A Weekend of Recovery and Restoration
“When God steps in.” That was the title of the first presentation at the Recovery & Restoration weekend held from September 23-25, 2022, at Wewoka Woods Adventist Center. The title was more than a name; it was truly the theme of the entire weekend. A different weekend meeting had been planned, but God decided otherwise, and it was as it should be.
The weekend was comprised of a small, yet powerful group of over 35 participants from churches throughout the Oklahoma Conference, along with the Oklahoma Conference president James Shires; Executive Secretary and Youth Director Apple Park; Treasurer Charles Reel; and several other conference leaders and pastors. Throughout the weekend we spent time getting to know each other and praying together. We had so many answered prayers, starting with our meeting and presentation outline and then with each person who attended and each person who contributed to some aspect of the program. We had lots of music and singing, thanks to our professional pianist Debby Turzo and to our music leader, Claire Henderson-Diaz. Before each presentation, Olivia Chuckluck sang a solo with a message that aligned with the topic of the presentation. And then there were the delicious, healthy meals prepared by Chef Sam Hutchinson and wonderful accommodations organized by his wife, Laura. It was a beautiful time of rest, restoration, and fellowship.
The first evening set the mood for the entire weekend. We opened with a rousing song service and then listened to a heartfelt song by Olivia, followed by powerful personal testimonies. These were stories just like the ones in scripture where the disciples shared their testimonies of their first-hand experience of being with Jesus. We felt the Holy Spirit’s presence as we told how God was working in our lives. One young man, who presented a heart-wrenching, yet powerful testimony of the might and power of our loving Heavenly Father said, “I wish someone had told me about Jesus when I was a kid so I wouldn’t have had to go through what I did.” He now preaches regularly at his church and recently married a beautiful young woman who was also at our event and who also shared a powerful testimony of God’s gracious deliverance. There were testimonies of those who had grown up as Seventh-day Adventists and now are vibrant Christians in recovery.
Part of the education over the weekend was to educate on the amazing truths of recovery and restoration throughout the Bible and to show how every Christian, as they draw closer to Jesus will realize their intense need for God’s amazing grace. We are all addicted to sin and in need of recovery. Our lives are truly unmanageable without Jesus at our core. Deborah Warden shared a wonderful visual example using a small child’s toy. She showed how each of us has a “God-shaped hole” in our hearts and nothing except God can fill that hole, although we often try to fill it with other things like alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, food, pornography, and so much more.
Each morning a small group gathered outside the lodge for a prayer walk. During the walk we stopped frequently to pray for specific requests and to pray for our meetings, each participant, each church and community represented, and our conference, nation, and world. We truly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit and began to build relationships with one another as more short testimonies and experiences were shared in the context of God’s Word. The picture with this report was from our first morning when we “found” the cross.
As the weekend progressed, we continued to see direct evidence from the scriptures and other testimonies on how our Heavenly Father pulls us from the mire of our hurts, habits, and hang-ups as part of His plan for our salvation. Cindy Mercer shared her powerful story of praying big and how her husband Rick (now a pastor) found victory from his addictions. (Check out their ministry website at http://www.mercerministries.com for more on this incredible story.) The Pauls Valley church’s program, with leaders Krystal and Kenny McAlister; and the Muskogee church, with program leaders Kathy and Krissy Jones have both implemented Christ-based, discipleship-type recovery programs and several others are planning to start programs soon, including my own church, Adventist Fellowship. Elder James Shires shared how he had implemented the “Celebrate Life in Recovery” program at several of his churches and has seen tremendous reformation within the churches.
A result of this event has been the creation of a recovery and restoration community within our conference where we can encourage and learn from each other and help our churches develop and grow their individual programs for their churches and community. These recovery programs are Christ-based and are truly discipleship programs that can be a wonderful outreach for our hurting communities and churches. Please contact me at email@example.com if you have questions about starting a recovery program in your own church or community.
by Joni Bokovoy, DrPH (Native Ministries Health Consultant, Adventist Fellowship Health Leader)
This event was sponsored by the Native Ministries Department of the Oklahoma Conference of Seventh-day Adventists; coordinated by Deborah Warden, Native Ministries’ Women’s Ministries Leader