Editor’s Word: Ministering to Addicts

Ministering to addicts can be frustrating. Those who seek to bring godly counsel and loving help to those caught in an addictive bond are to be commended, encouraged and supported.

For the past 18 years, I have served in a volunteer capacity as the counselor for Home with a Heart, a residential Christian rehab ministry for men. My weekly job is to teach a class on marriage, eat supper with the men, offer any counsel they may need and provide any other service within my limited capabilities.

Home with a Heart was founded in 1993. Alex Richey became the director in 2000, just a couple of years after he graduated from the program himself. What started with one building has grown into a 29-acre campus that includes two dormitories, a chapel, a commercial kitchen, a dining hall, a laundry building, a director’s residence, five thrift stores, and a halfway house off campus. Approximately 50 volunteer ministers and lay people come to teach classes and serve in various ways each year.

Since its inception, 3,400 men have come through the program, and about 2,000 have made professions of faith. “I have probably baptized 800 men since I have been here,” said Alex.

Most of the men complete the program and go on to lead lives of sobriety, with many becoming active leaders in local churches. What is the secret to the success of this ministry? Alex is quick to answer: “It’s Jesus. We are a faith-based ministry, and Jesus is first in everything we do. He is the real hope and solution.”

Unlike secular programs whose success rate is much lower, Home with a Heart daily brings the teachings of Scripture into the lives of addicts. Recently, one of the presidential candidates talked about the problem of addiction in America and offered a solution that would cost about $10 billion. At Home with a Heart, the mission statement is “providing rehabilitation and hope at no charge to men seeking freedom from the bondage of alcohol and drugs through Jesus Christ one day at a time.” You would not find that purpose or strategy statement in any government-sponsored program. Life-change is the answer, not simply money. Lives are being changed at Home with a Heart. Jesus Christ is the focus, and His Word is foundational to everything that is presented. I have been privileged to be a part of that.

Local churches provide music and preaching for Sunday evening services in the chapel. The men attend various local churches together on Sunday mornings. The home has two camp-meeting-style revivals each year and various classes each day for the men. There is a fish fry and gospel singing most Friday evenings. Each month, the group also visits a local church with a Celebrate Recovery ministry.

The men work in the thrift stores, drive, load and unload the trucks, prepare the meals, and labor at many other tasks on campus that include tending to the cows, chickens and pigs.

Since men who enter the home incur no financial cost, support comes from grocery store donations, gifts from churches and individuals, and income from the thrift stores. About 75 percent of church support comes from Baptist churches.

Addiction is a growing problem in this country. Home with a Heart maintains a waiting list of people wanting to enroll. With an estimated 23 million addicts in America and only 10 percent of them seeking help, this is a problem that will be with us for some time. Another estimate is that 52 million people age 12 and over have abused prescription drugs, including 25 percent of teenagers.

Some men do not graduate from the home’s program. Some relapse. Some have died. I have spoken at funerals where a drug overdose or alcohol poisoning was the mitigating factor in their deaths. It is heartbreaking to see families torn apart and children hurt because of substance abuse. But it is so gratifying to see families put back together and children given a better hope for life.

Occasionally I will encounter graduates of the home somewhere, and they are always quick to speak to me, often telling me how the home and my class helped them. There is no financial incentive for me. What I do on campus and in counseling the men after they graduate is free. As Alex shared with me years ago, “Your benefits for doing this are out of this world.” He is right, but the joy of seeing Christ change people is a benefit of infinite value — and I get to see that many times a year.