Lisa Fowler first attended Celebrate Recovery in prison because she heard it could help her following her release. Years later, Fowler is still in CR as a leader who assists women with their re-entry after being incarcerated or in rehabilitation.
Fowler works for New Beginnings Ministry, a long-term, Christ-centered recovery program in Martin, Ga. Before joining the staff, she was a New Beginnings client seeking help from her struggles. One of Fowler's responsibilities at New Beginnings is teaching the center's CR group. She also serves as a Celebrate Recovery Inside state representative for Georgia. "It's become a part of my ministry," she said.
Fowler was introduced to CR during her two-year stay at Lee Arrendale State Prison in Georgia. She was 48 when she went in. "The ladies from Lakewood Baptist Church in Gainesville led it," she said. "When I first went in, my intentions were to get an address to parole out to. I had heard if you went there, they help people find addresses." Fowler received more than addresses. She found freedom from her past and a calling to serve God through CR.
From prison, Fowler went to New Beginnings, a residential center which helps women recover from alcohol and drug addiction. New Beginnings can hold up to 70 clients. "When you go through the program, you have 10 months to complete and 12 months to graduate," she said. "It gives you all that time to work on yourself. "When I graduated from there, I went ahead and became staff there," Fowler added. "I started leading Celebrate Recovery. It's a required class. You also have Bible classes and church 13 times a week. If you can't get your life straightened out by then, you're in pretty bad shape."
They came together from various locations and life journeys. Among them were church leaders, ex-convicts, recovering addicts and ministry newcomers. For one moment they were united in the same chapel - all with the common desire of taking the Good News of Jesus Christ into jails and prisons.
About 170 people gathered Feb. 8 for a Celebrate Recovery Inside breakout session during the CR One-Day Seminar in Stockbridge, Ga. The lunchtime gathering like the one at Community Bible Church can be seen at any CRI or Summit One-Day Seminar.
Here's a sampler of those who attended the one-day:
Stacie Cotton of Gwinnett County, Ga., said a visit while she was locked up influenced her decision.
"I'm a victim of childhood physical, sexual and mental abuse from my dad and my mom. I was suicidal for the majority of my life. I ended up going to jail at 42 for fighting my son. Someone from church met me there. They were from a church I had been attending prior a few years. It just changed my life.
"When I was in jail, it showed me the need people have for healing. In jail, you sit for hours and hours with nothing to do. Just a kind word that lady said to me and the book that she brought me transformed my life. I want to do that for others.
"They (inmates) don't have a clue on how to get out of that circle. You keep getting spun around in the circle of life and you'll keep spinning you around like a rag doll and you don't have any other hope. Just a shadow of hope can transform a person's life."