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Members Celebrate 25 Years of Regeneration

Story by Taashi Rowe


Ray Nelson, director of Adventist Recovery Ministries

Last Sabbath Sligo church in Takoma Park, Md., hosted the 25th anniversary celebration of Adventist Recovery Ministries (ARMin). The Christ-centered, 12-step recovery program helps people recognize their need for recovery from any and all addictions through Jesus Christ—the highest power.

The daylong program started with the divine service, during which ARMin founder Hal Gates shared his own testimony of overcoming alcohol, drug, gambling and sex addictions. “It has not to do with the [ARMin] program, but with the Holy Spirit of God making new creatures out of old reprobates, new creatures out of addicts. People who have worried too much, drank too much, eaten too much … done whatever our postmodern society thinks is the way to go,” he said.

The celebration continued into the evening with testimonies from recovering addicts, a puppet show, a panel discussion and music. Ray Nelson, director of ARMin, shared the church’s history with drug abuse prevention. He noted that the nascent Seventh-day Adventist Church shunned the “evils of ardent spirits” and saw tobacco as a “filthy, health-destroying, God-dishonoring practice.” However, a practical ministry to help members deal with and successfully recover from addictions did not come until 1986 when God inspired Gates to start ARMin. With Bible texts and passages from Steps to Christ, the program is an adaptation of the Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-step program and puts Christ at its center.

In this program, “Jesus is the highest power and we acknowledge that He can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves,” Nelson explains.

Pat Mutch, former director for the Institute for the Prevention of Addictions at Andrews University (Mich.), encouraged attendees to rejoice over what the Lord has done with this ministry. She said when she started doing research on Adventists and alcohol abuse in the 1980s, “our biggest problem was that we didn’t have a problem.”



Gates calls it being in the “congregational closet.” He says, “ If you don’t recognize you have a problem you wont do anything about it. I had to recognize that my life was unmanageable. I got to the point where my whole life existed because of my addictive behavior. I’m now going into 31 years of sobriety. It is amazing when you let go and let God do what you cannot do for yourself.”

DeWitt Williams, Former North American Division Health Ministries director, said, “Most of us don’t confess our problems because we have a darling sin that we must nurture and are not willing to give up. But when you give your strong weakness to God, He heals.”

One woman, who described herself as “addicted to people, places, things, situations and ideas,” was trying to escape her addictions when she ended up at the Westminister (Md.) church. They had just started an addiction recovery program and she was one of the first people to enroll. A lifelong Adventist, she said, “I couldn’t tell anyone of y’all—I couldn’t tell anyone that I was in pain, and I couldn’t get help.” Because of the church’s program she has now been clean for 19 years.

“Yes, we are celebrating, but we still have lots of work to do,” said the coordinator for the Atlantic and Columbia unions. “We need more people to be committed to helping free others from addiction.”

ARMin’s 25-year anniversary celebration will continue all year at different churches nationwide. For more information or to find meetings, visit adventistregenerationministries.org.