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For many people dealing with hardships, sometimes it's nice to find people to join with as they overcome their obstacles. And fortunately, Sweetwater will have one more place for people to gather.
"Celebrate Recovery" will be offered at Emmanuel Fellowship Church (EFC), located at 1418 Hailey in Sweetwater, every Tuesday evening from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
However, one of the main differences in this program is that Celebrate Recovery is a twelve-step, Bible-based recovery program founded on the eight principles from the Beatitudes--a small portion of what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, which can be found in the gospel of Matthew in the New Testament.
The program started in 1990 at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, by the church's pastor and founder, Rick Warren. Many may be familiar with the Warren's name, as he is the author of The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church.
The Christ-based program is similar to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), but Eric von Atzigen, the pastor of Emmanuel Fellowship, stated that this is a ministry which targets addictions, hurts, habits and hang-ups. The difference with Celebrate Recovery, in comparison to the other two programs, is that the higher power in this program is Jesus Christ.
Pastor von Atzigen recalled praying about getting a recovery program started in Sweetwater for the past couple of years, along with the right person to lead the group. His prayers were recently answered, as EFC member Gwendolyn Boyd came to him, desiring to start the program.
Boyd has been involved with both AA and NA, as she herself has been in recovery for the past three and a half years. The personal journey has shown her that God is the higher power, and that to stay out of addiction, she must get into God's Word and put Him first in her life.
She recollected seeing people she knew emerge from rehab, but they wouldn't take their next steps without God's guidance. Boyd said that eventually, she would see those people on the street, in jail or in prison--starting their journey all over again.
And along with putting God first in her life and diving into the Bible, Boyd added that practicing spiritual principles on a daily basis helps to keep her clean. She has an evident passion to help people, and by following the Scriptures, which tells people to help those suffering, people can see what God has done in her own life.
While Celebrate Recovery will meet at the church, in its first month of November it will meet in the Prayer Room, as the church undergoes renovation. Thereafter, it will meet in the church sanctuary.
The ninety-minute program will begin with a welcome time, followed by a large group meeting that includes worship and teaching. After that, everyone will break up into small groups to discuss how to apply the teaching to their own lives.
Along with Boyd, the leadership of Celebrate Recovery consists of Michael Thomas, Matt Carbone, Neil and Liz Montemayor, and Wil and Crystal Hogan. John Alden also assists as worship leader.
Boyd understands that people sometimes have issues with shame or guilt when they come to a recovery program. However, she points out that with Celebrate Recovery, everything that is shared is anonymous and stays at the meetings.
"This is a safe place," said Boyd.
Additionally, she noted that the local recovery program is much broader than AA or NA. She invites anyone that is hindered by anything, whether it is divorce, food, drugs, etc., to come and gather to learn about healing and growth in God.
"This isn't a place to hang your head," stressed von Atzigen. "Jesus can bring healing."
He also calls it a way to connect the church with the real needs within the community. Pastor von Atzigen says Celebrate Recovery helps people find answers, develops leaders within the church as they take charge of the program, and, what he calls the key to recovery, helps people build strong relationships.
Boyd says that she has already seen the program touch lives, notably in their leadership team. She has high expectations for Celebrate Recovery, knowing that everything came together through God.
Her prayers to be used have been answered, and she is still involved with the local AA meetings. But, Boyd clings to the Christ-centeredness and biblical basis of Celebrate Recovery and is ready to be used in a new setting.
"With God involved in this program," she said, "things and miracles are going to happen."