By: Cory Kick
I have taken advantage of the opportunity to come to New Orleans, Louisiana with the Fair Oaks Baptist Church youth for the second year in a row. Last year, God amazed all of us, and so far this year hasn’t been any different. We had many particular places to visit last year and one was a Christian alcohol/drug rehab center for men run by a man named Pastor Mel. We met him last year and he was a very strong believer and was very others-oriented; he always put others before himself. Unfortunately, when we showed up at his ministry site, we found out that he was in Israel. Even though he wasn’t there, God used us like we would never imagine.
We arrived at the rehab center at about eight in the morning while the members were watching a DVD of a man named Dr. Evans giving a bible study sermon. All of the men seemed to be very interested in the study and were taking notes themselves. I assume Pastor Mel has the men take notes so it keeps them focused, and it really works. They often shouted out bold statements that reassured us that they were believers and didn’t care what anyone thought. One particular thing I remember Dr. Evans saying was “It doesn’t matter if you have a PhD or a GED; when you walk into the Kingdom of Heaven, you all will be going through the same door.” That was really inspirational.
When the guys finished their bible study, one of the leaders acknowledged us and thanked us for coming. They started a session of brief praise and worship. All they used for worshipping was a decently sized bass drum and their voices. No microphones, no guitars, no bass, no drums. It wasn’t the type of worship that I had become accustomed to at Fair Oaks. Nevertheless, their worship was just as strong and meaningful. It was nice to see past drug addicts singing about how much they loved the Lord without caring what anyone else’s opinions were.
After the praise and worship, the leaders invited two of the members to come and give their testimony in front of everyone involved in the program. The first man’s name was Mike and was a crack addict. He had met Pastor Mel in a bar a little over six months ago. Mike had just finished a few hits of crack and was frustrated that this random guy came in to mess up his high. Amazingly, God gave Mel the words to say that would influence him to come check out his rehab program. Mike has been involved in the program since that day and has been sober since then. He plans on sticking to the program for at least another six months. The second man that shared his testimony was named Joseph. He was also a crack addict. Joseph went all over the southern United States area when Hurricane Katrina hit. He met Pastor Mel and was also admitted into the program. He has been there for about the same amount of time that Mike has.
Next, we went out to the shed that we would be adding a few coats of paint to. The shed was across from a washer and dryer. One of the members of the program couldn’t walk very well, so he didn’t do any construction. He usually did the laundry for all the other guys. Since he was standing about ten feet from us, we talked pretty much the whole time we were there. His name was Sean Brooks and he had a very interesting past. In 2003 Sean was involved in a drug deal and was shot five times in the back. He lost six pints of blood. Naturally, he fell to the ground. He was lying there in his own blood thinking “Where am I going: Heaven or Hell?” Sean was admitted into a local hospital where he found out one of the bullets hit him right at the base of his spine. He couldn’t feel his legs and the doctors told him he was paralyzed. They said he probably would never be able to stand, let alone walk again. He wouldn’t let himself believe that. He trusted that God would be merciful and help him with this issue. Eventually, Sean was able to walk, but only by the grace of the Holy Spirit. He’s now using a cane, but I think Sean wouldn’t mind using it if it meant he would be able to walk. He kept telling us how much he loved us and how thankful he was for what we were doing. It was very easy for him to connect with Daniel Araujo, Michael Grieb, Clara Farley, Rebecca Halvorson, Lauren Politis, Vangy Celestre, as well as myself.
When we finished painting the shed, Sean showed Daniel and me his bed. On the wall, he had a few pictures of family and friends. Sean seemed to really appreciate that we would be willing to go check out his space. At the time, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. But thinking back on it, he didn’t get that opportunity all that often. He showed us pictures of his 10-year-old daughter who he seemed to love unconditionally.
Next, we went back into the room where the bible study was held to have lunch with the guys. Michael and I sat next to Sean, and we talked about everything from giant cats to the New England Patriots losing the Super Bowl. It was nice to be able to open up to someone I hadn’t even known for a whole day. I couldn’t have done that myself; God was with me the whole time helping me connect with Sean.
Saying goodbye to Sean wasn’t easy for me. We went back out by the shed and took a quick picture. Next, he individually thanked all of us for being there and gave us a hug. I pray that Sean will stay in the program and stay clean so he can support himself as well as his daughter. I am excited that he now knows that when his time here on earth is over, we will meet again in Heaven, which is a great thing to look forward to.