How sitting on the porch could help fight addiction

How sitting on the porch could help fight addiction

The PORCH ministry provides support for families struggling with addiction. It all happens on Donna and Chuck Alexander's porch in Telford, Tennessee.

By Michael Vaughn

In June 2019, the Holston Annual Conference received an offering of $129,733 to fight the opioid addiction epidemic in our conference. This money is being distributed through grants to area churches to implement new addiction recovery programs and to re-engage in existing ministries.

I want to applaud these ministries, the people who are working countless hours behind the scenes to keep them going, and each person seeking treatment. There are wonderful things happening in our conference, and this is just one more reason I am #HolstonProud.

Unfortunately, there is so much more needed as we battle addiction in our communities, neighborhoods, churches, and families. $129,733 is a great start, but how much is needed to really make a difference? What about the families of addicts who don’t know where to turn or what to do? How much money do we need  to help and support them?

This has been a topic of conversation in one of the churches I serve, Telford United Methodist Church. From these conversations, from listening to one another and seeking to follow the voice of God, PORCH emerged as a ministry for those affected by addiction of loved ones.

Here is how Donna Alexander, the creator and facilitator of the Telford UMC PORCH group, explains this ministry to those affected by addiction in our church.

Chuck [Donna’s husband] and I knew that God would call us to where He wanted us to be as soon as we settled in here in Jonesborough. He led us to Telford UMC, pulling us to the doors there. Once we walked through that front door, we knew we were home.

Before long, my family's front porch became a place where neighbors, strangers passing by, and friends felt welcome and comfortable to sit and chat. Many left saying they felt unburdened after sitting and talking about things they never discussed or shared with anyone else before.

It was clear God was leading us to a new mission. Several Sundays in church, members of the congregation would take us aside and say they felt led to talk to us about some things in their lives. God had been preparing our lives all along since childhood to be observers, listeners, comforters and to be nonjudgmental. After all, we had seen it all in our own families and friends and we loved them even so. Perhaps we loved them even more.

One day when speaking with a woman in our church, I was extremely moved by what she shared about addiction in her family. She thanked me for listening. She said it helped so much. I took her words home with me on that Sunday. I prayed for her and for how I might be helpful to her.


God said to me, “You listened.” It’s enough. I suddenly understood what I could do. I could listen. So I called this woman and asked if she thought it would be helpful to her to get together with others who might have similar issues in their lives ... to talk and listen to each other.

She yelled through the phone an emphatic and loud, “Yes, oh yes!”

So began our get-togethers on Monday evenings in our home. At first it was just for women who were affected in any way by addiction of a loved one. Within two weeks, men were asking if they might attend as well.
PORCH = People Offering Real Christian Help/Hope
 

Though there is a scheduling nightmare at times, the group has made a difference in people's lives. Families are opening the lines of communication, making plans to seek professional help, feeling they are not alone in their journey.

We gather now on the first and third Mondays at our home. Participants bring a dish to pass so we might share an informal meal together as a family of God. We pray for God's guidance and thank Him for this opportunity to be a “framily” (a Telford term of blended family and friends).

We listen and we sometimes cry together and rejoice together as we see progress being made. We set boundaries to protect ourselves from those who would try to bring blame to the blameless in the cycle of addiction.

In searching for a name for our group, I was sitting on our porch one afternoon when a neighbor stopped by. We sat and chatted (I mostly listened). When she left, she commented that our porch was inviting and such a comfortable place to feel welcome and loved. When she left I looked down at the sheet of paper on which I had been scribbling ideas for a name for our group. PORCH would be perfect, I thought. People Offering Real Christian Help/Hope!
Chuck and Donna Alexander
 

Money is necessary for ministry. But what strikes me is how lives are being impacted through relationships and simply listening. There are many other recovery programs needed in our communities, but I wonder if the PORCH model might be a way to embrace those friends and family members who feel isolated, alone, and hurt by addiction of their loved ones.

Perhaps the front PORCH could be extended by other churches as a place of welcome and rest. A place to cry. A place to scream. A place to laugh. A real place to live and love together in community.

If you would like more info on PORCH, or ideas to facilitate a group in your church, please contact us. Or better yet, come on over and sit on the PORCH, and let’s talk.

The Rev. Michael Vaughn is pastor at Telford United Methodist Church and Asbury United Methodist Church in the Three Rivers District. Contact him at m-vaughn@comcast.net.
 

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