“God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called.”
I attended Western New York Women’s Walk to Emmaus #51 in Fall 2016. My husband, Jonathan, attended Walk #52 in Spring 2017. We worship at Hamburg United Methodist Church and are part of the Southtowns Emmaus Gathering.
Our Fourth Day story is intertwined with the development of the Sparks of Hope Recovery Center and Ministry, which we cofounded. Sparks of Hope was founded as a direct result of our Emmaus Walk. Six months after Emmaus, our church hosted a community forum on addiction. I went because the desire to help people who were suffering kept nagging at me.
A few weeks later on a summer Sunday, we left church and smelled the aroma of a delicious chicken barbecue drifting toward us. It was heavenly!
I don’t like chicken barbecue at all, but that day, I couldn’t go home without it. We tracked down the barbecue and got our dinners. When we sat down to eat, we found a flyer inside the bag that told the story of a young man named Colton who died from an overdose on his 23rd birthday. He was the same age as one of our sons. Colton’s story shook me to my core.
Before Emmaus, I would’ve said, “Somebody should do something about that.” But that day, with my Emmaus brain engaged, I turned to my Jonathan and said, “We have to do something. Our church has to do something.” I had never felt so certain of anything, and at the same time I never felt so completely unequipped for a task. Even so, ideas started bubbling up out of nowhere. I imagined that a virtually unused building our church owned could easily become a recovery support center. Where did that thought come from? The board of trustees wanted to sell the building to cover some shortfalls in our church budget. They agreed to hold off for 8 weeks to see what we could put in place. Those were a very busy 8 weeks!
I recalled a friend, a former PTA mom I had volunteered with years ago. I hadn’t thought of her in years. One phone call later, she assigned a staff member of the West New York United Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Inc. to help us as needed in establishing the recovery center.
I started asking questions and seeking out local experts in the field of addiction and recovery. I attended every meeting I could find related to addiction. I learned as much as I could as quickly as I could. Everything I read and everyone I talked to confirmed what I knew in my heart—our community was hurting terribly. All the while, I was thinking, “What am I doing? This isn’t my comfort zone. I’m not a starter. I’m a helper.” Yet I couldn’t seem to stop myself.
Within a month, Sparks of Hope had a steering committee for the ministry, a coalition of local churches in place, and a plan for a recovery center. Our vision was to create a safe and sober place where support groups could meet, people in recovery could find refuge, and family members could find help and acceptance. In less than 6 months, the Sparks of Hope Recovery Support Center opened. That was two and a half years ago.
The center is open on a drop-in basis 24 hours each week (5 days/evenings), staffed entirely by about 10 volunteers. Approximately 100 people come through the doors each week for support or for twelve-step meetings. We host special events and holiday gatherings. We also open our doors to twelve-step groups—nine support groups meet at Sparks. We have a coalition of faith leaders representing 20 churches working together to battle addiction. We also host our own family support group.
Sparks of Hope isn’t a pretty ministry. It’s hard, but our volunteers are doing God’s work. There have been some very sad days in the Sparks of Hope ministry. We lost one of our recovery friends about 6 months after the center opened. Several others have relapsed. But many were successful in fighting their addictions, returning to good health and reintegrating into the community. Today we look for opportunities to share God’s love and God’s Word with our Sparks of Hope recovery friends. We attend our monthly gathering, but most impactful has been our post-Emmaus Walk habit of having devotions and praying together as a couple every day. When I look back at how God put the pieces in place, I stand amazed. We are grateful to play a tiny part in helping people in recovery and their family members find help, hope, and healing.
I (Lynda) was in no way the logical choice to take on this ministry. But I was reminded that God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called. ¡De Colores!
Lynda and Jonathan Sentz are cofounders of Sparks of Hope Recovery Center and Ministry. To learn more about their ministry, visit sparksofhopewny.org.
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While several strategies for reopening the world are being discussed, I encourage you—the people of God everywhere—to allow this season to be a formative one during which you can make new discoveries about God and increase your faith. Use this time to embark on a life of prayer, a life of study, and a life of action—involvement in the community.”