NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, September 9th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: The Hope Award for Effective Compassion, part four.
Anna Johansen takes us to a ministry in Georgia working to reclaim lives from substance abuse.
ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: The women who live at Gilgal come from all walks of life.
CATER: They could be your sister, your mom, your cousin.
Val Cater started Gilgal 14 years ago. She bought a couple of small, red brick houses at the end of a dead-end street on the southside of Atlanta and she started taking in homeless women trapped in substance abuse.
CATER: I’ve had women who didn’t complete third grade. And then I’ve had women with two master’s degrees. I’ve had military women. I’ve had women who were nurses. I’ve had women who were dancers who were prostitutes.
When she started the program, Cater didn’t have any specific guidebook to follow. She just wanted to set up a positive environment, a place where women could get back on their feet and learn how to cope with life challenges in a healthy way.
Cater got a band of volunteers and staff together and started teaching Bible classes and Scripture memorization, job skills and resume writing, conflict resolution and anger management. Now, the ministry is a multi-phase year-long program.
There are a lot of rules the women have to follow if they want to graduate. And Cater can be strict.
CATER: I need to for them to understand the rules. So we have a handbook, they have guidelines, they already know, smoking will put you out of the program.
But she also wants the women to just have fun.
CATER: I want the women to do what you and your friends do when you’re having fun. Listen, my girlfriends and I, we don’t get together and smoke crack. That’s not what we do when we hang out. Right? We might get together, talk about a book. And you challenge each other on things that they’ve read. And so I just want them, these are normal. This is like just normal stuff. Listen, they may have never known that normal.
The women live together in the houses. They’re a small group, intentionally so, because the staff and volunteers want to spend a lot of one-on-one time with each of them.
RACHEL: This is the phase one house.
Rachel is a house manager, and a graduate of the program. She’s talking quietly because there’s a class going on in the next room.
RACHEL: This is where all the cooking goes on in house. The clients, they have a chore list. There’s two in the kitchen at a time. They fix all meals, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
There’s a full kitchen, dining room, living room, and space for 13 women to live here.
RACHEL: This is where classes go on at, this where the arguments go on.
There are only four women living here now, but Rachel says they still get in each other’s way and step on each other’s toes sometimes. That’s part of normal life and learning how to handle conflict in a healthy way.
RACHEL: [STAIRS CREAKING] Watch your step, it’s steep.
Downstairs, there’s a room stocked with workout supplies.
RACHEL: We do work out down here. We got a treadmill over here.
Gilgal places a high priority on discipline and structure.
RACHEL: They wake up, they hit the floor 6:30 running. 7 o’clock they’re at the table ready for Proverbs, reading Proverbs. Everybody taking the verse, reading the verse, elaborating on the verse that you like the most. Then after that they come downstairs for praise and worship. From nine o’clock to two o’clock they’re in class dealing with anger or relapse prevention.
For the first 30 days they’re here, the women aren’t allowed to go outside by themselves. They have to turn in their phones, because those phones have all their contacts for their old lives…ex-boyfriends, drug dealers, former friends who weren’t a good influence.
A lot of the women have been in and out of drug rehab multiple times. They’ve all seen their addictions wreck their lives.
JASMINE: For about 10 years, I have been battling with severe alcoholism.
Jasmine came to Gilgal almost a year ago.
JASMINE: Started losing jobs, started losing friends, my family, they started to disown me. I got in about three wrecks. I had attempted suicide for the last time in November of last year, and I just went berserk. And so luckily, the ambulance came and they took me to the hospital. And it took me to a detox center and they referred me here to Gilgal.
At first, she was apprehensive about the program.
JASMINE: They told me it was a 12 month program and no smoking cigarettes and I was a heavy chain smoker. So I’m like, am I really going to be able to do this? Because I’ve never been able to finish anything. And I wanted this to be my last stop.
It took her about three months to settle in, because it was so different than anything she’d ever experienced. The rules were hard.
JASMINE: You know, nobody in the kitchen if you’re not in the kitchen crew, no showers past this time, showers only at this time, you know, make sure you do this, make sure you do that. So it was a little overwhelming at first.
The other women helped her through it because they’d been in her shoes before.
But there was another big learning curve for Jasmine: All the talk about God.
JASMINE: I did not know the Lord before I came here. And so it was you know, sitting in class and having sessions in Bible study, and I’m like, What are they talking about? And who is Jesus?
But after a while, it started to sink in.
JASMINE: Within the classes and being surrounded with Christian women and the volunteers that come that actually break it down for you to understand, it helped a lot. It created this desire for me to want to know who God was and what he has done for my life and I look back at it now, and it’s like, you know, even though I’ve turned my back on God or didn’t know him or you know, didn’t acknowledge him, he still had his hands on me.
Jasmine still has a little way to go before she graduates, but she’s doing well. Tomorrow, she’s heading off to a job interview, so Val Cater does a final check in.
CATER: Hey listen, I do believe in you and I know that tomorrow is gonna be a slam dunk.
Jasmine has a young son she wants to be able to support. This job interview is the next step towards that goal. She’s grateful for the opportunity and the radical transformation in her life so far.
JASMINE: I mean, there’s a whole lot of other rehabs or recovery centers but God knew what it was that I needed. And he directed me here.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen in Atlanta, Georgia.