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Celebrate Recovery INSIDE

Celebrate Recovery INSIDE

You might think it would be easy to get an addiction recovery program into prisons...

Update: CRI held it's first recovery group session inside the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia on Wednesday, October 20th and had a great response.  Please continue praying that God would prepare the hearts of the women inmates who choose to attend and that our team would have God's peace, wisdom, and strength as they begin this exciting but daunting new ministry.  


Where no man has gone before
You might think it would be easy to get an addiction recovery program into prisons, where there are a lot of people in need of recovery.   And it is – unless you boast the name of Christ.  If you are a secular organization like Alcoholics Anonymous, then you have most likely been in prisons for years.  But if you are a Christ-centered recovery program, like FBC’s Celebrate Recovery (CR) ministry, then regulations reflecting the separation of church and state make it nearly impossible.  Unless God decides to swing the doors wide open. 

Lidia Mocelo, who is FBC’s Director of Counseling and Recovery Services and responsible for much of the organization for CR, tried to push these doors open herself four years ago and had no success.  But in January of 2010, her momentum changed when a member of FBC, who also happens to be a teacher at Federal Detention Center Philadelphia (FDCP), invited Lidia to set up a booth at a jobs and services fair he was organizing at the women’s prison.  His intention was to introduce the inmates to a program they could participate in after they were released from prison, but God intend much more.  This single invitation snowballed into a partnership between CR and the prison which allows CR’s program to be offered to the inmates – an unprecedented partnership for a faith-based recovery program.

“God is expanding Celebrate Recovery’s territory,” says Mocelo.  “He has opened doors that are impossible to open, humanly speaking.  This has all been one miracle after another.”

The miracles began as soon as Mocelo and two CR leaders stepped into the women’s prison for the jobs and services fair last May.  Women began flocking to their booth, and the majority of the 150 women they talked to left with a brochure.  The following day, Mocelo opened her inbox to find over sixty emails from women who wanted to receive more information about CR.   

“So many women wanted to talk to us.  We had incredible opportunities to present the program,” recounts Mocelo.  “At one point, even the warden came down to personally thank us for coming and to express his interest in what we were doing.  It was very moving, especially for the leaders that came with me.  God really developed within them a heart and a passion for prison ministry during the short time we were there.”

The statistics are sobering.  Over 80% of the female prisoners are survivors of sexual abuse or rape, and 60% have used drugs and alcohol as an escape from their abuse.  But CR has very successful groups in these two areas, and Mocelo is confident God will meet many needs through this new branch of CR, which will be called Celebrate Recovery Inside (CRI) to distinguish the CR program at FBC from the program that will be running inside the prison. 

And it looks as though CRI has a chance of operating in the men’s prison as well, which is adjoined to the women’s quarters.  Not long after Mocelo was invited to begin the recovery program inside the women’s prison, God opened doors to extend the program to the male inmates, too.   Mocelo is meeting with prison officials on September 2ndto discuss what CRI’s involvement will look like, but her hope is to run two gender-based recovery groups each week.   Miraculously, the possibility of CRI being offered throughout all of FDCP is strong.            

But the miracles don’t stop there.  The next day following the jobs and services fair, Mocelo received an unexpected call from a representative of Volunteers of America (VOA), who explained that VOA was building an addiction treatment center in Camden.  They had heard about CR’s success rate and wanted to know whether Mocelo would consider bringing CR to their new facility.    

“I was overwhelmed,” says Mocelo.  “Since then I’ve toured the facility and been in touch with the director of the rehab.  She wanted to know how we are different from a program like AA, and I explained that our goal is not sobriety – our goal is Christ-likeness.  And not only do we believe that, we talk about it.  I have been shocked that even in my clarity about the way we operate, the director is still welcoming us with open arms.”

The new rehab facility, which just opened this August, is called Liberty Street Addiction Treatment Center and has seventy-two beds, forty-eight for men and twenty-four for women.  The patients are those whom the court has ordered to be in an addiction rehabilitation facility.  CRI is scheduled to begin their program on September 11th, and will run recovery groups every Saturday morning at 9:30.    

But before the leaders jump in, God has provided some training.  On August 27thand 28th, the entire CRI team is going to Maryland, where a CRI training conference will be presented by a well-established CRI program running inside a prison.   

“It’s a unique opportunity,” says Mocelo.  “We’ve been invited to come alongside them and watch their program.  And the national director of CRI is flying in from California to speak at the conference.  We’re very thankful for the way God has provided this training.”

The work is plenty, but the laborers are few
After Mocelo got the invitation from the prison to begin CRI, she met with her current team of thirty-six CR lay leaders and asked them to take a month to pray about what part they might play in CRI.  She was clear that leaders should only participate in this new phase of the ministry if they truly felt led by the Lord to commit to it, and at the end of the month, ten leaders volunteered to be part of CRI.

Of these ten leaders, all are lay counselors trained through FBC’s People Helping People (PHP) program and have been leading CR groups in their area of recovery for at least four years.  This means they bring to the table genuine identification with those struggling in specific areas of addiction, as well as a solid Biblical training in counseling.  However, this will be a very different crowd than they’re used to dealing with.   

“We need to be covered in prayer.  This will be very different,” says Mocelo.  “Unlike the members of CR, who come to the program on their own free will because they are truly interested in recovering, the members of CRI will be there because they have been court-ordered to be.”

But Mocelo is hopeful.  In fact, she senses the possibility of this not only succeeding in the Camden facility, but in prisons and rehab centers across the region.

“This is huge because it’s going to work,” says Mocelo.  “People come out of this program changed.  And not because of anything we do, but because God changes lives.” 

But no matter how successful this first year is, the ten counselors who committed in May won’t be able to carry this program forever – especially on top of their other ministry responsibilities with the regular CR program.  So in September, Mocelo is starting a another year of lay counseling training, which will prepare a new generation of believers who are interested in serving with the CRI ministry, giving them an understanding of the roots of addiction and abuse.

“I teach people how to counsel others by teaching them how to counsel themselves,” explains Mocelo, referring to the three level, nine month training program called People Helping People, which she will begin teaching again on September 21st at FBC’s Mt. Laurel campus.  “Students come out of this program changed themselves.  I teach them not to recognize the behavior of people’s problems, but to recognize the root and how to interpret the roots of people’s problems biblically – and how to address them biblically.  Although there is freedom at the cross, many people don’t have a functional understanding of grace because they don’t understand their hearts.  And only as they understand their heart can they understand their need.” 

So you are needed.  Your prayers are needed, and your service is needed if God is leading you in this direction.  Pray for the fruitfulness of this ministry, for the Lord to raise up faithful laborers, and for wisdom, courage, and protection to be granted to the laborers He has already called. 

“I have been praying for the past six months that God would call people to this ministry, both to pray and to serve,” says Mocelo.  “Celebrate Recovery demanded sacrificial commitment and love when we started it six years ago, and I’m sure this new branch will require that same dedication all over again.” 

If you desire to serve, the first step is to sign up for People Helping People lay counseling training, which is held at FBC’s Mt. Laurel campus on Tuesday evenings.  You can sign up today through the PHP webpage


Enjoy poetry?  Check out this acrostic to learn more about CRI’s vision:
C     Committing to help the ‘least of these’ through the power of Jesus Christ.

"But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?" 1 John 3:17 (ESV)

R     Rebuilding broken lives.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11     (NIV)

    Investing in the future of the incarcerated and our communities.

"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously." 2 Corinthians 9:6 (NIV)

N     Needing recovery from hurts, habits and hang-ups.

"Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature." Romans 13:14(NIV)

S     Supporting the incarcerated from the outside in and the inside out.

"Dear brothers, what's the use of saying that you have faith and are Christians if     you aren't proving it by helping others? Will that kind of faith save anyone?" James 2:14 (NIV)

I     Improving their education and work-related abilities. 

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you." Psalm32:8 (NIV)

D     Developing coping mechanisms and life skills.

"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the     Lord is not in vain." 1 Corinthians 15:58(NIV)

    Empowering the incarcerated in all aspects of their lives.

"Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good." Titus 3:1 (NIV)

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