CR Inside Newsletter

The blog for CR Inside. Much talk about all things CR Inside...

First East Coast Summit opens doors for new groups

Bobby Pepper

Jenna Shetter came to the Celebrate Recovery East Coast Summit seeking guidance and information on how to launch CR Inside at Pinellas County Jail in Clearwater, Fla.

She wasn't disappointed. After returning home with what she learned at Summit, Shetter saw many opportunities open up as she began taking the steps toward going "inside."

"It was a great experience witnessing the power of God (at Summit). I love to watch him show off," said Shetter, who attended Summit with her CR group from First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks in Largo, Fla.  "I gained so much knowledge and he placed people in my path to help me accomplish my calling to take CRI into the jail on 49th Street in Pinellas County. I now have four CRs in the area behind me with at least one volunteer from each."

Shetter was among 2,000-plus participants who attended the first ECS on July 10-12 in Spartanburg, S.C. For the attendees interested in CR Inside, there were six sessions where they could meet and learn from National Director Hector Lozano, state representatives and others already inside or considering it.

"Two CR summits opens the door for more CR Inside groups by providing a means to help more CR groups get introduced and established at more facilities throughout the U.S.," Lozano said. "My impression of the first ECS is that there is not only a great deal of interest, but a great deal of activity inside jail/prison facilities. Many of the questions related to how to improve on the CR curriculum delivery as much as how to start a CR 'inside'."

The first day of Summit at Restoration Church featured Inside connection gatherings for anyone interested in one of three areas: jails, prisons and re-entry programs. Lozano was excited to see the large turnout for the connection events.

"State reps did an awesome job at facilitating connections," he said. "I am so proud of our Eastern state reps who demonstrated their unique qualities and character for service. Of course, the feedback from the connection participants told the whole story."

Day two featured separate presentations on how to start CRI and how to help inmates make the re-entry transition to the local CR community. The final day included an open forum involving CRI state reps. Lozano and the state reps also answered questions during Summit at an information table under the dining tent outside the church.

"(The forum) provided a great opportunity for even more specific questions and answers from participants themselves on how best to introduce an effective step study inside," Lozano said.

Nancy Dowd, the New York CRI state rep, spoke at the forum about her early experiences in CRI and offered encouragement to anyone considering the same route.

"Following your heart is the first thing," she said. "You have to know the Lord has put it in your heart and He will bring it to pass. You have to have the heart to remain faithful, and I always say you need prayer, patience and persistence to keep CRI going."

The Rev. Todd Love, a United Methodist Church district supervisor from Kentucky and first-time Summit participant, said he'd like to start an inmate recovery program in his region.

"It's clicking with me. This is the way to go," said Love, who oversees churches in the 10-county Columbia District of the Kentucky Annual Conference. "I want to get some wheels rolling and find the leaders. I'm not thinking I can be that leader, but I see the need. I know I've got people in some of our churches who visit prisoners every week or month.

"We have one church in our district that is doing CR and doing it quite well," Love added. "I knew about CR before going into that district, and everything about it was positive. But I didn't know anything in depth about it."

Summit, Lozano said, allows people like Shetter and Love to learn how to start a CRI program and organize their volunteers. He says more inmates will come to know Jesus as their Higher Power and begin their recovery with the aid of those who attended the first ECS.

"Just when I think God has blessed us beyond our expectations like He did last year, He does it again at Spartanburg," Lozano said.