MOORE — Brad Yarberry and Tammy Chaffin know the benefits of a recovery support group ministry being offered in state prisons.
The duo each participated in “Celebrate Recovery Inside” while serving prison sentences.
Now successfully reintegrated into society, the pair serve as volunteers for the program begun by noted evangelist Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.
“It is lifesaving and life-changing,” Yarberry said of the program during a recent event at Fresh Start Community Church, 309 N Eastern in Moore.
The church offered the “Celebrate Recovery Inside One Day Seminar” on May 12 hoping to encourage other local churches to go into prisons to host the support group ministry for offenders.
The church's senior pastor, the Rev. Dave Dooley, said the Celebrate Recovery and Celebrate Recovery programs have been offered at his church for many years because his church members are accepting of others and have the heart to reach out to the community.
“Celebrate Recovery is about changed lives,” Dooley said.
He said several members of his congregation joined to offer the support group ministry one day a week to people who have addictions, hang-ups and other troubles they seek to recover from. He said it seemed natural to offer the program to prisoners since many of them also are burdened by addictions and life issues they need to address.
At its heart, Celebrate Recovery combines the faith principles of the Beatitudes from the biblical Book of Matthew with the 12-Step recovery process typified by organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous. The program offers support groups for addicts and also a separate group for the addicts' loved ones. Some churches also offer support groups for children and teens affected by a loved one's addiction.
“Celebrate Recovery is about grace and wholeness,” Dooley said.
“It puts you on the same page with everybody because every has their issues.”
About 100 people attended the recent seminar, which included the testimonies of several ex-offenders like Yarberry and Chaffin, as well as several people who are still imprisoned.
Peggy Choate, a Fresh Start member who helps coordinate the church's Celebrate Recovery programs, said the Oklahoma Department of Corrections gave several inmates from Hillside Community Corrections Center and Kate Barnard Community Corrections Center, both in Oklahoma City, permission to attend the event.
Inmate Lori Smith told the crowd that she had been a drug addict and was convicted of a robbery committed while she was trying to feed her drug habit. She said she began participating in Celebrate Recovery Inside in 2006 while incarcerated at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center.
“It was here in Celebrate Recovery and through my surrender to Christ that I found the chance to change,” Smith said.
Chaffin, a member of First Baptist Church of Moore, said she hoped the seminar encouraged other churches to participate in the program. She said a program for Celebrate Recovery Inside participants who are released from prison, Celebrate Recovery Inside Out, also is an important tool for ministries that want to help ex-offenders successfully reintegrate into society.
“A lot of these people don't have anywhere to go when they get out except where they come from,” she said. “We want them to know they have a church family and people to support them when they get out.”