A 12-month, Christ-based program that applies a biblical foundation to the root of addiction—with a 70 percent success rate.
Story by Lindsey Benitez & Tom Price
Photos by Micah Martin
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
“Our society has buried countless people in the last two years—young people who should still be alive,” Lauren Wong lamented, speaking of the opiate and heroin epidemic that is destroying families and lives across the state of Maine. Her husband Jeff added, “At its core, it’s a sin problem—addiction is selfishness. The only One who can cure that self-centeredness is Jesus Christ.”
Both Jeff and Lauren had committed their lives to Christ at Calvary Residential Discipleship (CRD) in central Maine. Lauren admitted, “I was a homeless, hopeless, heroin addict on the streets of Philadelphia. I did not know the Lord.” Through a series of events, Lauren ended up in the CRD Women’s (CRDW) program. She went through the entire program, was guided into leadership, and later met Jeff, whose life had also been turned around at the CRD Men’s program years before. They had been overseeing one of the ministry homes until recently.
Beginnings of CRD
“Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”
Calvary Residential Discipleship Program is a 12-month Christ-centered structured discipleship program in Bangor, begun by Calvary Chapel Central Maine. There are separate houses for women and men, as well as two other related works at other Calvary Chapels in Maine. Its vision is to help those suffering with addictions to find freedom by applying biblical Truth to the root of their addiction. There is daily learning in God’s Word while developing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
David Norsworthy, executive director of CRD, stated, “There are a lot of people dying from this deadly epidemic of drugs. Sadly, we’re seeing a lot of children being born addicted to drugs since their mothers were using drugs.” Pastor Ken Graves tasked David to assist in starting the program as a ministry out of CC Central Maine. David recalled, “It began in one of my apartment houses 18 years ago with one overseer and one guy.” Now the four homes have over 70 beds. David noted how Jesus took the 12 disciples and walked with them. “That’s what we do here on site. We spend our lives with them. This allows those in the program to see how real Christian men treat their wives and families, how a Christian woman acts and treats loved ones.” The participants become part of the church family; men park cars and women in the café serve food.
“We spend our lives with them. This allows those in the program to see how real Christian men treat their wives and families, how a Christian woman acts and treats loved ones.”
When someone new arrives, they are helped through the detoxification period. The first six months is under constant supervision—they are told when to get up, when to go to bed, when to eat, and what to do at all times during the day. David emphasized, “The most important part is the Word of God. Each morning they begin with the One Year Bible, followed by one-half hour to work out physically, then they meet to go over what they read that day and they tell us how God spoke to them through His Word.” They have several work projects but have different times of the day dedicated to Bible study.
David continued, “Our focus is on having the person accept the Lord Jesus Christ. We are not focused on the medical end of someone’s addiction.” Wednesdays are set aside for a full day of hearing God’s Word taught by senior pastors like Ken Graves. Other local teachers are often those freed from addiction through the program. “Jesus is the only answer to freeing an addict from the shame and guilt he lives with,” David added. After six months, partial freedom is allowed. “While their mind is clearing out, it’s being filled with the Word of God—it’s being filled with Jesus. Jesus is the answer to this problem. He is the cure for opiate addiction,” said David.
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses.
For Bostonian Joe Allen, the breakthrough from addiction began soon after entering the program. He came broken; his wife was seeking a divorce and full custody of their two children. “Right away I noticed that men who had been in the program had a hope and a peace that I didn’t have,” Joe said. They were dealing with the same issues as Joe; the pain of withdrawal and addiction and destroyed relationships. So he decided to do the things that they were doing, which included intensive Bible study, prayer, and a commitment to do whatever was asked. Three weeks into the program, Joe surrendered his life to Christ. His wife witnessed his repentance and moved to Maine so they could be a family again. Joe concluded, “It’s been incredible to see what Jesus can do with a surrendered life.”
Travis Carey was kicked out of the U.S. Marine Corps when he overdosed on heroin at Camp Pendleton. He went through several secular programs to no avail. He was arrested in Bangor for trying to steal purses from elderly ladies in Walmart. Ken Graves came to visit him on his fourth day in jail. “Pastor Ken extended his hand for me to come into the program when my sentence was finished. I was 27 years old and a humbled man—making the front page of my hometown paper for robbery. But I had been stealing from my family for years.” Upon his release he enrolled in CRD and did well through his first year. “I got to see other men’s lives being changed by the Word of God,” Travis observed. Upon graduation, he entered the church’s School of Ministry and met his future wife, Maddie, who was going through the same program. Travis and Maddie served at a CC in Hawaii for a year but recently returned as an assistant pastor at CC Central Maine.
“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
“Before I knew it, I was an IV user, shooting heroin,” said Sarah Michaud. Earlier in her life she had dealt with illnesses and many corrective surgeries. Doctors prescribed massive amounts of pain killers. “I wanted to pretend my disability didn’t exist … I hated even knowing that I had a disability of any kind,” Sarah explained. “But when I became an addict, I would milk it [her disability] for as much as I could. Doctors would supply me with the drugs.” The sweet relationship she had with God disappeared and was replaced with bitterness and depression.
A doctor told her that she would only live another month with only one functioning kidney if she continued abusing her body. She sought help at Calvary Residential Discipleship Women’s program, and Sarah’s life took a dramatic turn, terminating her drug use and regaining her sweet relationship with Christ.
“Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” Psalm 50:15
Emily Jones, now director of the program, recalls crying out to the Lord in a moment of despair, Get me out of this! Once homeless and in bondage with a daily crack habit, her drug addiction brought her to the CRDW program in 2005. “Upon arriving I didn’t want to get sober, I just wanted to get control over my life again.” Emily recalls being in severe withdrawal and reaching a breaking point. “I heard God’s Word being spoken. It grabbed ahold of my heart and it made me come to a crossroads where I was either going to do my plan or I was going to surrender to the Lord.” Feeling helpless, one evening she made the decision to cry out to God. “I decided I’m just going to turn to the Bible and if nothing happens then I am leaving.” That evening Emily sensed God’s Word anchoring her feet and she stayed. “I didn’t feel better, but the Lord gave me the strength to stay.”
Morgan Hale testified, “I started shooting dope and was just doing everything under the sun. I didn’t care. I was going to die a drug addict.” She had a solid family background, but things changed when she started getting into heavy drugs; stealing pills from her family. After a second failed secular rehab program, her parents flew her home for Christmas and then sent her to CRDW in Maine. Morgan exclaimed, “It’s a miracle. God has opened so many doors for me. Through the program He changed my desires about everything, especially drug use and serving in ministry.”
Morgan has learned that you can be cured from addiction; it’s not a life-long disease. She added, “The answer is Jesus—just really developing a personal relationship with Him and learning to hear from the Lord.” She feels that the year-long program is totally worth the time investment. The program is not the instant gratification that addicts desire. “CRDW makes you work for everything, which is what addicts specifically need to achieve. You need a childlike faith to succeed in this program.”