Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Rumbling for Recovery

Metro Hope Ministry used motorcycles to raise funds

Metro Hope Ministries, a faith-based addiction program founded by Norwegian Lutherans, has grown itself from a downtown Minne-apolis storefront-style soup, soap and salvation outreach to a $1.25 million operation.

With a low six-figure annual budget (donor giving provides half of it), 2006 increased financial support was necessary. The sort of fund-raiser Metro Hope settled on (the first annual was last year) probably raised a few eyebrows among some longtime supporters. But in its way the “Ride for Recovery” motorcycle ride seems right for this ministry.
The cyclists queued up one morning last month (see photos) for a pledge-driven ride, beginning in Hopkins and following a scenic 120-mile route along the Minnesota River Valley. The “recovery rumblers” rolled south, to Henderson, Minne-sota, and back.

Bikers came from all walks of life — believers and nonbelievers, people in recovery and people who just love to ride. Curt Wellumson, board member and ride chair who is a Hopkins resident, said, “We find it fitting [that] an urban recovery ministry [holds] an event out in the suburbs. The majority of drug buyers come from the suburbs into the city to pick up their next hit.”

The staff at Metro Hope say their faith-based programs have a high rate of success, even with people who have been through five or more secular programs and fallen back into their addictions.

Dan Ward, the ministry’s Executive Director, said, “We offer a comprehensive recovery plan; we teach people how to pursue recovery.” Contradicting the view of many, Ward said, “The jury is still out on whether alcoholism is a disease.”
The disease paradigm, he said, can be traced to work done at Fairview Riverside which indicated alcoholism should be treated as if it were a disease.

“We view addiction as a symptom of the fallen nature of [humanity],” Ward said. “If we don’t treat the underlying symptoms, we don’t have a good opportunity for success.” He remarked that 80% of women addicts have a history of abuse; 50% of male addicts have an abusive situation in their past.
Metro Hope, once known as Gateway Gospel Mission, offers a five to seven month residential program for men called New Hope Center (located in south Minneapo-lis). The program there includes basic education, life skills and work therapy. In 2006 the organization ex-panded its work to include women with addictions and their children, in a renovated three-story facility in north Minneapolis called Healing House.

Metro Hope’s expanding ministry also includes a program called Help+ for the Helpers, to assist pastors and church leaders to better recognize and assist those struggling with addictions. Another program, called Onesimus Brothers, assists men in their journey of faith and sobriety after they leave New Hope Center, helping with housing and employment issues.

The need for recovery programs was emphasized in conjunction with the Ride for Recovery. It was pointed out that:

One in nine Americans is a dependent — abusing alcohol or drugs.

One in 16 persons who are illicit drug users are also alcohol abusers.

One of 30 adults has a serious problem with gambling.

One of 26 adults in the U.S. is a sex addict.

Adults who do not attend church are up to eight times more likely to abuse alcohol and/or drugs.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia Univer-sity says that religion and spirituality play a powerful role in the prevention and treatment of substance abuse and in the maintenance of sobriety.

The men’s program, New Hope Center, is the oldest faith-based addiction recovery program in the Midwest. While it can trace its ancestry back over 80 years, it discovered its true calling in the early 1960s when its founders and staff decided that the standard routine of soup, soap and salvation for a single night just wasn’t working.

Instead, New Hope began offering men a long-term discipleship program. As it helped them recover from their addictions, it offered educational classes, life skills training such as how to get a job and manage money, and biblical counseling.

“We don’t just deal with addiction,” said Mary Ake-hurst, Metro Hope Volunteer Coordinator. “We don’t just give residents a place to sleep. We help them change their lives so when they leave here they won’t fall down again.”

Metro Hope had its beginnings in 1926 and has strong ties to Lutheran congregations and members. These days its work is non-denominational and draws participants from throughout the U.S. as well as Canada. New Hope Center for men has worked with hundreds of people over the years; its facility has a 45-bed capacity and serves men from 18 to 80.

Healing House, the women’s program, has 43 beds — 23 for children and 20 for women (about half of whom are single). Healing House Director Pat Watkins says, “We’re the first faith-based residential treatment program in the state that allows mothers to keep their children with them while they heal from abuse, addictions, trauma and destructive life patterns such as prostitution and homelessness.”

Akehurst says there’s always a need for volunteers in the Metro Hope programs. Currently there are nearly 300 volunteers in total, including 200 “Prayer Warriors.”

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Those interested in more information on Metro Hope’s ministries may visit the Web site at www.metrohope.org or call Mary Akehurst at 612/721-9415, ext. 103.