Church offers addicts a home and hope
Heather Wilson started using methamphetamine when she was 14 years old. She was an addict for 20 years.
But last October, Wilson said, her life turned around. She became clean of drugs and alcohol, was reunified with her 19-month-old daughter, and started the process to gain back her life.
The change, Wilson said, was because of Orchard Church and its ministry for those in recovery.
The church, started in 2002 by Pastor Jim Culp, operates two “recovery houses” for members who are looking for transitional living while in drug recovery. Since 2005, Culp has been helping members get back on their feet after a life of addiction.
“Our goal is to put our residents in the best position to transition back into society,” Culp said. “We try to give them every opportunity to do that while letting them know they are loved by the church and by God.”
In 2004, the church was meeting on Sunday mornings at The Jesus Center. Many of the members who attended the services were in recovery, and Culp saw the struggles they were going through trying to find housing on their own.
“The jump from being unemployed and homeless to having your own apartment is huge,” Culp said. “We knew we needed to do something to meet the needs of our church.”
So Culp decided to meet the members halfway. Under a lease Culp signed himself, Orchard Church in 2005 opened its first recovery house, for men. In the spring of the following year, it opened a house for women.
Residents apply to live in the houses and are chosen by church leaders. The church rents the homes and then charges each resident rent. At the men’s house, each of the handful of residents pays $300 a month. Wilson and the other resident at the women’s house pay $250 a month.
In addition to offering a stable home, with a live-in coordinator at each site, the church also provides its residents with hope, love and grace inspired by the works of Jesus Christ, Culp said.
The church does not require its recovery home residents to attend Orchard Church. But it does ask that residents devote themselves at least once a week to some sort of religious service.
“One of the biggest things in recovery is finding something to replace your addiction. We hope that they can fill that place that was used for drugs and alcohol with God,” Culp said.
Charlie Mulliens has done just that. One of the first men to move into the men’s house in 2005, Mulliens said that finding God truly allowed him to leave behind his alcohol addiction.
Mulliens moved out of the men’s house on Labor Day weekend of 2006 and has successfully maintained his own apartment on West Sacramento. He works at Enloe Hospital, driving a shuttle bus for employees, and now volunteers his time with the women and children in the recovery program, often driving them to appointments.
“This house and God have really helped anchor me,” Mulliens said. “This is the longest I have been sober since I was 14. When I first stepped into church it was only because I knew that would be two hours I wouldn’t have a bottle in my hand. And now I am at a place where I can give back and minister to others.”
While Culp says he is hopeful that residents will devote their lives to God, it isn’t something that he forces upon them. Wilson agreed.
“A lot of people might be scared when they hear that the houses are tied with a church. But this is so far from forcing anything down anyone’s throat. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink,” Wilson said.
Perhaps the biggest champion of the recovery residents is Clyde Baker, director of recovery ministry for the church. Baker lives in the men’s recovery house, helping to hold them accountable while teaching them about God.
A former meth and cocaine addict himself, Baker says he is able to speak to the residents because of his personal experience. And instead of just getting residents off of drugs, Baker said he takes a holistic approach to recovery.
“The only way it works is with God,” Baker said. “I tried every other way. For me, my addiction didn’t stop until I put him in control.”
Baker now helps to facilitate the five recovery meetings a week for the house residents, as well as maintaining a constant presence in the lives of those on the way to recovery. And for those like Heather Wilson, finding people like Baker has been a defining moment in their recovery process.
“Orchard has accepted me just as I am,” Wilson said. “God doesn’t care about what I’ve done before, and neither do they. It’s nice to know that through everything I’ve done, I am still loved and accepted.”