The Avenue Church of Waxahachie is planning to launch its Celebrate Recovery ministry at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 7. The celebration will take place at the church with guest Nate Larkin as the keynote speaker.

Larkin was a pastor for several years, but his secret addiction to pornography drove him away from the ministry. For Larkin, his reputation was everything to him. He said because of that, there were parts of his life he didn’t want anyone to see.

“I thought the day my story came out my ministry would be over,” Larkin said. “But it turns out that’s the day it started.”

He got his first look at hardcore pornography on a seminary-sponsored trip to New York City. His wife was with him as they were provided a tour of Time Square. The purpose was to give them a firsthand look at how women are exploited in the sex business.

“I was shocked, disgusted and fascinated by what I saw,” he said. “It hooked me. I didn’t just like porn, I became obsessed with it.”

Larkin fell deep into pornography. But his secret world collided with his real world the day his wife walked in and saw what he was doing. He said that’s what it took to get him out of his private world, and forced him to face the situation head-on.

“There’s a tremendous liberty when you arrive at the truth,” he said. “Since then, God has used my addiction for good. And if I follow his path, I can live out his love and reflect it to others.”

The Lord has allowed Larkin, with his wife by his side, to share the story of redemption, forgiveness and grace with others.

It’s stories like Larkin’s that makes Celebrate Recovery such a great program said Avenue Church’s Spiritual Growth Pastor Alan Rogers.

“My heart has always been set on those who face difficult challenges, and have been dealt tragic blows in their lives,” he said. “Our position at this church has not been what the community can do for us, but what can we do for the community.”

Rogers said their church takes the stance of loving people where they are.

“We are not here to fix anyone,” he stated. “People don’t have to clean up before coming to us. We love them right where they are, but we love them too much to let them stay there. Our goal is to make this journey with them.”

Some of those who will be assisting Rogers with the ministry will also be using their hurts, habits and hang ups as ministry tools for the program.

Christi Shepherd openly shared how being sexually abused for more than 15 years created this ministry opportunity for her.

“Before I came to this church, I battled nightmares, anger, hatred and shame,” Shepherd said. “I felt like the abuse was all my fault. I constantly had relationship and trust issues. My first day here (The Avenue) I felt welcomed and at home.”

Shepherd said a few weeks into attending the church, a special service was held in which the pastoral staff passed out keys. As she took the key, she said she knew what was required of her from the Lord.

“I took the key as a sign of offering forgiveness to the man who had hurt me all of those years,” she said. “A huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders that day. And now I can talk about what happened to me without crying.”

She added that her goal as a member of the leadership team will be to offer hope to someone who may be going through what she went through.

“The one thing I want them to know is that with God on their side they can make it, and that forgiveness is important,” Shepherd said.

Dave King also serves on the leadership team and said the sexual abuse of a cousin is what led to his life spiraling out of control. But he said being on the road to recovery is a remarkable place to be and that’s what he wants others to experience.

“From ages 8-13 I was sexually abused by one of my cousins,” King stated. “It took it’s toll on me at a very early age.”

King said that experience led him to get involved in pornography, which caused him to lose his family and business at the age of 40. He said for the first time in a long time his life is moving in the right direction and it is due to his relationship with Jesus and his involvement in Celebrate Recovery.

“I see now that I can’t make it without Christ and the support of fellow believers,” he said.

Other members of the leadership team had similar stories that also led to their involvement with the ministry. About 10 years ago, Brad Voigt spent time in prison because of his addiction to pornography.

“Ten years ago, I was at the lowest point in my life,” Voigt said. “When I bonded out of jail, I was given information about Celebrate Recovery. It came at the right time because I was scared and suicidal.”

Voigt said it was at one of the meetings for the ministry that spoke to his heart and gave him hope.

“They shared Isaiah 1:18 with me and that really helped me get through,” he said.

The scripture says, “Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.’”

Rogers added that’s what the entire mission of Celebrate Recovery is.

“It is a Christ-centered and Bible-based 12 step program,” he said. “The purpose is to focus on God’s healing power through fellowship with others. By working the 12 steps and the eight Beatitude principals, small groups open up, share experiences and explore hope.”

He said in that way they become willing to accept God’s grace in solving their hurts, habits and hang ups.

Rogers said anyone ready to start a new life can participate in the program. He said it goes beyond helping those who struggle with addictions.

“Many have been dealt tragic blows in their lives,” he said. “Our choices cause painful and lingering consequences, which lead to guilt, remorse, grief and shame. We welcome hurting ones who would like to commit to the higher power of Jesus Christ and fellowship with others that leads to a new life.”

For more information about the program, contact Alan Rogers at 972-937-5301.

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