Faces of Hope: But God Ministries Celebrates Recovery

By on September 28, 2021 0

There have been testimonies. There were tears. There was a lot of love, applause and hugs.

It was the scene of Scott County’s very first Recovery Fest at Oneida City Park on Monday night. As September – celebrated nationally as Recovery Month – entered its final week, more than two dozen recovering addicts and their families gathered at a park kiosk to mark their success. .

Hosted by But God Ministries – the 501 (c) 3 organization founded by Randy Byrge of Scott County – and the But God Army, the Monday night event was all about one thing: celebrating recovery. Byrge and his team tossed hot dogs into a slow cooker, set up a few bounce houses for the kids, and invited those who are recovering to enjoy the evening. One by one, many of those present recounted how they got bogged down in drug addiction, how they risked losing everything and how they struggled to come back.

After the testimonies, someone set up a small keyboard in a corner of the gazebo and sang gospel songs during the meal. Just down the hill, closer to the lake that runs the length of the city park, the screams of playing children ascended bouncy houses – many of them were once unable to spend time with their children. parents, but who have since been reunited. Up the hill at the gazebo, other moms and dads clung to their babies who were too young to play with the older kids.

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Pictured: Former lawyer Michael Schrock speaks at Recovery Fest; Peer Recovery Specialist Randy Byrge watches another member of the Scott County Recovery Group speak; Many children were present at the first Recovery Fest; Esthel Woodward chats with Randy Byrge during Recovery Fest; Several reunited families were on display at the Recovery Fest. Photos: Ben Garrett / IH

As the 5pm start time came and went, Byrge worried that few people showed up, describing his mood as “downhearted.” But one, two, and three at a time, the people kept coming in, until there were over 100 present.

“Hot dogs aren’t the main event,” Byrge told the group. “Bounce houses are not the main event. You are looking at local warriors that people have said cannot be saved.

Byrge later posted a photo of the members of the recovery group who were present on Facebook.

“These are 24 sober people who people said they would never stop (use drugs) and never get,” he said. “Well, that’s a lie.”

Behind the group, Byrge’s signature banner was prominent: “Everyone has a problem that no one can solve… But God.

“But God” is from Ephesians 2: 4, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, quickened us with Christ (by the thanks you are saved). ”

Byrge wore his But God baseball jersey, number 2: 4 on his back.

The first person to take the mic was Michael Schrock, a former lawyer who ended up battling addiction. Schrock explained how he slipped further and further into the abyss of drug addiction. He was in jail when his father passed away – “we haven’t had that father-son moment,” he said – and in 2018 hit its lowest point when he started stealing painkillers and checks to “the woman who raised me as her own son.”

“She’s still proud of me,” he said. “I don’t know how she can say that after everything I’ve done.”

When Schrock’s child was born in 2019, “It should have been the proudest day of my life,” he said. Instead, he was in jail.

But God.

Schrock said he was considering a prison sentence of three to five years when he was given the opportunity to try the recovery court. It was there that he met Byrge, who had previously gone through the recovery process at Roloff Homes in Corpus Christi, Texas and today serves as a peer recovery specialist to help others find their own way.

“Randy told me he loved me,” Schrock said. “That’s all it took. After everything I had done, someone still loved me.

Today Schrock has “learned to love me again,” he said. And he drew spontaneous applause when he added, “I found my children at home. He has turned to God and is working again, he said.

“I give God all the glory,” Schrock said. “I can’t talk about recovery without mentioning God.”

While Schrock was speaking, a former colleague approached. It was the drug officer from the Scott County Sheriff’s Office, Kris Lewallen.

“Look who showed up,” Byrge said. “And he’s not here to have no one.”

Byrge added, “Me and Kris were friends. Then we took different paths and I hated it. I thought his whole life was chasing me.

Pictured: Scott County Sheriff’s Department Pharmacy Officer Kris Lewallen was on hand to support the Recovery Fest; Recovery Fest was about the hope of recovered drug addicts who have been reunited with their families and are once again productive members of the community; Camaraderie and fellowship was on display at the Recovery Fest; “You are looking at local warriors who people said they couldn’t be saved,” Randy Byrge said of the on-site recovery group for Monday’s festival; Almost 100 people showed up at the Recovery Fest. Photos: Ben Garrett / IH

These days, Byrge and Lewallen are back on the same team. They have different jobs, of course. Byrge’s job is to help addicts; Lewallen’s job is to uphold the law and get drugs off the streets. But, together, they are two parts of the Scott County War on Drugs – a war that is gaining traction through a strong stance rooted in the faith.

Kaitlyn Burchfield, who invited Lewallen to attend the event, also spoke. She recalled that before leaving for treatment in Texas, her daughter told her that she “was going to hit me in the face”.

“I deserved it,” Burchfield said. “I was never a mother to her.”

Burchfield’s story began as a single mother at the age of 18, before she graduated from high school. “I gave her everything I had and I always failed,” she said. She started to drink. “I was running away from my problems,” she said. She found herself addicted to drugs and became addicted to methamphetamine. Shortly after, she was evicted from the motel where she was staying and living in her car.

“I remembered my dad saying I always had a place to go, so I said that’s what I’m going to do,” she said. But when she arrived at her parents’ house, she was not allowed to stay. It was then that she texted Lewallen, in desperation.

“I have been as honest as I have ever been,” she said, describing the way she poured out her heart on Lewallen and asked for help. Lewallen gave him Byrge’s number. And on Monday, Burchfield was joined at Recovery Fest by her daughter – the same one she was once fundamentally separated from.

Other people spoke as well, including the husband and wife team of Ian and Natalie Hurst, who came together to tell their story. Both once addicted to drugs, they are now both sober, married to each other and a productive family.

“Who says two people who have been addicted can’t be together? Byrge asked.

Ian, who has numerous tattoos running the length of his body, had barely started to speak when his voice broke, overcome with emotion.

“Tattoos are just to scare you,” Byrge joked. “In fact, Ian is one of the sweetest, kindest people I know.”

Pictured: Ian and Natalie Hurst’s husband and wife team shared their addiction stories; Stephanie Greer hugs her sons after sharing her addiction story; Over 100 hot dogs and bindings were served at Recovery Fest; Mitzi Byrge applies condiments to hot dogs in the serving line; STAND’s Trent Coffey Distributes Potato Chips at Recovery Fest; a family of mum, dad and their two children enjoy their dinner while watching the sun set over the lake at Oneida City Park during Recovery Fest. Photos: Ben Garrett / IH

In the background, Byrge’s proud parents – James and Mitzi Byrge from Huntsville – got it all. Mitzi helped serve the hot dogs, along with Randy Byrge’s close friend, Teresa Braden, her boss, Trent Coffey, and Scott, a board member for But God Ministries. Burke. From behind his van as he finished a phone call, James Byrge watched the laughter and camaraderie unfold. “Everyone seems to be having fun,” he said. “I’m just thankful that Randy is where he is and he can be a part of it.”

For James and Mitzi, their son’s journey from the pits of abuse to play a pivotal role in Scott County’s recovery efforts is an answer to years of prayer. And now other parents are starting to see the same prayers answered, including a mother who silently cried in the gazebo as her adult daughter testified of her recovery, and grandparents who held their grandchildren in their arms for that their children were talking about their own struggles.

Together, the group represented a dominant theme: hope… hope for a better future for a community that has been ravaged by drugs for too long.

Wayne King, owner of Baby J’s Pizza and civic leader at Oneida, perhaps best summed it up: “Thank you all for being here,” he told the recovery group. “You are an essential part of the growth of our community. “

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