Newport ministry offers chance for women to change

By Lisa Burnett Originally Published September 12, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated September 11, 2013 at 10:06 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Nick Hillemann

The women at John 3:17 eat lunch before their daily Bible study. Shown, clockwise from bottom left, are Lindsay Cook, Destinee Pratt, Jenyi Eaton, Chelsea Dutton, Amy Ladd, Grady (Megan Roche’s son), Roche and Suzanne Rudd, facilitator of the John 3:17 program.

NEWPORT — John 3:17 Ministry in Newport doesn’t have the appearance of a treatment facility, but the four-bedroom house in the country is home to a group of women who are working to recover from drug addiction. The house sits next to a church where the residents are converting a portion of the building into quarters for more recovering women to stay.

Suzanne Rudd, facilitator of the program, has struggled with her own addiction and can relate to the women she lives with in the house.

Rudd lives with six recovering women in the house, along with three children whose mothers are going through the recovery program.

The Scripture from John 3:17 in the Bible reads: “For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

John 3:17 is a year-long program to help women recover from drug abuse and get their lives on the right track. The ministry is in association with The Remmel Church in Newport.

Chelsea Dutton, 25, has been clean and sober for six months. She and her husband checked into separate rehabilitation programs at the same time, and she came to John 3:17 with her daughter.

“My husband and I are trying to fix ourselves,” she said. “It’s definitely a different facility.”

The camaraderie the women have developed and the support they give each other each day make the recovery program work, Dutton said.

“The people are amazing — they don’t judge you; they accept you,” she said.

Faith is ever present in the house, and God is what keeps these women going on from day to day, she said.

“We are right where we need to be,” Dutton said. “[Before coming here], I was looking for comfort in all the wrong places.”

All of the women who are going through the John 3:17 program are striving to become better people and to stay off drugs.

“You lose who you are when [you’re using drugs],” Dutton said. “Sometimes it takes losing all of what you have to figure out who you are.”

Dutton said she felt lost when she came to John 3:17 and doesn’t want anyone else to feel that way.

Rudd started as a volunteer for John 3:17, and a little more than a month ago, she became the full-time facilitator for the program. She quit her job in the business office at Harding University to make a difference in women’s lives in the program.

Rudd said she took a significant pay cut when she started working with John 3:17, though she is paid through donations as facilitator of the program.

All of the women who live in the house said they admire Rudd for the devotion she has to them and the program.

“She gave up her job and life to be here with us,” said Jenyi Eaton, 34.

Rudd said the program is teaching the young women how to live without using drugs.

“I love seeing the girls develop a relationship with God,” Rudd said.

When the women come to John 3:17, they are broken, she said.

“In weeks to months, I can see a difference in their attitudes and desire to know Jesus,” Rudd said. “I see them smiling, and it puts joy back in their eyes.”

When new women come into the program, Rudd said, seeing the point they’re at puts everything in perspective for the residents.

“Sometimes when you get some recovery behind you, you forget where you came from,” she said. “It’s a constant reminder of where we used to be.”

A typical day for the women who are in the John 3:17 program involves eating three meals a day together, taking a two-mile walk, doing service projects and participating in a Bible study.

“The women go to a counselor once a week,” Rudd said.

In addition to service projects and counseling, the women go to church twice a week, on Sundays and Wednesdays.

“We get to go somewhere every night,” she said.

Aside from attending church and counseling, Rudd said, the women attend singing lessons, go grocery shopping and sometimes go on a field trip of sorts. The women recently went to The Great Passion Play in Eureka Springs.

“[John 3:17] shows them that they can have fun and associate with those who aren’t using,” Rudd said.

Rudd said that besides drug abuse, all of the women have other issues that possibly contributed to the abuse.

“They turn to drugs because they are looking to find relief,” she said. “We heal with each other.”

Destinee Pratt, at 22, is the youngest woman who lives in the John 3:17 house.

“When I came in here, I was so broken,” Pratt said. “It’s surreal now to see the love everyone has. I knew this was where I needed to be.”

She said the opportunity to be a part of a program like this is a privilege.

Pratt said her life has changed for the better in the three months she has resided at John 3:17.

“Everybody’s got their own story,” she said. “These women were put here to create a humongous ministry to help make a difference.”

Dutton said the women’s joy and laughter are contagious.

“We laugh so hard all day long,” she said. “When you’re [addicted to drugs], it’s not easy.”

Pratt said the program is designed to help her and the other women, whom she calls her sisters.

“This program is shaping us to live life again,” she said.

Before coming to John 3:17, Pratt said, she, too, was overcome by her drug addiction and lost everything.

“One day, I did a little bit too much, and it put me in a coma,” she said. “I went to my grandma’s house, and I just couldn’t stay awake.”

Pratt said she went to jail, and that wasn’t enough of a wake-up call for her.

“I wanted to go out one last time,” she said. “I mixed together the wrong drugs, and my heart couldn’t handle it. I told my family I needed help.”

Pratt said that was her rock bottom.

“Everyone has their own rock bottom,” she said.

Of all the women in the program, Lindsay Cook has been at John 3:17 the longest — nine months.

“I was using methamphetamine, and my life was out of control,” she said.

Cook said her family always wanted her to get help for her addiction.

“I met with my mom, and I was convinced that I didn’t have a problem,” she said.

Her mother encouraged her to come to church, but Cook decided to get high instead. She said it took a near-fatal car accident to convince her that she needed help to recover from her drug addiction.

“[After the accident], I was admitted to the hospital as an unknown,” Cook said. “I had to get to unknown to find out who I was in Christ.”

She had also hit rock bottom, she said, and knew she needed rehab.

“This is truly where God wanted me to be,” Cook said.

As every woman in the program works on herself, her progress helps the others in the program.

“None of us are who we were anymore,” Cook said. “It’s really changed other people’s lives for them to see how much God can change a person.”

John 3:17 Ministry is a nonprofit, faith-based, Christian recovery center. Its website states that the center provides a safe, nurturing environment for women who have made a commitment to overcome addiction, make positive lifestyle changes, develop spirituality, improve their parenting skills and become productive members of society.

“We run strictly off donations,” Rudd said.

John 3:17 is working to get a 15-passenger van to provide transportation for the women. More information about John 3:17 Ministry is available at www.john317ministry.com.

Online Reporter Lisa Burnett can be reached at 501-378-3887 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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