“I was depending on my best, and my best took me to seven different rehabs.” Those powerful words send out a message that Redeemed Ministries’ pastor, Chris Gortney, wants people to understand. He simply said, “My best failed.”
It was during a time in one of those rehab stays that he heard a statement that changed his life. In a group session it was stated, “Don’t make the preacher lie at your funeral. We are preaching our funeral everyday.”
About that time, Gortney also began having a series of dreams while at the Center of Hope in Anniston. He felt certain that God was speaking to him through these dreams. He knew his life was about to change for the good. He no longer would be held in the bondage of drug addiction.
Soon things began to fall into place and, with the love and support of friends, what is now known as Redeemed Ministries began.
In 2015, while attending worship services at Royal Pines in Hayden, Gortney realized the need to open a transitional men’s home. After rehab, Gortney had experienced security, love, and Christian accountability while residing with his friend, Rev. Toby Hollingsworth, and he wanted to provide a place where those exiting a recovery program could experience the same.
Gortney understood that men were emerging from recovery programs with no support, nowhere to live, no driver license or car, no income, no job, and no way to pay for their fines. He also understood, as a recovering addict, that most had a damaged relationship with their family and felt disconnected from God. Gortney knew how the stresses of these realities were driving others back toward substance abuse.
Months of prayer by Gortney and Hollingsworth began. They eventually stepped out on faith, endured a little hard work, and a lot of God’s grace to make this vision a reality.
The duo was able to secure a three-bedroom home in Cleveland to serve as a transition home. Funds raised from weekly yard sales were used to pay the bills. The home acquired a 1989 Dodge van and used it for everything, including transportation and hauling items for the yard sale.
Soon, a larger home was needed to serve as a transition home.
The Lord opened up an opportunity for the ministry to obtain a bigger home in 2016. The home on County Road 33 in Cleveland also had a 1,200 square foot room above the living quarters. This room was used to hold non-denominational church services for the men staying in the home and their families.
Initially there were approximately 20 people who attended. After a few months, other community members who also battled addiction began attending, and quickly there were over 100 people in attendance.
Again, they had outgrown this meeting space within a very short period and needed a larger meeting area, as the Lord was moving within the congregation and community. Gortney said, “I knew it was getting real when a 74-year-old woman came up to me and said, ‘I’ve never been saved and I can’t wait another minute.’”
God once again provided.
Gortney was told of an abandoned church building in Cleveland that was in foreclosure. A local citizen bought the building and gave it to Redeemed Ministries. He said of the gift, “It was unbelievable.” They held their first church service on Feb. 12, 2017.
Initially the congregation was 100 percent comprised of people who suffered from addiction and their families. Soon the church was welcomed and supported by the whole community, and now it is comprised of approximately 25 percent of people with addiction. Sunday school is held at 9:30 a.m., Sunday service at 11 a.m., Sunday youth service at 6 p.m., with a Wednesday night service at 6:30 p.m. A ladies’ Bible service is held each Thursday night at 6 p.m.
Looking back, Gortney said, “It has come full circle. The people who I used to run with are now attending the services.” His prayer that God would create a place where people could come back is now a reality. Now he also has a positive relationship with law enforcement and the court system, which serves as a resource in the ministry.
Because they have already outgrown the building they are currently housed in, Redeemed Ministries will be making some modifications, as they can, to add more space for worship. Gortney said there are services where people are standing outside of the building during worship hour. When the changes have been made, they hope to be able to seat 275 people, as well as have sufficient parking.
Redeemed Ministries has continued to try and meet the needs of those in recovery. In October 2017, they opened a Healing and Recovery Center on Fowler Springs Road. It is an intensive six-month discipline training program, with focus on key aspects such as discipleship, time management and structure, work therapy, and personal and group counseling. There are no passes given while in the healing and recovery program.
The residents work in the wood shop to build handcrafted furniture. Under the label farm to TABLE, these items are sold at the thrift store in Locust Fork that opened in November 2017.
Upon completion of the Healing and Recovery Center program, men can reside at the transition home. They continue to receive encouragement, love, and support, in addition to access to much needed resources to help equip them with the skills necessary to live a successful, sober, and Christ-centered life. They are subject to random drug tests and curfews, but are granted passes to leave the facility.
As of January, there are 24 men in the recovery program, and 26 in the transitional home. They have the ability to house a total of 50 men.
At times Gortney said he, as well as others, felt like he was crazy with his vision, but he knows it was all part of God’s perfectly timed plan. He summed it up by saying, “All Hell’s going to break loose with or without the Lord. I encourage everyone to choose the Lord. We think we are running from reality, when in fact, it’s just getting worse. When we give our life to the Lord, we can face anything.”
Redeemed Ministries is located at 1415 Fairview Church Road, Cleveland. Touched by addiction or not, the staff invites everyone to attend as they work toward their mission of helping men and women achieve freedom from negative life-controlling circumstances and transition back into a whole and healthy life through Christ-centered mentoring and accountability.