contributed by Caroline Loftin
September is National Recovery Month. Addiction is a disease that can afflict anyone of any status, and most people have experienced the pain it causes in some way or another. Although the power of healing from addiction is celebrated and acknowledged widely this month, for Better Community Development, Inc. through the Theressa Hoover Memorial United Methodist Church in Little Rock, recovery is an everyday, around-the-clock mission.
“It’s not where you go to church; it’s where your church goes.”
After the desegregation of Central High School in 1957, a gradual racial population shift commonly known as ‘white flight’ took place in midtown Little Rock as black citizens moved to the neighborhood. Due to this transition, a church building formerly owned by a congregation that moved west was left vacant in 1979, only to be taken over by Rev. William H. Robinson Jr. in 1980. Theressa Hoover Memorial was born, however structureless at the time, with the heart of its namesake in mind.
According to their website, “Robinson, in search of a name for the new congregation, felt that Theressa Hoover, active in the Women’s Division dedicated to developing church ministries appropriately reflected his mission and purpose for this newly formed congregation.”
Today, the congregation is led by another courageous and remarkable woman, Pastor Deborah Bell. Although their ministries started small, they have grown beyond anyone’s wildest imagination for what faithful people can accomplish. The church was only the beginning.
“It’s just mind-blowing what God can do if you are listening and obeying,” Rev. Bell said.
Serving the disadvantaged of Little Rock’s 12th Street Corridor since 1981, Better Community Development makes the restoration of a community left behind a priority.
“Because the church was serving the last and the lost, it was serving a community that wasn’t a typical United Methodist middle-class,” Rev. Bell continued, “this was an evangelical mission.”
Out of an abundance of need, homeless ministries opened the door to rehabilitation ministries. As a result of a partnership with the City and HUD, the Hoover Treatment Center was created. It is a faith-based substance abuse treatment center that provides a safe, drug-free environment for participants and their families. Their approach is a unique, innovative, community-based support system with a specific cultural perspective on recovery using evidence-based, clinically-sound treatment.
“We take a holistic, comprehensive approach, you gotta look at who you are, how you got there, and what gaps need filling to restore your life first and then become a productive citizen,” said Rev. Bell.
The Center provides outpatient and residential services for people ages 18 and older with substance abuse problems. The center also includes a homeless shelter, an HIV/AIDS ministry, job training, and permanent and supportive housing.
Many success stories have emerged from the center, but none quite like one of the BCD’s current faith leaders. She struggled with addiction for her entire life before finding the Hoover Treatment Center. Not only did she find success in recovery, but she also found Jesus.
“God took the needle out of my arm,” said the former client.
She works with women who have exited the in-patient program to prevent relapse and nurture spiritual growth as an avenue for recovery.
“When you strive to be the best version of you that you can be, you start to embrace who God created you to be,” she said, “because you start to get proud of yourself, and God truly shows you he’s proud.”
Through Christ’s love and teaching, the people of Arkansas are finding eternal salvation and relief from addiction.
“When you give your life up when you say God I’m yours, is the moment you start living,” said the client.
“That joy and that peace you get is better than any drug I’ve had, and I’ve done them all,” she said.
Last month, Better Community Development received a portion of the $2.5 million in federal grants awarded to five statewide faith-based treatment centers in partnership with Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA).
These funds, called The Faith Initiative, will strengthen existing health programs such as fitness, mental health counseling, psychiatric care, nutrition, and now, health equity education. This includes establishing a primary care provider for clients through a once-weekly mobile clinic and health insurance registration resources.
“Nobody wanted to deal with ‘those people,’ but ‘those people’ are our people, our uncles, mothers, sisters, and brothers,” said Rev. Bell.
The efforts of Theressa Hoover Memorial and the Better Community Development Center have proven to be the stuff of miracles. The UMC is well represented in this slice of Little Rock. May blessings continue to flow and all God’s children find the hope for recovery.