Archive for December, 2010

A Different Kind of Christmas

Last week I was chatting with Molly*, one of the residents in our Bethel House recovery program.  As you might imagine, our conversation touched on the upcoming holidays and how she was looking forward to a markedly different Christmas than last year.

She had a hard time reconstructing the series of events, but the tale involved drinking, living in a tent under an avocado tree, arguments with family, drinking, hitch-hiking, angry phone calls and more drinking.  What was clear is she woke up behind a dumpster at Denny’s.  The relative emptiness of a parking lot usually packed with breakfast customers gave way to the realization that it was Christmas morning.

Her Christmas breakfast consisted of coffee and food in a takeout container handed to her by an irritated manager with the expectation that she would go away.  She thought of her daughter waking up that morning and receiving Christmas presents from family members who had made the gut-wrenching decision to keep Molly away lest she do any more damage.

A painful, lonely memory like this is something Molly may only be able to share because of the hope that this Christmas might be different.  Life got more difficult before it got better, but in the three months that she has been with us, a process of hope has begun.  Through our Family Day program, residents begin the process of reconciliation with their families and Molly is hopeful that this will happen for her.  As Christmas holds the prospect for a long-awaited visit with her daughter, we are praying not only for this, but that God would do a larger work of restoration as she goes through the recovery process.

Molly and her family are one of many who are working to restore what has been lost through addiction.  Please join me in praying that the simple Christmas wish of being with family would be realized for them and that this would only be a small part of the reconciliation that is to come.

Rolf Geyling

*name changed for privacy.

Dinner in the Dark

The power went out recently.  We responded to it like one usually would when it’s a mid-afternoon interruption—wandering into the lobby and wondering aloud a bit over what might have caused us to suddenly loose our electronic lifelines.  Assuming that it would probably come on any minute, I returned to my office and started to venture into some tasks and housekeeping I could do without the computer.

But it didn’t come back on.

It was getting dark as we closed up the office and our guests for the evening were gathering on the sidewalk outside.  A walk into the kitchen showed me that not everyone in the building was as hamstrung as I was in not having any electricity.  The gas appliances were still working and the residents on kitchen duty had flashlights in hand as they went about preparing dinner—after all, the power would probably come back on any minute.

But it didn’t.  The utility guys down the street told us they were waiting for a major part to get flown in.  It would be that way until morning.

Once or twice, I’ve wondered what we would do if something like this ever happened—and now I know.

Without awaiting any executive conferences and decision, the staff and residents got ready for the 200 community members in need who join us for dinner every evening.  The generator someone found in maintenance didn’t start up right away so there was a brief experiment with opening up all the window shades to light the dining room with headlights of cars parked outside.  They finally got it running (phew) and were able to light the room (albeit dimly) with a few temporary lights.  Any and all residents were on hand and they used every flashlight, glow stick, and even the occasional cell phone screen to help our guests through dinner, showers and to bed.

It was peaceful.  It was remarkable.  No chaos or stumbling about—people working together and guests enjoying the novelty of the evening.  It so clearly demonstrated the heart of our work and the passion this team has to extend God’s love and grace to people in need.  Nothing comes in the way of that; it doesn’t get put on hold because of little thing like not having electricity in the building.

It leaves me so proud of our team (thanks, Kevin and Rick) and so moved to be a part of it.  Thanks for being a part of making this possible.

Rolf Geyling