I first met Dick and Jan Sanders in 2000, not long after we arrived in Alabama. We were part of a small home-based fellowship, and I just plain liked them. Dick was a “shy guy,” successful in his career as an engineer, and Jan was a bright and devoted homeschooling mom. She was also enormously funny. As with so many of us, believers or otherwise, they were secretly what could be considered “walking wounded.”
What do I mean by that? Christians who know the Word, are in the Word, give, pray, minister, “do all the right things,” and the “abundant life” for which our Savior paid such a hideous price seems to continually elude them. Or, they have tried church and for whatever reason are burned out and isolated. Perhaps they never have walked with God, and began to be beaten up by life and the enemy a long time ago through divorce, sexual abuse, or other things that broke their hearts. It really doesn’t matter, because they are your neighbors, your co-workers, your clergy, and the guy who mows your lawn. They are either howling with pain inside, or they may have gone numb. They may or may not be in outward trouble, but inside, now that’s another story.
Sometimes they have a battle with actual substances, sometimes it’s just that despite their best efforts, nothing in relationships with themselves, others, or their Maker is working, and they live what has come to have been called “lives of quiet desperation.”
In the Sanders’ case, substances were not a part of the problem, but codependency and despair certainly were, and Jan came to the place where she couldn’t “fake it” one more moment.
She reached out to the ministry team at Friendship Methodist Church in Athens, and they suggested she become a part of Celebrate Recovery. “CR” (as it is referred to with affection by those who are a part of it,) is an international transdenominational program that is based on the famous “12 Steps” of Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as a relentless search and application of the Beatitudes, the “blessed are the……”/ Sermon on the Mount statements we learned as kids in Sunday School. Celebrate Recovery was started around 20 years ago by a guy named John Baker, himself a recovering alcoholic. It is Christ centered because the Higher Power is an actual person with a name!
Jan had to get real, at times got “raw,” and began to move away from trying to define herself as a devoted wife, mother, sibling, daughter, etc, to simply a child of God who is loved. “I began to learn to connect the dots between what I ‘knew,’ and what I believed.” She went by herself for two years, and Dick began to notice changes in her that were “way in the deep down.”
He, like so many guys, thought he was just fine, and began to attend CR on Friday nights because he was tired of being at home alone. He wasn’t feeling the crunch or the crisis, and just wanted to be with his wife. What he began to discover, however, was that he wasn’t ok, that there were fears in his life that were holding him back, and that he was living far below his birthright as a child of the King.
I asked him about one of the biggest fears he had to face, and he told me, “Being shy.” He had always felt that was “just the way God made me,” and found that so much of what he did, even good stuff, was fear based. “Anything that hinders or that is a stumbling block to the abundant life has to go.”
Neither Dick or Jan ever expected to go from being people who introduce themselves in CR meetings as “Hi, I am Dick/Jan, and I am a grateful believer,” to becoming ministry facilitators, but that’s what happened. They want to let the community know that CR is both beneficial and available to all, and at the moment they have about 30 “CR-ers” in their group. They meet on Friday nights at Friendship North, located on the corner of Easter Ferry Road and Witty Mill Road. They are “peer led, donation supported,” and the Sanders are on staff as a part of Friendship Church’s community ministry outreach. CR is considered to be another worship opportunity offered by Friendship. Dick and Jan’s “boss” is Steve Dorning, Executive Pastor at Friendship.
Friday nights start with a light supper at 6:15 pm, followed by worship and teaching at 7 pm, small groups at 8pm, and coffee and dessert following. Most times they are finished by 9pm. Jan says that “CR is the best place to be on Friday nights!” CR also has a prison ministry called CR Inside. Jan says, “I love those women, and love being with them. I get them, and they get me!” Toward the end of April they will also start a 6-9 in depth month study of all the Steps, and it will be on Wednesday nights.
April will also bring the premiere of a CR inspired film centered around the recovery story of a baseball player. It’s entitled “Home Run,” starring Scott Elrod as Cory Brand, the ball player, and Vivica Fox as his agent, Helene Landy. It is being publicized as a “substance abuse redemption drama,” and in our area will be at Monaco Pictures.
If you are looking for a safe place to get help, I do believe that Celebrate Recovery is for you. Remember, recovery is something from which everyone can benefit, because everyone has something from which to recover. For more info, or to become a part of Celebrate Recovery, call Dick Sanders at 256-867-4234 and leave a message.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner