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Celebrating Success (The Jeff Johnson Story)

As we celebrate 10 years of Christ-centered recovery ministry, I would like to reflect on success.

Jeff Johnson & Tom

When this ministry began, and known national recovery rates were less than 10%, we became very careful about how we defined success. As Christians, whose mission is primarily to sow the gospel, we defined success as “sowing the seeds of recovery (the gospel) in every man’s life.” This way, we did not tie our success with anyone else’s behavior or performance, but instead simply to our actions and attitudes.

Over this 10-year period, we have seen 207 men graduate into a life of recovery. Over this period, we have averaged 45% of residents who enter this program graduating (this number was actually 71% over 2016). Of our graduates, we evaluate known sobriety quarterly, and consistently find about 60% of our graduates report being clean and sober.

But numbers don’t tell the story like lives do.

 Jeff entered our program on April 14, 2016. He had resisted coming for some time, but his drinking became so out of hand, he eventually became desperate enough to come. At 36 years old and having grown up in the church, he had over time turned off his faith. His contradictory lifestyle had caused him to lose faith and hope. He came to His Way broken, yet open to something different.

During his time at His Way, his faith began to grow. Particularly during our morning devotionals, as he began to see both consistent and miraculous answers to prayer in the lives of our residents. He even began to experience some of these answers himself. He would eventually testify to the house that his faith had grown due to the “remarkable answers to prayer”.

As I counseled with Jeff, I began to see his faith grow through obedience. I Peter 1:22 states,

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” He would come to me with life challenges, and we would prayerfully discuss his options, come to discover a Christ-focused response, and he would immediately and decisively act upon it. Then, Jeff would come gleaming back into the house to testify about how God had resolved this situation beyond what he could have hoped or imagined.

As his faith grew, so did his love for his brothers in the house. He would counsel them, encourage them, serve them, and bless them in any way he possibly could. He loved the brothers and the brothers, to a man, loved him.

Jeff graduated His Way on October 13, 2016 to a packed pavilion of supporters. He exclaimed that, “He was the closest to God he had ever been!” During his six-month recovery program, Jeff experienced tremendous victories in finding a job that he loved, reconciling with his family, enjoying weekly lunches with his Dad, getting plugged in to his home church, and even seeing his beloved Cubs win the World Series after a 108 year drought!

Yet tragically, Jeff passed away two and a half months later from physical complications due to a lifestyle of alcoholism. But he died having reconciled his life with those he loved and most significantly with the Lord.

The Apostle Paul declares in I Corinthians 15:54-56,“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

At 37 years old, Jeff has overcome the world through Christ with all its turmoil and struggle. “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).

Today, Jeff stands in the face to face presence of the Lord in the heavenly realms celebrating with His holy angels. His faith has become sight and he has fully realized the victory that comes by faith. As John writes, “And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith!” (I John 5:4)

And this is the victory of Christ-centered recovery!

Tom Reynolds

Tom Head ShotTom Reynolds hails from the Pacific Northwest, and spent 25 years in full time ministry in California, Colorado, New Jersey, and Alabama. Today, Tom is the Executive Director of His Way. 

Click the link below for more information on the Jeff Johnson memorial fund. Donations to this fund will support His Way’s expansion plans to allow more men to enter our program. 

http://www.hiswayinc.org/jeffjohnsonfund.html

Being Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

David WilbournMy whole life I’ve used anything I could to cope with the feeling of being uncomfortable. I hated the feeling of being uncomfortable. I’ve had multiple ways to escape the feeling in the past. Being around a lot of people I don’t know, dive head first into my iPhone and get lost in social media. The thought of letting someone in too close, hit them with that Heisman stiff arm. Catching myself in a situation where I’m supposed to act professional, become a jester. And sometimes I would do it without even thinking. Shutting down emotionally, jumping into my favorite Apple Music playlist, coming across as super arrogant (Kanye West didn’t have anything on me), isolating from the rest of the world, making excuses why I can’t come through on a commitment I’ve made to someone, and my number one go to for many years, Oxycontin and heroin. Not only do opiates kill physical pain, but they also eliminate emotional and mental pain.

One thing I heard early on in my road to recovery was you have to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Yea, no thanks, I’m good on that. I mean, what does that even mean? I didn’t have a clue at the time, but I think those words stuck with me because it sounded like such a paradox. Then things started to happen around me. A buddy from church, Carlos, invited me to a cookout at his house. There were about fifteen other peers from the church there, all of us engaging with stuffing our faces with burgers and side dishes. Eventually everyone there made it to the living room, and Carlos realizing I was the newb to the group said, “David, why don’t you share your story, your testimony, with everyone”.

Wow, nothing goes better in regards to a first impression than sharing with a group of sold out Jesus followers that you had just ended a long, serious relationship with heroin.

My mind was paralyzed by the feeling of being uncomfortable. It was deeper than that though. What was at the the root of that was fear? Fear of judgement, fear of rejection, low self-esteem, low self-worth. All of those things were what created that feeling of being uncomfortable. And it left me in the same place that I had been for so long, paralyzed while life passed me by. I got to a place in my recovery where I was tired of letting fear of judgement, and rejection keep me in a place of idleness. I wanted to, and was ready to break free from that mental slavery. And the thing about the prison that I put myself in inside of my head was the prison door inside my mind was not locked. I had the choice to walk out and leave that place. Freedom was on the other side. I just had to kick the door in. Kick the door, ya dig?

So I made a choice, a choice to embrace the uncomfortable feeling, to take it head on. To not go to anything to cope with the feeling, but to wear it. To let it pulse through my veins, and dance throughout my mind. And in doing so a new boldness came over me. I realized that I could take on the feeling without fear. That it’s okay to feel uncomfortable. Because you come out the other side a little braver. A little more confident. And each time the feeling of being uncomfortable came over me I was able to walk through it a little easier. Slowly the fear disappeared. That root that was so deeply running throughout my heart and mind was being uprooted, until it was no longer there. What I learned was that taking on those feelings head on is what made me grow the most. That in that doubt, in that fear, in those moments, I grew even more. That’s life.

David Wilbourn

David is a graduate of His Way, and a current staff member. To read more from David, visit his personal blog: 

https://coulditbethatcomplicated.wordpress.com/