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‘I want these kids to see the heroes around them’


As a youth minister, Michael Anderson preaches about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. As a health professional, he warns young people about what substance abuse does to the human body. As a father of teens, though, he knows the best prevention is keeping kids busy and accountable. “If I pulled some strings, I could get some famous person like an athlete to come through here and talk to these kids about drugs,” Anderson said. “But I want these kids to see the heroes around them and talk to people at church who have actually lived the kind of life they’re living now.” College students such as Byron Martin come home once a month or so to reconnect with youth group friends and the adults who have mentored them. While growing up in Mesquite and playing high school football, Martin led devotional studies at Southern Hills. Martin, 19, is a freshman psychology major at Abilene Christian University and plays center on the Wildcats football team. “This church is about getting into people’s hearts,” Martin said on a Sunday visit to his home congregation. “When you come back, everybody has a general concern for your well-being. And then the younger boys want to know who knocked me down this week in practice.”

‘People know they canbe honest in this room’

Down the hall fromthe kitchen, a group of 15 meets each week around a large table. They’ve got alot on their plates, but none of it is food. Some are compulsive gamblers, others alcoholics. Still others strugglewith sexual sins, drug addiction or violent behavior.

A self-employedgraphic designer and recovering alcoholic named Raymond Williamson is theirmentor. He directs the Southern Hills addiction ministry F.A.I.T.H. — FightingAddiction in Truth and Healing.

“With God’s help, I’mdoing it,” said Williamson, who has been clean and sober for several years.“And I’m convinced God put this ministry on my heart to help me stay clean.”

The congregationbegan substance abuse counseling in 1994. Three years ago, church leadersreorganized the ministry and accepted a community grant to help fund it. Nowvarious forms of abusive and obsessive behavior can be addressed, Williamsonsaid, and money is available to feed, clothe and counsel the homeless.

“Being part of agroup is the only way to recover, because accountability is everything,” hesaid. “People know they can be honest in this room, and that helps them faceproblems and get past them.

‘We have beenempowered to do the work of the church’

Miss one Sunday andyou’ll get a postcard. Miss two and it’s a phone call. At three, a churchmember will come to see you. Five weeks means a visit from a minister ordeacon.

Southern Hills’aggressive approach to absenteeism is designed to let members know that theyare loved and missed, said Joyce Cathey, who has taught women’s Bible classesfor more than 30 years.

The congregation isdivided into five zones, based on postal addresses, and each zone has three toseven Care Groups of about 12-20 members each — all male or all female. Eachgroup forms “blitz teams” to visit members who miss church. “It puts a walkingheart on a formal program,” Cathey said.

“The brothers havegiven us authority,” Cathey said, and having all-female teams allows them toorganize quickly and address the needs of female members — including singlemothers — from a female perspective. In the past, women’s ministries were lesseffective because many felt they had to wait for permission from a male churchleader to proceed.

“Becausewe couldn’t do it without them, some of it didn’t get done,” Cathey said. “Wehave been empowered to do the work of the church.”

May 1, 2006

Filed under: Staff Reports Top Stories

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