Rehab Centers

CAD

In the scope of projects supported by COAH, we have several rehabilitation programs running in Ukraine.

In this observation, I would like to present how we view this project, and why we are involved in supporting these programs.

History

Historically, this ministry in Ukraine began in the early 2000’s, as a response of various congregations to the problems of former prisoners, drug and alcohol addicted people, and the homeless. Various congregations got in touch with such people, and found them to be in need of some in-depth help. Mainly, they wished to provide a place where such people could stay, and where they could study the Word together.

The main purpose of establishing and running rehabilitation centers is to preach the Word to those in whom society does not see any value, and those who have lost everything due to their sinful lives. That is indeed the ministry to lost sinners.    

Soon after, many other congregations saw the growth of the congregations where the rehabilitation centers were established, and wanted to start a center in order to grow as well.

Aim

For us at COAH, our aim is not only to support various causes, but also to analyze the projects supported in order to do things in the light of a Biblical view.

We understand that many people in the West do not have big hearts for addicted or homeless people, since it looks like such people are harvesting the outcomes of the wrong choices they made. Why should we support such causes? It is more attractive in a way to give support to a hungry child, rather than to a former criminal who spent 30 of his 50 years in a prison. It is legitimate objection, so we’ll try to give the view of COAH on this objection.

It is our aim to preach the Word to anyone, since everlasting souls have an equal value in the eyes of God. We just do not know who is called to be saved and who is not, so the preaching should be addressed to all: to children, to former criminals, to white collars, and to all others. In the eyes of God, we believe, there are no best and worst sinners, even though we see different consequences of different sins. The history of God’s church is full of examples of the worst sinners converted “from disgrace to amazing grace,” as happened to the author of the beautiful hymn “Amazing Grace” John Newton.

Observations

 The years of our experience with the rehabilitation centers have led us to some important observations and conclusions which I want to share with you.

We do not think it is right to look at rehabilitation as a method for congregational growth. We stand firm that salvation comes from above, and it is by the faithful preaching of the Word and by the sincere prayers of the saints. If any method is taken as an automatic method for the conversion of sinners, it is the way to a trap, and neglects the order of salvation established by God.

Not every confession of faith is a sign of a true conversion. We still deal with the sinful nature of people. People who come for the rehabilitation program, especially former prisoners, can read well what the people serving there expect from them. A lot of people have what I have called a “chameleon nature” which makes them try to become like their surroundings. I have heard testimonials from several people. Years after they made public confession of faith and joined the church (but were not truly converted at that time), they admitted that they did so just to please the leaders of the rehabilitation ministry. This is why, as we deal mainly with Ukrainian Baptists churches, we do not support what is called “the call to repentance.”  We believe salvation comes to the heart of a man because of a secret internal work of the Holy Spirit, and we afraid of giving a false hope of salvation to those for whom salvation is not there yet. As we often talked with the people on the rehabilitation programs, and asked them about their life with Christ, many would say things like: “With Christ I could get off the drugs, or alcohol.” That is great, but does it necessarily mean that such a person is in unity with Christ? No. When people tend to present the saving work of the Holy Spirit as only help for getting off addictions, we do not believe that is scripturally correct. We know of many people who got rid of drugs and alcohol using different methodologies which have nothing to do with Christian religion at all, so we cannot count these as the only and true signs of person’s true conversion.    

Leadership

I am rushing too fast. At many rehabilitation programs, we see a problem in installing former rehabilitants as the leaders of the ministry. It is often explained that former rehabilitants know well what other addicts are experiencing, so would better know how to serve such people. Leadership is a temptation of power for people.  Therefore, only spiritually mature people, who know and practice the servant’s attitude, may be good leaders of the ministry.    

Taking Responsibility

 As was written above, the rehabilitation centers deal mostly with people who never used to work with their own hands. It is one of our goals to teach people not only Scriptural doctrines, but also the practical implementation of the Bible’s truth. Life is not about reading the Bible all the time, but also about living daily life in accordance with the Scripture. Ephesians 4:28, “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” Such beautiful words these are: do not only work in order to have something for yourself, but also that you may give to others who are in need. We believe that the right fruit of grace shown to somebody will be a grateful attitude, and a desire to give to others out of the labor of his own hands.

Responsibility of the Local Congregation

 In this and other types of projects, we take the position that financial support given by COAH should not replace the responsibilities of the local congregations. Our desire is not to make a situation where the congregations in Ukraine would become dependent on external support alone. Yes, most of the congregations that we deal with do not have a large membership, and many are located in depressed areas. But our best intentions by providing financial support should not replace their giving.

Authority of the Local Congregation

 We at COAH stand firm that any ministry should be under the authority of the local church or group of local churches. We do not believe in a ministry being separated from a church or acting independently. To have ties with the local churches and to have their spiritual and financial support is very important and Biblical. There could be different ways of submission to the church, but the principle is clear.            

Growing and Learning

As you now see, the support given by COAH to various projects is not only about the money, but has its educational purpose for the local believers in Ukraine as well. We want our projects to grow not only in amounts, but also in depth. This year we have dedicated ourselves to sharing the principles we have with the congregations and ministries that we support. We want to grow in width and in depth as well.

Let me illustrate how this works with a meeting I had last week. The meeting took place in the town of Dubno which is about 400 km west from Kiev.

The leaders of the local Baptists church there had been praying and planning for a long time to start up a rehabilitation center for women, former prisoners, and drug addicted.

So I had a full-day meeting with the team of people who will run the rehab center. The congregation they belong to is somewhat conservative in regards of dealing with the former prisoners and drug addicted. Out of about 200 people in the congregation, only 5 people with whom I had a meeting with are people with a criminal and drug past. Not everyone in the congregation understands why the congregation should go into this new rehabilitation ministry, since they are a somewhat successful congregation, and do not know what to expect from very different people who would join the congregation.

 When the congregation asked COAH to help them, we placed two conditions:

• COAH would consider supporting them only if the local congregation would participate in financing this new ministry.

• A COAH representative should have opportunities for monthly meetings with the leaders of the ministry, to discuss how the work should be done with them.

The church elders accepted these conditions, and the first meeting with the future leaders of the rehabilitation center took place.

I talked to the future leaders of the ministry about why people are suspicious to the former criminals and addicts, and how to make changes to such attitudes.

It was an interesting point for them. At the end, they agreed that people have their reasons for being suspicious, and not because of lack of love toward former addicts and criminals, but because of bad experiences they have had with such people. In the group I met today, there was a lady in her mid-50s, who had spent almost 30 years in prison. Now, she is considers herself a confessed Christian, but many people (even among Christians) do not believe her sincerity.

I could tell her just one thing: “Show by your life that you’re different now. First of all, find a job so that people can see you’re working now, and not stealing in order to get money for drugs.” I do not think that lady is qualified to be a leader of the ministry, since she is just a new Christian, but she could be a good helper to the leaders.

This is just the beginning of the journey for the rehabilitation center in Dubno, but our hope is that with the financial and advisory help of COAH, it may be started and run well, the Lord willing. Keep this group of people from Dubno in your prayers: Viktor, Angela, Vladimir, Irina & Misha.