It happens everywhere. Drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and child sexual abuse exist in every social class, ethnic group, and age. The incidents are often silenced, hidden under a veil of guilt and shame. Recovery ministries seek to provide a sanctuary for victims to find safety, counsel and healing. For those called to this ministry, there are several issues Northeastern Seminary students and graduates have found essential as they are equipped to help others.
“The biggest issue recovery ministers deal with is that of paying attention to the critical need for anonymity and confidentiality,” says Greg Brotzman, M.Div. ‘06, of Celebrate Recovery, a program at Northgate Free Methodist Church in Batavia, N.Y. The ministry deals predominantly with alcohol and drug abuse and is led by a team of volunteer leaders. Brotzman has found that recovery occurs when people feel they are in a safe environment. This stems from a place where trust has been established and out of that trust people begin to release the pain that is behind their addictions. Consequently, “listening well is a critical skill necessary for ministry to those in recovery,” he states. The Seminary’s personal spiritual formation curriculum uniquely fosters these skills as a key element of the faith sharing experience.
In addition to listening, recovery takes time. One must be prepared to “be there for the long term, ready to listen and care, and [provide] a safe place where people can feel valued and respected,” counsels Brotzman. It can take years for recovery to actually take place in a life. During this time, there is often a “struggle with feelings of being used and abused after addiction gets the better of the one [you] are working with and [they] become disheartened and distant from helping,” shares Geri Metcalfe, MATL C24, who worked with Cornerstone Manor Women’s and Children’s Shelter and Men’s Center. “When walking alongside persons suffering from addiction, a readying of the heart is critical,” she advises. She also encourages, “we must remember we do not do the heart work; God does!”
Heart work occurs, to be sure. Many working in recovery ministry have themselves “been victimized as children in domestic violence and child sexual abuse,” shares D.J. Robinson, M.Div. C23, an ordained elder at Elim who founded T.A.M.A.R., Theological Awareness Ministry for Abuse Recovery. She started the ministry during her field education at the Seminary, to equip pastors and laity with preventative care training to effectively address and respond to victims and survivors of domestic violence and child sexual abuse. Among the people she has worked with, she has found it common for victims who have found healing to want to help others.
“God is God of the oppressed,” emphasizes Robinson and this work of hearing, listening, encouraging, and defending is the work of recovery ministries.