you happened to miss them and would be interested, you can find them online at the church website, www.jamesislandbaptist.com. We will have an open house in a few weeks to let the church family see the improvements and repairs. Whew. We are within sight of the end of the construction, painting, replacing and repenting! I thought you might rejoice at some of their testimonies.

Resident #1 The Transition House was everything the name implies. It was a safe place, a home, where I could learn to maneuver in a world I was not familiar with. I had enough freedom to make my own choices which was crucial for me to be able to eventually stand on my own two feet. At the same time, if I needed help, support and leadership it was literally only a few feet away. I came from the Charleston Center broken, a waste of space, and a pregnant junkie. I had no relationship with God or my family. Today, I am a happy fulfilled mommy; I am sober, love God and know He loves me. The Charleston Center gave me 90 days to have a body free of drugs. The Transition House, God and hard work gave me everything else. The Transition House saved my life and my son! I will be forever grateful to the Transition House and JIBC for giving me a relationship with God, my son and my life.

Resident #2 The Transition House was the key to my sobriety. After being in the Charleston Center, I was truly grateful for the opportunity to grow as a person as well as in my sobriety. I had no safe place to go when I left treatment. I needed a safe place away from the people and places where I got into trouble. The people at Celebrate Recovery and church on Sunday showed me that people care and don’t judge me for my past mistakes. Without this opportunity, I would not be the person I am today. I have moved back home and have transitioned to be a full time mother and active in a local church. I cannot thank God enough for the Transition House and the people at JIBC.

Resident #3 When asked to write about my experience at the Transition House I am stopped in my tracks, in awe of Christ. Through James Island Baptist God provided a shelter when I was on the street; provided food when I had nothing to eat; a family when I had been driven away; friendships when I had run my friends off. You loved me in spite of me. You showed me His love and I returned to Him because of you. The Transition House and the ministry of JIBC gave me back my Christ. May this beautiful splendid work of His continue as a tangible evidence of His grace.

I believe I could have received similar words of testimony and gratitude from the majority of the women who came through the Transition House. Even when there were some relapses, we still love them and try to keep in contact with them. Most of the 23 past residents would have similar words of gratitude. Make no mistake about it…working with addiction is very difficult. I believe only the Gospel of Jesus has the power to set them free…He is their Higher Power. Thank you for your generous tithes and offerings that directly make such ministries possible.

Pastor Tom


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Transition House Update #4

I hope these articles about the Transition House have been helpful in giving a better picture of what we do. I can tell you that almost every week we get someone asking if we have room in the house for them. These women often come to us under the most dire of circumstances: battling their addictions; little positive real life experience; no transportation; multiple babies; burned bridges with most family and friends; etc, etc. Where will they go? Back home to where they were using? They often cannot afford the next level full time treatment center. So the JIBC Transition House gives them the opportunity to do just that…transition. They can work on maintaining their sobriety and serenity while planning the next step in their lives. Our goal is to help introduce them or re-introduce them to their Higher Power, Jesus Christ. We introduce them to a recovery community that will help them on their journey. Our success rate in giving them opportunity is 100%. The rate of their relapsing, on the other hand, is not so good. Most of them will relapse. Failure does not have to be final. They are not the only ones who relapsed back into their drug of choice. In old time church world, we called it backsliding…not relapsing. The two are very similar if not identical.

Life at the Transition House occasionally goes south…they have trouble. As an example: we have had four bipolar residents at one time with only one of them on proper medications. It cannot be a surprise that they act out in inappropriate ways. When they do that, they “give up” their bed. Some have been successful in sneaking men into the house…they have also been successful at “giving up” their bed. They basically have six contract rules: have a job, pay your rent, cause no drama in the house, attend Celebrate Recovery and do your chores, test negative for any drugs or alcohol use. (There are many more expectations, but these are the 6 non-negotiable). If they do not fulfill their contract, they will be removed from the house. Don’t be too surprised if you hear stories about something happening at the Transition House. These are women transitioning from hell to heaven; from darkness to light; from major dysfunction to a more livable dysfunction; from heart breaking abuse to a life of true love and acceptance. Only the power of the God’s Good News Story of Jesus can break their cycles of defeat.

I am not afraid of the church getting a bad reputation for running such a ministry. I am more afraid of getting a bad reputation for not trying. Here is a great old quote that I like:“Some wish to stay within the sound of church bell. I'd rather run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.” - C.T. Studd If you get that close, you may smell a little sulphur.

See you Sunday, good Lord willing,

Pastor Tom


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

TRANSITION HOUSE UPDATE #3

Over the past few weeks I have been writing articles about the JIBC Transition House Mission and Ministry. The first article reviewed how we began the Transition House and how we measure success. The second article covered how the women are selected and the seven step process they go through to get into the house. 

Today, we will try to address who is involved in the ministry. I am involved from the beginning of the interviewing process to the very end when they transition from the house. It is, as I have said, one of the toughest ministry/missions I have ever been associated with and one of the most rewarding. I have learned things you never want to know and have heard things I wish were not so. Such is the ministry of working with women in addiction. When we have residents in the house, I meet with them every week for a house meeting. Each week we go over and review their contract of what they have agreed to do to live in the house. They should never be surprised when they “give up their bed” and are asked to leave. They go over the contract with me every single week. They are often surprised that someone in their life would actually hold them responsible for their actions and follow through on consequences. In our weekly meetings we review contract, go over the 12 step study, address life skills like communication, how to express anger, etc. I teach them how to read the Bible and other spiritual disciplines. After all that is said and done, I am but one piece in this process.

They are required to attend Celebrate Recovery. So they get a good meal, great worship, a solid lesson on recovery and then a small group experience with other women. Our Celebrate Recovery is probably a 70/30 split between the number of women (70%) and the number of men (30%). They are required to have a female sponsor to serve as a mentor/guide to continued sobriety and serenity. We have a Women’s Connection Group that has agreed to serve as a Big Sister’s Class to offer friendship, encouragement as they become a part of our church family. They agree not to be in a relationship while they are in the Transition House. That is standard operating procedure for most people in recovery. They should be working on themselves, not a relationship. Several women in our CR and church family seem to gravitate toward loving our TH residents and building friendships with them. If they will take advantage of what is offered…and that is a BIG IF…they can have more mentors, accountability partners and female friends than most people will ever have.

The new residents are required to be in Bible Study on Sunday’s, worship on Sunday morning, and Celebrate Recovery Sunday night. Upon first arriving, we encourage them to make 90 meetings in their first 90 days. This can be very difficult if they come to us, as most of them do, with no transportation.

We only provide opportunity, training and support. The saying in recovery is: If I want your recovery more than you it will not work. They have to want it, every day, one day at a time. All of us have hurts, habits and hang-ups. Not all of us have addictions that so completely rule and ruin our lives. Only the power of the Gospel, the life of Jesus Christ, can set them free. Where else will they get this?

See you Sunday, good Lord willing,

Pastor Tom


Thursday, June 23, 2016

TRANSITION HOUSE UPDATE #2

Two weeks ago, I was asked some very good questions about the Transition House ministry. It reminded me that while our staff may be very familiar with the ministry, most of the church family only knows that we have it, but not much else about it. So for the next few weeks I will write a series of articles explaining what we do.

HOW ARE THE WOMEN SELECTED? WHO DECIDES? Although this is not written in stone, our women come only from the Charleston Center. It is a partnership that we have to meet a significant need n the community. (See last week’s article for details) One of the most difficult decisions I make is to say no to the many requests that come from individuals outside the Charleston Center. I get requests for someone’s brother, sister, aunt, cousin or neighbor. We could fill up 10 homes in a year with the requests we get. It is hard for some to understand we are not a detox center. The candidates for our house must come through the Charleston Center. That helps us know they have been screened and have begun the work necessary for recovery. Even that is no guarantee. We have had women find and use drugs the very first day they were in the house. And the very first day we find out about it they are out of the house.

To get into the house: First, the women must have completed their program at the Charleston Center. While at the Charleston Center, they must have achieved “mentor” status, the highest level of achievement that reflects good work, ability to get along and potential for success. That means they have met and exceeded all requirements of the program and have been put in to position of helping others in the program. Second, they must come with a personal recommendation from their counselor with details about their work and time at the Charleston Center. Third, they must attend Celebrate Recovery for a minimum of 4 weeks to give our members a chance to meet them, hear their stories and observe them in multiple settings (dinner, large group, and small group). Fourth, they must receive a recommendation from our female Celebrate Recovery leaders. If our leaders do not think they are a fit for us the decision is made. Fifth, they interview with me to make sure they understand who we are and what we are trying to do. Sixth, they must interview and be accepted by the current women in the house. Seventh, they have background checks and may have no child abuse or criminal acts of violence on their records (with the exception of the abuse that comes from their addiction like being pregnant while using...which is child abuse).

My guess is that most of us have never been that thoroughly screened for any job, except government, high level, and 007 type works. And they are screened this heavily just for a place to live. And still, we see them crash and burn. Addiction is a disease that has a high level of reoccurrence. It has its root in our sin and our sins. But it has progressed to a disease. There is only one cure...the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

See you Sunday, good Lord willing.

Pastor Tom


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

TRANSITION HOUSE UPDATE

Last week I was asked some very good questions about the Transition House ministry. It reminded me that while our staff may be very familiar with the ministry, most of the church family only knows that we have it, but not much else about it. So for the next few weeks I will write a series of articles explaining what we do.

Let’s start with the basics: HOW DID WE BEGIN THE TRANSITION HOUSE MISSION AND MINISTRY? I was in a meeting with community leaders when the need was presented. Housing for women with infants is one of the biggest unmet needs in Charleston. When they complete their time at the Charleston Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Center, they have nowhere to go. For addicts, we must change “ our playgrounds and our playmates”. In other words, it is difficult to go right back to the same people and places where you 0perfected your addiction. At the time I heard this, the Parker House was open and available. The house was in much need of repair…but it seemed like a no-brainer. There is a great need and we have a great resource. It also helped that we have one of the strongest Celebrate Recovery Ministries in Charleston. Our church family is also particularly gifted at accepting and loving those who can be a challenge to love and accept. I say that with all sincerity. Not every church would be so accepting of those with so many challenges.

Our friend, Marsha Cline, moved from Indianapolis to Charleston to help us get the house up and running and to help us with our first residents. She served as the house mom for a while. She did a fantastic job in getting the house open and up and running. We quickly learned that to have a house mom running the house was not a viable option. House moms work on a much larger scale, but not in a 3 room situation. The Transition House cannot be compared to larger ministries with funding, grants and multiple housing properties with full time staff to run it. We are a little mom and pop ministry setting out on a bold adventure. While JIBC pays the mortgage, it was my goal to have the house be basically self-sustaining…preparing these women to “transition”. As far as I know and have been told by the Charleston Center, we are the only ministry in town doing this type of work.

HOW IS IT WORKING? What is our success rate? As I like to say, we are 100% successful in both of our goals. Goal number one is to give these women and their babies the opportunity to transition. They truly have a golden opportunity to make a change. Second, we are 100% successful in providing them with the help they need to transition. We provide a Christ Centered 12 Step program, Bible Study, Worship, the Gospel, friendship, leadership, support, etc. They themselves must provide the motivation and the work. Rule of recovery: if we want it more than they do, it will not work. Now, the answer that some of you were looking for: most of them will and do relapse into the reoccurrence of their disease and addiction. Not all, but many, if not most. Just remember, they are not addicted to the more mundane sins like gossip, being judgmental or cynicism. These ladies are addicted to crack, cocaine, meth, opiates, alcohol, horrible relationships, years of destructive actions and thinking. I believe only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can truly set them free. Leaving the Charleston Center sober is just the very first step of transitioning. It is a big step, but it is just a first step. The Transition House is the second step of sober living.

NEXT WEEK: HOW ARE THE WOMEN SELECTED FOR THE HOUSE? WHO DECIDES?


See you Sunday, good Lord willing,

Pastor Tom