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TMEW: It just feels like home

“It isn’t a program,” Christine Collier said on Thursday. She is the director for the Life Group, The Most Excellent Way. It is a Christ-centered, Bible-based study which is designed to get those people who are submerged in substance abuse.

“The way to think about it,” said Tim Sanchez who has been coming for two years, “this life group is a place where you can come not only to get sober, but to stay sober, and to make lasting friends and healthy relationships.”

“Yes,” Collier interjected, “These are people you can lean on, call when you need to talk. We all go to church together, but that isn’t prerequisite. We encourage going to church, but you don’t have to.”

The group has been coming together for the fall semester just after Labor Day every year for the past five years. The spring semester starts in January.

“Every year,” Collier went on, “we repeat it. It’s good stuff. Shawn came and received and now he’s giving back. He became our coffee man, and people just loved him for it.” She was speaking of Shawn Kosderka. He’s been committed to the life group for three years.

“Extreme 180 is for those who have finished Most Excellent Way,” Kosderka said. “We meet before that meeting on Mondays at 5:30 p.m. and this is pretty much by invitation only. We meet to pray for and encourage each other and others. I need someone in that group that I can depend on. If you come in and fall back into drugs, it causes others to stumble because they’ve looked up to you, then you let them down.”

It’s the leadership factor that necessitates the stability of staying clean from drugs or alcohol.

But, there are no exclusions from The Most Excellent Way. A person can come at anytime and be welcomed and accepted for who they are.

“You can be on probation, fresh out of jail, on house arrest, or fresh from rehab, you can come at anytime. No one is turned away,” Collier said. “But, we encourage someone to come at the very beginning to start the whole semester.”

You don’t have to start in any particular semester, each one is self-contained.

TMEW will start this fall the first Monday after Labor Day. The first night will be orientation where everyone will learn the who, what, and how TMEW is all about.

“It’s more of an open discussion,” Kosderka said.

“We’re not rigid, but we try to be mindful of those who have to get to work the next morning. We try to be finished by 8:45 p.m.”

“Nine,” Kosderka interjected.

“We’ll stay and pray for and encourage anyone who needs that after the meeting,” Margarite White said. She’s been a member of the group for about three years.

“People are looking for hope and freedom,” Collier said when asked about what people are looking for when they come to the group. “I think they are trying to get free and out of the rut and bondage of alcohol and drugs. When you remove this thing that has engulfed them, this thing they think is their comforter, it leaves a hole. We introduce God as the True Comforter, Deliverer, Counselor, and Keeper.”

“People look this as other programs, and when they get in here expecting it to be like a lot of other groups, they’re surprised,” Kosderka said.

“It’s not like AA, or any other meeting,” Sanchez said.

“The only way you can stay successfully clean and be happy about it is through God. You can be clean, but miserable, too.

“A close relationship with God is the only way,” Collier said. “We don’t apologize for it. This is a Christ-centered group. The world doesn’t take to us too well sometimes. We thank God for that freedom and thank Him to be able to go on with this ministry. We’ve had a lot of people go through here and been touched, lives changed. And there have been many who come and just don’t come back.”

“They’ll come through here and begin to struggle (with the old lifestyle) and leave. Then they’ll come back because they know it feels like home. That’s the atmosphere we try to project, because we’re not going to judge you in any way, shape or form when you walk through that door. We’re going to love you and accept you for who you are, not what you’ve done.”

“There’s a lot of people who are surprised at who they see here,” Collier said. “They look and say, ‘Is that Jamie?’ or ‘Is that Shawn?’ sort of surprised. And Shawn has a tremendous testimony. His life has touched so many lives. Everyone here has touched and will touch many lives because people need hope.

“They see that someone else has been through it, and that gives them hope. I always pray, ‘God, send me the worst ones. Send me the ones that everyone else has given up on,’ and He’s done that.

“It seems to me that those are the people that are the most awesome because they seem to be the most intelligent, extremely gifted, and extremely artistic, and sort of left brain thinkers. A lot of people think these are stupid for being on drugs, but that is so wrong.”

“Just because they’re on drugs does not mean they’re stupid,” Torres said.

“They have to be pretty intelligent to get away with it for so long without getting caught. It took a hundred times more energy for me to locate and keep that lifestyle going as long as I did without getting into trouble or in jail.

“Eventually, I did wind up there, but prison doesn’t reform you. It’s like our police chief said, ‘You can’t arrest your way out of this problem’ You have to have a heart change.”

“(God) does equip people to do this. Who knows better that who has lost and been engulfed in that lifestyle. And we were all at different levels. Alcohol and drugs are what they have in common, and our common denominator is the Lord.”

The principles of living are explored in each evening of study and discussion. Forgiveness is so important, Collier explained. “If you don’t forgive, it will eat you up. We talk about internal and external triggers, boundaries, and renewing of the mind by the Word of God.

Values and biblical principles are not the only things one can expect from this group. They have fun, too. They have a Halfway Pot Luck Dinner after about seven weeks into the semester. They also have Thanksgiving and Christmas parties. Good, clean fun.

“I’ve been a drug abuser myself,” Collier admitted, “and the mother of a drug abuser. I believe the drug problem here in Pearl River County is huge.”

“I grew up here,” Sanchez said. “I was exposed to all kinds of drugs in elementary school. The drugs haven’t declined, but have increased. I know a lot more are on it, and I hope my child is not exposed to it. They can say what they want, but drugs and alcohol is rampant. Right now, I could go to 10 different places and get drugs.”

“We’re just the voice of hope,” Collier said. “They come here and find a bunch of people not looking to change them. If you’ll just keep showing up, we keep telling them, the Lord will do the work. This is the thing I know. Many of these people have not been told this for a long time.”

The group meets at 6:45 on Monday, Sept. 7 at Resurection Life Ministries on Memorial Blvd.