Minooka Bible Church has launched Illinois’ first Celebrate Recovery Welcome Home program for military veterans and active duty military members.
“We went to a Celebrate Recovery summit in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and they had a training session for the Welcome Home program. ... I thought, yeah, we need to bring this program back to Minooka,” co-leader Nick Allen said.
Chad and Shannon Deckinga, who attended groups outside of Minooka and brought it back to their home church, Minooka Bible Church, first introduced the program to Minooka in 2012. David and Jen Nelson now lead the growing program.
The Celebrate Recovery program offers dinner, then a large group meeting with testimonies and a monthly chip ceremony. After the large group, participants break into smaller groups for step study. Not long after its inception, a group for teens was added, and now young adults from ages 12 to 18 can attend The Landing. Younger children can attend a program with songs, crafts and Bible teachings.
The program began in 1991 at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, according to the organization. Now, there are 35,000 Celebrate Recovery churches around the world, and 5 million people have completed the step study.
Celebrate Recovery describes the groups as “a Christ-centered, 12-step recovery program for anyone struggling with hurt, pain or addiction ... a safe place to find community and freedom from the issues that are controlling our life.”
The new Welcome Home part of Celebrate Recovery officially began in fall 2017. It specifically was designed for veterans, active duty military members and their families. Minooka Bible Church group leaders Allen and Blain Mepham both served in the military and can relate to those in the group.
Allen said one aspect of the program was to offer unit cohesion to fill the hole of the military brotherhood and offer a sense of purpose or duty.
“When I got out of the military, it was hard to get back into civilian patterns. In the military, I had immediate direction. But when I got home, it was like I was almost free falling. It took me 10 years to figure out I had a problem with that,” Allen said.
Allen and Mepham said the curriculum will coincide with the large group study, but will break off into different topics. They stressed this group is not a place to tell old war stories, but to recognize how those experiences affected them and how to move forward. They will use a biblical-based 12-step program as well as the eight recovery principles based on the Beatitudes.
Mepham said this group offers a unique God-centered program, and he believes people in Christian recovery recover quicker because they have something to look forward to – the ultimate goal of Jesus.
“We want to know how the past affected them and create an end goal. ... Sort of like, OK, it affected you, but now we need to move on,” Mepham said. “Veterans like to belong to a greater group – we know we have issues – and vets like to know they have a safe space to go, where we speak the same language.”
Allen said if someone would like to join the group, but may not be ready for the larger group, he was open to the idea of just being in attendance to the small Welcome Home program.
The leaders hope to grow the group to 10 to 12 and eventually go out into the community to volunteer. They hope it will branch off to other churches in Illinois.
Meetings are held Thursdays at Minooka Bible Church, 412 N. Wabena Ave. Dinner starts at 6 p.m., large group is at 7 p.m. and small groups are at 8 p.m. They last one hour.
For information, call 815-467-2205, or visit Welcome Home at Minooka Bible Church Celebrate Recovery on Facebook, @CelebrateRecoveryMBC on Instagram or @CRatMBC on Twitter.