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Rescued: Easter in Action
By Joseph Rosati - April 14, 2010
Easter at the Rock. Bright happy faces, children in Easter bonnets. A message that God can move mountains and can conquer the grave. Shift to hours earlier and a few miles away: Easter Eve at the Rescue Mission. Hardcore burly felons, covered in tattoos, sat in a room to hear a Rock member share the message of God’s hope of recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction that drove them to a life of crime, broken families and prison.

Philip, 14 years sober, grew up in Oceanside with a poor alcoholic mom. He shared the insanity of his childhood—how it quickly led to teenage years of living on the streets. Breaking into cars. Robbing for drugs and booze. The fast life began to catch up with him and the consequences began to be more painful.

Denial is part of the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction. Philip shared how he repeatedly tried to beat the disease. This time he would be able to drink and drug successfully. This time he would not get into trouble and fall into the world of darkness and brokenness. He heard the message of God’s forgiveness and love—the power of God to transform lives—and the seeds took hold.

The old pattern was to medicate the pain. Flee. Anything but feel. Philip had to learn to walk with God each day with the ups and downs of life.

Learning to Walk with God

Philip worked the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous—12 steps formulated out of the Oxford Group that attempted to model themselves after first-century Christians. Admission of powerlessness. Surrender to God. Restitution of harms done. Service to others. Daily personal inventory, prayer and meditation.

Philip shared how his sobriety was tested. The mother of his son died of an overdose when his son was five. Philip stayed sober and parented his son, with God’s help and the help of God’s kids who held him up and supported him through the dark hallways of life.

The old pattern was to medicate the pain. Find an escape to uncomfortable emotions. Run. Flee. Anything but feel. Philip had to learn to walk with God each day with the ups and downs of life.

Surrender on the Mountaintop

Philip’s brother was also broken from the tormented childhood they both endured and had been pulled into the world of addiction and crime. Philip reached out to his brother at Donovan State Prison. Philip told him that there was a way out. A path to freedom.

Philip told him that there was a way out. A path to freedom.

Philip’s story caught the attention of those felons in the room that Easter Eve. He was keeping it real. He was sharing from the heart.

Even though Philip’s brother was resistant to the message of God’s healing, forgiveness and recovery, Philip persisted. Philip’s brother asked that Philip pick him up when he was released from prison. They drove to a mountaintop. They talked about God. Philip shared how with a clear mind and the spirit of sobriety the mountaintop shimmered with God’s glory. The beauty of the flowers, the crisp green pines, the majesty of the mountains. Philip’s brother surrendered to God on that mountaintop.

The parolee men in the room at the Rescue Mission listened intently. The message of the mountaintop. The message of a God who can move any mountain. The Author of Salvation that the Rock choir sang about that Easter morning was present in that room on Easter Eve.

The message of Easter is a living God who seeks restoration with all of His children. God’s power and majesty is nowhere more evident than by that roomful of hardened felons on parole at the Rescue Mission who listened with hope in their hearts to a God of mercy and love who would forgive them and love them if they turned from their life of drugs, booze and crime.

The true message of Easter is a God who so loved His children that He sent His most innocent and pure Son to be the sacrificial lamb to pay the price for our sins. God can and does work miracles. Just as Jesus rose from the dead that Easter morning, God’s majesty and power allows us to rise from a life where we are dead inside.

Two Paths in Contrast

No matter where you have been, what you have done, how many people you have hurt, God loves you and has the power, mercy and forgiveness to work miracles.

Then Philip shared that, after years of sobriety and walking with God, his brother relapsed. He died in a high-speed police chase three months ago. In that room, the tears flowed. Not only from Philip. They also flowed from those hardened felons, some of whom knew and had served time with Philip’s brother.

Philip is still healing from the pain of his brother’s death. Philip shared the story deep from his heart. The story showed the sharp contrast of two different paths. If the felons maintained a life of alcoholism, drug addiction and crime they faced almost sure jail and death. They would continue to cause a tornado of pain and destruction to all those around them.

But the message of hope was strong. For those felons the path is not easy. Who wants to hire and trust a convict? God does. That’s the message of Easter. No matter where you have been, what you have done, how many people you have hurt, God loves you and has the power, mercy and forgiveness to work miracles.

Philip ended his story and the felons gathered in a circle and prayed together holding hands for God to give them courage and power to change. God’s power can soften the hardest hearts.

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Joseph Rosati is a volunteer with the Rock Church Writers Ministry. For info, visit www.sdrock.com/writers. Joe also volunteers at the San Diego Rescue Mission.