SIBLEY—How many people walk around with a facade thinking, “I’m not okay, but I don’t want anyone to know I’m not okay.”
Reaching those who feel this has become the mission of a local team through the introduction of the faith-based program Celebrate Recovery.
Leading this ministry are Bill Boer, Monte Feldkamp, Karey Julius, Carol Reimer, Josh Tangeman, Darrell Teerink, Cherie White, and Pastor Ben Wiersma.
“We encourage everyone to come,” Wiersma said. “That’s the beauty of Celebrate Recovery. It is a discipleship program. In a way, it’s about helping people recover from anything, but when we’re talking about injuries, habits, and blockages, it’s pretty much nonsense. Everyone falls into these categories in one way or another.
Addiction, abuse, anger, grief, compulsive behavior, anxiety, loneliness, suicidal thoughts – there are unlikely to be many people who have not dealt with at least one of these issues.
The program began in 1991 at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, after Pastor Rick Warren received a 13-page letter from staff member John Baker outlining his vision for the initiative. . Baker used his first-hand experience with alcoholism to develop the Christian perspective on 12-step programs. There are 35,000 RC churches worldwide, along with ministries in homes, rescue missions, universities, and prisons.
“It literally connects the 12 steps, and then he developed his own eight principles to go along with those steps,” Wiersma said. “These biblical principles line up very well, and then he tied the scriptures to each of the 12 steps.”
Meetings are held every Monday evening at the Sibley Reformed Christian Church, located at 115 Maple Drive. Doors open at 6:15 p.m. Worship, teaching time and announcements fill the first hour which begins at 6:30 p.m. Small group time follows from 7:30-8:30 p.m. DVDs of lessons and testimonials enrich teaching time.
A chip ceremony also takes place every evening. Individuals can take a plastic blue chip as a physical token to help them remember the improvements they are working on each day.
“Basically, the blue chip is a reminder that you surrender to God — whatever your problem is — you surrender that problem and that’s day one,” Wiersma said.
Although encouraged, participants are not required to contribute to the small group discussions. Further offshoots will likely develop as the program expands to allow people facing the same specific problem to meet as their own small group.
“I was blown away in our small group time how open people were,” Boer said. “I did not expect that.”
So far they have seen a good response. After the first evening of attendance of four on January 3, they had new faces every week. This fills a need, as Boer said a participant once told him there was a lot of time between Mondays.
“We can send them to ATLAS for a bit more in-depth or personal mentoring,” Wiersma said. “We should recommend them. We are not here to fix people, we are here to train them. A lot of healing comes from this, but some people need much deeper and better trained counselling.
Leaders hope to break down some of the stigma for people seeking help.
Boer pointed out that it’s more than just addictions.
“If we look really honestly at our lives, we’re all broken to some degree,” Boer said. “Guilt, shame and regret – these are heavy rocks to bear. There is a place where you can empty these stones once a week. Part of what the scriptures teach us is that we are not meant to walk alone.
Wiersma added that they also want to reduce the shame people feel when asking for help.
“We are not hiding it. We are all recovering and we will praise the Lord that this happens,” Wiersma said. “There’s confidentiality, but it’s not that it has to be this big secret. They are just people who want to follow Jesus more. This is the stigma we would like to have, because the range of issues that arise is simply vast.
“You don’t have to just graduate from the program. It might be something you’ve been doing all your life, but it’s a place where you can be open and honest about it.
Other facets coming in the near future will be the addition of sponsors and accountability partners, as well as working in service roles.
“I think our core team, really our focus is on God and glorifying Him and impacting the kingdom,” Boer said. “As long as our leadership team keeps it about him, we will continue to be successful.”
Resources such as Bibles, devotions, and informational pamphlets are available to help people throughout the week. Connections and encouragement can be found on the Sibley Celebrate Recovery Facebook group page.
Even though they are over a month into the study, anyone interested in participating is still encouraged to come. Programs are also available in Inwood, Okoboji, Sioux Center and Sioux Falls, SD, and Worthington, MN for those unable to attend on Mondays or want additional support between sessions.
“You might not quite understand where all the information is in the big group, but the small group is going to be a really important part where you can hang out with other people who are going through similar struggles,” Wiersma said.
Celebrate Recovery is designed to be a one year program. Those ready to take it to the next level can then go through Step Study, a four-book series that aligns with the initial series of lessons.
Lyrics “I say ‘I’m fine, yeah, I’m fine, oh, I’m fine, hey, I’m fine’ but I’m not, I’m broken” from the Matthew West song “Truth Be Told” sum up the reality that many people are facing.The leadership team wants people to see the program as a way to move forward in a positive way.
“It’s a place where even we as leaders are condemned for things,” Wiersma said. “We are all recovering from something.”