Archived Sections, Lutherans in the Twin Cities

RECOVERING ALCOHOLICS GET CHRISTIAN-BASED TREATMENT

New Hope Center, a residential program in south Minneapolis for men recovering from alcohol and drug addiction, has Lutheran roots and a solid Christian foundation.
“We exist to bring chemically dependent men to Jesus Christ and to equip them to lead godly lives,” says Dan Ward, executive director. “Christ is the healer. The disease is sin, and addiction is a symptom.”
The center is located at 28th and Cedar in the Phillips neighborhood, not suburban New Hope, as some people mistakenly guess. Of the center’s 16-member board, half are Lutherans.
New Hope Center (the name is a metaphor for life in recovery) originated as Gateway Gospel Mission, founded in downtown Minneapolis by a group of concerned Lutherans in 1926.
Urban renewal in the 1960s brought a change of name and location. January 2001 marks the beginning of the ministry’s 75th year.
“We are licensed for 64 men, but we limit ourselves to 45 for the sake of community. A sense of community is part of the healing process,” Ward says.
Typically, men learn about the center from pastors or from street people familiar with the program. Not all stories are as dramatic as one that Ward describes, of a former Minnesota man living in Florida on Christmas night 1997.
Divorced and addicted to alcohol, the man had seen his children removed by authorities and was at the end of his rope.
“As he cried out to God for help, a Minneapolis telephone number came to him. It was the number of a woman who was able to put him in touch with New Hope Center.
“We told him we were full at the moment, but he boarded a bus and rode up here. By the time he reached us, there was room,” Ward says.
Recovery through New Hope Center residency has five components, among which core Bible teaching is essential. “Our program director, Pastor Bill Bauske, has written his own curriculum, using the story of Israel in bondage to Egypt.
“The children of Israel gain their freedom, grumble through the desert, reach the Promised Land, forget who got them there, and end up in bondage again. Their journey from bondage to freedom parallels the stages of addiction, recovery and relapse.”
The center employs ten full-time and three part-time staff. Intake director Roy Watkins is a licensed chemical dependency counselor. All but one of the program staff have themselves come through addiction.
New Hope’s over-all program is intended to help prevent relapse. Alongside Bible teaching there is basic case coordination, led by Bauske and Watkins.
“In their first month, residents do everything within a group, while a series of assessments is done individual by individual,” Ward says. “In the second month each man works with a case coordinator to identify potential stumbling blocks and draw up a personal contract to address them.”
Examples are anger management, healthy relationships, or self-image in Christ. Personal contracts involve individual study of these trigger areas, followed by further dialog with the coordinator.
New Hope’s three other program components are: the learning center, work program, and a project of mentoring by Christian laymen called Prodigal Fathering.
“Many of the men lack education and work skills,” Dan Ward says. “Center statistics show their average age at onset of addiction is 13.”
The learning program offers five modules: basic literacy; computer-based study toward the G.E.D.; work readiness; life skills (such as listening, making decisions and accepting criticism); and introduction to computers.
Under the work program, each man does a two-hour daily assignment, which might be food preparation, dining service, cleaning or light maintenance.
“We use the work program for diagnosis and as an applications forum,” Ward says. “If a man has anger toward authority, his problem will come to light in working with a staff supervisor and can be dealt with here rather than on the outside, later. He can also get counseling for moodiness, discouragement or poor work skills.”
Metro area churches wishing to mentor New Hope residents can become involved in a fifth program, Prodigal Fathering. (For other opportunities, refer to the sidebar.)
Metro churches that participate include Emmaus Lutheran of Bloomington, North Heights Lutheran Church, and Trinity Lutheran of Minnehaha Falls.
Based on the scriptural passage from Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son, “When he came to his senses, he said … ‘I will set out and go back to my father’” [Luke 15:17-18], Prodigal Fa-thering provides a connecting link between men in recovery and spiritually mature volunteers who “father” them with a meal, an afternoon of fishing, or a ride to church.
“We are a door into the church for men who otherwise might never enter a traditional church building,” Ward says. Other programs sometimes use a boot camp model or become legalistic.
“One program with which I’m familiar had eighteen pages of conduct rules in small type. This can make staff and residents fall into a routine where residents look for loopholes and staff make even more rules,” he says. “The side effect is that everyone forgets that Jesus taught [that] love is the heart of the Gospel.”
Men who complete the center’s 17-week program enter a 90-day transition phase, seeking employment and continuing a regular devotional life. Men may stay an additional 24 months if they pursue education leading to full-time employment.
Since 1998, Ward reports, “We have 30% of our graduates [still] sober one year later. This compares with 10-15% sobriety one year later in similar programs. [By that time] 75% are both working and in church.”
Dan Ward offers to speak about New Hope Center and its programs anytime, anywhere. “We want to be known as a blessing and a resource to the Christian community. We will also go into the congregations with ‘Help the Helper,’ a training program that helps equip church leadership to deal with addiction.”
For further information, call New Hope Center, 612/721-9415, or E-mail nhopectr@aol.com.