The Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) in Dallas, Texas is a prime example of how it should all work.
There have been several trends that have impacted the ministry of the ARC over the last 25 years and by doing so, have redirected its ministry in the USA Southern Territory. They are as follows:
- Age of Beneficiaries: Traditionally, the beneficiaries were brought to the ARC primarily because of alcoholism. While addiction to alcohol is still a major driver, more people have multiple addictions with both drugs and alcohol at play. Particularly insidious are substances such as methamphetamine (meth), that almost instantly addicts. As a result, people are becoming addicted sooner and at much younger ages than seen over the long history of the ARC. This is both bad and good. Bad, because lives are being wrecked much quicker. Good, because many who now come to us have a lot of their life still ahead of them allowing for a greater chance of long term success.
- Gender: One of the other trends is the increasing need to offer services to both men and women. Again, the traditional ARC services were directed to men since they by far suffered the most disruption in their lives. Unfortunately, with the more addictive drugs many women find themselves trapped in addiction. The ARCs across the USA are seeking to address this sad trend but in doing so, the work is increasingly complicated as a result.
- Increased cooperation between ARCs and local corps: In the past, ARCs operated almost on their own islands with little or no interaction with the local corps. This was not necessarily by choice but what had developed. But in recent years, there has been a concerted effort by both ARC administrators and corps officers to bridge their ministries since both seek not only the salvation of souls but their development as mature believers. This healthy trend has resulted in an increasing number of former beneficiaries taking their place as adherents and soldiers in local corps. And with that, there have been more candidates for officership whose introduction to The Salvation Army was through the ARC program.
How has the Dallas ARC fulfilled its ministry? Although not offering services to women, Captains Chris and Cheryl Gibson, who serve as the administrators have a comprehensive approach to help the men under their influence not only deal with their addictions but become grounded in their faith. Himself a product of the ARC, Captain Chris came in as a beneficiary at the Oklahoma City in 1997. After graduating from the program, he was employed, left the program for outside employment for a time before returning to the ARC. Starting as a part time cashier, he worked his way up intake coordinator, then program director. One Sunday, he and his wife visited the Oklahoma City Corps where, Captain Chris remembers, “I felt a strong calling – like this is where I need to go, this is what I need to do.” Soon, he and his wife became soldiers, but then something unexpected happened. “As I put on my tunic for the first time, I heard God say to me, ‘Now, you are going further.’” Further turned out to be obeying God’s call to become a Salvation Army officer.
From their own experience, the Gibsons felt that there needed to be several aspects of ministry in place to best ensure the success of those who came into the ARC. They outline them as –
- Providing basic services to those entering the Center. These included lots of good food, work, individual and group counseling, Bible studies and worship services, group meetings including Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery and joining in meetings at the local corps.
- Transition: About four months into the six month program, the men are worked with for their plans to transition out of the center. Some may elect to stay and work for the Army as employees. Others will return to their families while others will need to find a new life altogether. Also discussed with them is how they will continue to nurture their faith. What meetings will you continue to go to (church, AA/NA, Celebrate Recovery)? What church will you go to? If not the Army, where? What kind of work will you do? These, and many other questions are explored, and a plan is put into place.
- Connection: When a man leaves the center, the Army continues to keep him connected. There is an Alumi Club that operates like any other club with dues, officers and special outings. Corps officers are told when a man moves into their area so that contact can be made. Although discontinued recently because of the pandemic, normally men are welcome to come back to join in the meetings – bringing their families as well.
- Soldiership/Adherents Class and Cooperation with the Corps: In an interesting twist, the corps officer, Lt. Cody Johns (Irving, Texas) comes to the center to teach an adherents/soldiership class to interested men. Normally this is handled in two separate classes but not here. The feeling is that some men may elect to be adherents, but others seek the higher standard of soldiership. Both need to understand the basics of the Christian faith and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Both will know by the end of class more about Salvation Army beliefs and practices. This approach has borne fruit.
Lt. Johns also conducts Bible studies at the center and the Irving Corps Men’s Club hopes to start meeting at the ARC sometime in the future. Men are encouraged to become involved with the corps as is appropriate. As Captain Chris urges them, “Participate in everything.”
As the old saying goes, the proof is in the pudding. In the case of the Dallas ARC, the proof is in the changed lives. We highlight three below:
Fighting an ongoing battle with first alcohol from his early teens and then upgrading to a devastating addiction to meth, Fortino tried and failed in the ARC program, first in Fort Worth and then in Dallas. “Every time I came in here, I had reservations,” he recalls. “But the last time I came, I knew the answer was God. I was in a bad state. I was talking with another homeless guy, telling him that the last time I was happy was in here (the ARC).” After hearing another man in the center tell of the reason for his success based on his relationship with God, he said he “asked God, ‘Hey man, if You are real, and You’re out there, just help me!” Beginning a relationship with the Lord, he entered wholeheartedly into the Bible classes and other meetings. But the breakthrough came in an unexpected way. At the Southern Territory Bible Conference, he saw another man praying at the altar and decided to pray with him. “When I hit my knees, something just came over me and I started crying. I couldn’t stop. It was so beautiful and freeing. That’s when I gave my life fully over to Christ. That night, I wanted to be a soldier.”
And a soldier he became, serving in the Irving Corps.
Involved in his family’s business, Josh’s addictions and the resulting chaos was too much for the family to take anymore. An uncle, long a fan of The Salvation Army, urged Josh to enter the ARC program. “Try it for 30-60 days, and we’ll see where we are,” he told Josh. Agreeing to this, Josh bided his time, calling his uncle after 30 days to announce he was ready to leave. “Remember, I said 30-60 days,” replied his uncle. Agreeing to stay on another 30 days, Josh again was only trying to get by. When he completed the 60 days and called his uncle again, his uncle wisely replied, “You’re doing so well. Why don’t you stick it out?” Josh was miffed but with no other good option, stayed in the program. Then, “Something changed. Instead of going to class, I started listening. I remember Captain Gibson preaching one day, ‘A lot of you are here listening but you’re not hearing what I’m saying.’ That was me. It was time to listen.”
Attending the Southern Territory Bible Conference, he felt God speak to him. By now, his uncle offered him his job back. It had been a year, but I said, “I need to stay here.” I started driving the guys back and forth to the corps. Lt. Johns preached something about saying yes to God. So, I felt like it was time to become a soldier.
If I had any advice to give to any of the men in this program it would be, “Remember what brought you through the front door. Where you hungry? Cold? Barefoot? Don’t lose that. Don’t dwell on it but don’t forget it either.”
Although the child of a Salvation Army officer, John rebelled early on, embarking on a 25 year road of addiction marked by prison, homelessness, broken relationships and failure everywhere he turned. He was facing another prison term when miraculously, he believes, God intervened, and he was given the option of entering the ARC. “I was so grateful,” he remembers. “I dug in. I really dug in. I asked the Lord each day to continue to transform me into a new man, the man He meant for me to be.”
After graduating from the program, he was enrolled as a soldier in Irving, totally immersing himself in the corps program. Then he met and married a beautiful Christian woman, later becoming a father a baby girl. His wife also became a soldier and now, God willing, they are hoping the doors will open for them to become Salvation Army officers.
“I knew that the corps would be vital to my future,” he says, “Not only in recovery but as a believer in Christ. I am so very, very grateful.”