Graduation Day

2014-09-12 19.57.35Author’s Note: For the full effect of this blog, you should turn on Pomp and Circumstance in your headphones. 

Cue the caps and gowns. Cue the suits and ties. Cue the family and friends. Cue the tears and happy goodbyes.

This past Saturday marked the second Men’s Recovery program graduation that I have been a part of as the Mission Program Manager at Cityteam Chester. Watching five men talk of their changed lives is truly a humbling experience. Especially when you hear the stories of what they were before they came.

I think in lessons a lot in my personal debrief time. There are a few things I walk away with from a night like that.

No One Need Walk Alone: One of our graduates reminded us of the story in the Bible where Elijah spent time by the river, and God sent ravens to feed him when there was no other promise of food. He then went through some of the “ravens” that walked alongside him in his process. He spoke so highly of the case manager, who invested her life in him, calling him on his behavior, never letting him escape himself. He spoke of the brothers who challenged him to be something different in the program. He spoke of those who were able to afford him these opportunities.

Sometimes, the journey of change feels lonely. It’s desert. It’s vast. It’s confusing. But none of us walk alone.

In fact, anything that’s worth having in life is worth fighting together for. It’s worth asking help for. It’s worth the pain of relationship.

And especially in recovery. As every volunteer was able to stand at that event, I was in awe of the look of shrink-wrapped tears in their eyes.

It takes an army, and I’m grateful for that army.

Not Everyone Makes It: Yes, not everyone made it to the graduation ceremony. This year, we had two individuals who were unable to make it with extremely good reason.

Though all of our grads this year are gainfully employed, two were opening the new PPL Park in Allentown, were providing food for 15K screaming Eagles fans. They were getting to sit down with Don Henley, and hear “Take It Easy” live.

Take a look here.

You never think that the homeless, broken person standing before you will someday be entertaining rock and roll royalty. We often write these folks off, or wonder at their brokenness, or fight for them to get one of the four F’s (“Flowers, facilities, filing, or food service”).

But God doesn’t work like that. He uses the despised things of the world to show off how good He is. This was a perfect example.

Not Everyone Makes It Part 2: “There were fifty of us to start, and now there are five.”

I heard this a few days before as I was recording his testimony. It hasn’t left me since.

The journey of recovery is a narrow path. An individual faces constant craving for the drugs, constant pressure from “friends”, constant push from their own internal worries and stress, constant demand from a world that has already ostracized them.

Many of the men who were there admitted this was the first thing they started AND finished.

This is all the more reason it takes an army of encouragers. Of givers. Of sacrificial lovers who will give of themselves. Of people saying, “I did it! You can too!”

There Is Promise In The Insanity: And because of the constant demand and pressure, those who invest are constantly challenged. It’s tough living with, working with, serving individuals who are addicted.

Nights like these remind me why we’re here. Not everyone makes it, but some do. Some give themselves fully to God, fully to another human, fully to the process of recovery. Then they receive the reward. Renewed lives. Restored families. Rewarding careers.

And recovery. Significant clean time. A network of folks who make it their goal to aid the sick and suffering.

And you remember in that moment: The reward is worth the cost.

Doug Black, Mission Program Manager at Cityteam

Doug Black, Mission Program Manager at Cityteam

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