Like Job in the Bible, he was known in his community as a righteous man who loved the Lord and knew about the Lord. And through his heartaches and devastation, he learned to know the Lord.
That is how Donnie George summed up how he became involved in Celebrate Recovery during the recent 10th Anniversary Celebration held at the ROC in Centre.
After 10 years, the Celebrate Recovery Program in Centre still averages an attendance of more than 100 per week (not counting the 30-plus dedicated volunteers).
Local Celebrate Recovery participants commemorated the event with a special dinner and guest speaker along with cake and other desserts.
Donnie said their story began when he and wife Regina’s son, Griffin, became addicted to drugs while still in high school. Donnie, Regina and Griffin’s sister, Paden, often lamented the fact that there was no safe haven for someone struggling with drug addiction to go. While we live in Cherokee County with churches on every corner, they also realized that church members, in many instances, tend to be judgmental without a true understanding of what an addict faces from day to day, even minute by minute.
They knew what was needed, they just didn’t know the name for it at this time: Celebrate Recovery!
In April 2003, Donnie and Regina attended a Celebrate Recovery Conference and brought it back to Centre First Baptist Church for consideration.
Donnie said his son, Griffin got out of prison that year and continued with his recovery. Unfortunately, he died from a relapse on Jan. 21, 2004. Shortly after he passed away, Donnie recalled Regina making the statement “We are going to start Celebrate Recovery.” He was sure it was God’s voice speaking through her and was not sure that she even realized this came out of her mouth.
They began the process of gathering volunteers and resources. Donnie recalled that when Saddleback Church’s first Celebrate Recovery session in California drew 45 people in 1991.
“Regina was an over achiever,” Donnie noted. “She wanted to do at least 10 percent better. On our first night (in May 2004), with no TV, no newspaper advertising, we had 87 people.”
The thought came to them “Maybe one day we will have 100.” They had more than 100 the next Friday.
In November 2006, Donnie suffered another major loss when Regina passed away.
“On Wednesday, she had some minor surgery and they put her to sleep,” said Donnie. “She told me if she didn’t wake up, not to worry about her, she would be right where she wanted to be.”
Donnie also credited Regina with the success of the Celebrate Recovery program and as he knew she would have wanted it, he continued the ministry which is still alive and thriving today.
Through Celebrate Recovery, Donnie said the Lord has shared with him some valuable insights over the last 10 years.
“The biggest thing I learned is communication in relationships,” said Donnie. I had been married to Regina 30 years. The last three years we were married when this ministry started, I learned how to communicate with my children, with my spouse, so it is important in life, important in marriage.”
“You want to feel loved, like you belong and you want to feel accepted and that is what everybody wants,” said Donnie. “When Regina died in 2006, I was by myself ion 2010. Griffin passed away, Regina passed away, Paden was in college. I bought two big dogs and let them stay in my house.”
“I needed something here,” said Donnie. “I also knew this was God’s plan for my life. When Regina died, I was 59 years old but you are never too young, never too old. I also knew I could do it better if I had some help. I also knew God had a purpose for my life.”
Donnie said he has learned there are three things one needs to be happy in life, including something to do, keep your hands busy, something to look forward to and knowing that if he/she died today that they would go to Heaven.
“I have learned about forgiveness,” said Donnie. “Through Step Study, I learned that.”
“I remember when Siran Stacy (former Alabama Crimson Tide Football standout) to speak one night,” said Donnie. “He had a car accident that killed his wife and four of his children. I had my own business, had had been married 27 years, two children, a boy and a girl, I was a good person, and I knew about God. Like Job, I knew about God. Job led a righteous life, but when all of these things happened to him, he knew God, he learned to know God, not just knowing about God. I think that is kind of what happened to me. But when all of this happened to Griffin, it changed my life.”
Donnie said he realized his powerlessness over his son’s situation in 1998.
“I said, ‘God, for better or worse, I am going to serve you for the rest of my life,’” said Donnie. “If he survives, I am going to serve You. If he dies, I am going to serve You. Then he died, Regina died and I just didn’t know what was going on.”
“I knew somewhere there was a bright light,” said Donnie.
Like Job, Donnie also got to witness how the Lord can restore.
He began praying for a mate. Through conversation with friends he learned that it was all right to request from the Lord exactly what he wanted in a woman.
Through his daughter, Donnie met a woman who he friended on Facebook. He met and marred his second wife, Shelley, and they have been happily married ever since. And Shelley, who Donnie also describes as a Godly woman, has taken an active role in CR from Day One.
“I have a one year-old grandson,” said Donnie. “We have a wonderful life.”
He also has a right hand man to help him manage the mammoth task of pulling CR together each week.
“God sent me Mark Chandler, my friend, fishing mate…..and an Auburn fan!” said Donnie.
There are also numerous volunteers including those who bake the cakes, serve and prepare the meals, the band and musicians and those who set up and take down the sound system, get the rooms ready each week, do custordial duties, make the calls for volunteers and other duties every week to ensure that CR continues to be a success, he said.
“The most important thing I have learned,” said Donnie.
“Is to go to all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. That means we are called to minister the Word. Don’t be ashamed to take that opportunity to lead that person to Christ. Show your faith.”
“Whenever somebody is hurting, we all go out,”
He reminded those in attendance that CR ministers to all needs, and not just alcohol and drug addiction.
Currently, Celebrate Recovery, Centre, meets every Friday at 5 p.m. at the Centre First Baptist Church ROC (Recreation Outreach Center) on the Chestnut Bypass. The following support groups are available: Loved Ones of the Chemically Dependent, Divorce and Grief, Domestic and Sexual Abuse, Men’s Issues, Chemical Dependency, and Emotional Issues. The meal begins at 5 p.m., large group meets at 6:15 p.m., small groups at 7:30 p.m. Childcare is provided. For more information call (256) 393-2861 or (256) 927-5427.
“You have made me feel so loved,” said Donnie. “So this week, reach out and touch someone!”