Providing Hope to the Hopeless

By Bill Specht

SARASOTA, Florida – It is often said in Christian circles that “God never gives you more than you can handle.” Many people struggle with this concept, especially when going through hardships. And for me – with my desire to follow God’s calling to help those with addictions – this struggle became ever more present this past year.

But to illustrate this truth, we must travel back in time

The vicious cycle of addiction

Ten years ago, I first found myself in Latvia to teach and train leaders for the Celebrate Recovery program. A side trip had been arranged for me to visit a men’s alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility in the small village of Kabile, and to speak at a Sunday church service in the community center building. Unaware of this planned visit, I had nothing prepared to share, aside from my personal story; a story of my struggle with addiction and subsequent recovery and ultimately, a rekindled relationship with Jesus.

Upon arrival at the Rehab Center, I met a passionate man by the name of Agris. Agris was actively serving these men without any program or resources at his avail. All I could do was attempt to give them a bit of hope that their life would improve if they would seek recovery in earnest. The church service reflected more of the same struggle; several ladies approached me in tears, asking what to do about their alcoholic husbands. With nothing in hand, all I could do was to inform the ladies about the Al-Anon program that supports family members and suggest that they start a meeting there in the community center.

The memory of being in the presence of people in such need without anything but my own story of recovery has haunted me for years, and a return trip to Latvia to address this problem had been on my heart ever since.

The Principle Approach translated into Latvian

Fast forward to 2018: After making the move from my home state of Oregon to Florida, I met Dr. David Sutton at a local Celebrate Recovery meeting. An outstanding speaker and author, Dr. Sutton had recently authored a book entitled “The Principle Approach.” As I thumbed through his book at the meeting, I was thrilled to read such clear truths of life through the recovery process, and a simple path identified to achieve such.  After the close of an outstanding presentation by Dr. Sutton, I shared with him my efforts to serve the addicted in Latvia and asked if he would be interested in getting involved. Without hesitation, he said yes.

This moment was the first clear indication that now – with additional help – “God was giving me more to handle” and the scope of my service could now expand beyond Celebrate Recovery. It became evident to me that, if we wait on God, He will provide the resources to do His will.

Dr. Sutton and his wife, Lori, immediately agreed to come to Latvia to serve those afflicted with addictions.

Planning began for a mission to Latvia in May of 2019. This mission included the translation of Dr. Sutton’s book, “The Principle Approach” into Latvian for distribution. Funds were raised and the printing completed. Finally, we have a tool to put in the hands of Agris to use with the men housed in his facility. Dr. Sutton’s wife, Lori, would also come, bringing her knowledge and expertise in the Al-Anon program. God was at work – answering seven years’ of prayers with means I could never have imagined.

Plans were developed for an ambitious two-week trip: Dr. Sutton, his wife and I arrived on May 18. From that day until May 31, alongside BBI’s Latvia Executive Director Almers Ludviks and Vineta Zale, translater par excellance, our days were filled with multiple visits to three rehab facilities, a three-day Celebrate Recovery Camp for leaders, three days of teaching at the Baltic Pastoral Institute (BPI) and developing a relationship with the local Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) community. While teaching at BPI, we met a Prison Chaplin who ministered to the prison population of addicts and alcoholics. Once again – God opened yet another door to expand our efforts further… more proof that God provides the way “to handle” more.   

From the beginning of our trip, it became abundantly clear that nothing had changed in these seven years. All three rehab facilities lacked any real program to lead the men in recovery and were simply housing them in isolation from access to alcohol and drugs and ministering to them as best they could.

We looked upon the hopeless faces of these men in the programs. We saw men and women with a passion to serve, but lacking the knowledge, tools, and in some cases, the finances, to guide the men in recovery. It became very clear that the leaders struggling to serve needed ministering to as much as, or more than, the men in their care.

Finally, we have a tool to put in the hands of Agris and other recovery leaders!

The first thing we learned was that many of these people are native Russian speakers; the book needs to be translated into Russian as well. We immediately began discussing a return trip to train leaders on how to effectively run a rehab facility, engage the AA community to support the rehab community, and distribute “The Principle Approach” in Latvian and Russian along with the corresponding workbook.

Tremendous progress was made in these two weeks. Just prior to leaving Latvia to return home, we received feedback from Agris that some of the men are reading Dr. Sutton’s book – this is encouraging! But there is still much more work to be done. The need in Latvia is huge. And now that God has provided the expertise and involvement of Dr. Sutton and his wife Lori, we are positioned to make a major contribution to the recovery community in Latvia.

It is our desire to return as soon as possible to maintain the momentum gained, but there is work to be done beforehand. Funds must be raised to translate “The Principle Approach” into Russian, and the new corresponding workbook into both Latvian and Russian.

It is my hope and prayer that others – just like you – would come alongside us in this effort. Would you prayerfully consider the opportunity to be involved in the lives of the struggling Latvian recovery community?

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who know God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28


                      

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