John 3:17 Ministry has been a beacon of hope and recovery for many women struggling with addictions, and on May 28, the program will celebrate its 200th graduate.
Three ministry program residents and one graduate recently shared their testimonies about how the Lord brought them out of addiction with the help of John 3:17 during the ministry’s 5th annual Summer of Hope Event, held at the Benton Event Center on April 27.
The event is one of the ministry’s yearly highlights. It serves as an opportunity for the community to come together in support of the program, as well as a chance to hear from the previous graduates.
“We offer hope,” said Suzanne Rudd, director of John 3:17 Ministry. “I have a heart for ministry as a woman who struggled with addiction.”
Rudd has her own history of recovery through faith. She has been sober now for 13 years – just a bit longer than the ministry has been around. Since then, she has climbed her way up the ladder to the status of director. She started as a house mother for one of the residential houses, then became facilitator and then head facilitator before eventually rising to the position of director.
Founded in 2012, the mission of the ministry is “to provide a place of safety, hope and restoration for women with addictions,” according to the website, John317Ministry.org, It is a safe space for women to “develop spiritually, improve parenting skills, and become productive members of society.”
According to Rudd, residents learn invaluable life skills through their involvement in the community like service, responsibility and work ethic. They are also encouraged to exercise regularly, whether that’s by taking laps around the facility’s walking track or participating in a workout video. Health coaches and licensed counselors work on campus to support residents in achieving their physical and emotional health goals.
In May, the ministry will celebrate the 200th graduate from the program.
In the weeks preceding the Summer of Hope Event, representatives from the program visited several local churches during Wednesday night services to raise awareness as well as funds, and meet people across religious organizations.
At the event, 400 former graduates, family members, and community members gathered to support and encourage those who have or are working to overcome addiction. After dinner, graduates performed songs and shared their personal testimonies.
Saline County Judge Matt Brumley was in attendance, alongside other prominent community leaders including Sheriff Rodney Wright and Kirk Lane, the former Arkansas drug director who took over as the Director of Arkansas Opioid Recovery Partnership just last summer.
The campus of John 3:17 Ministry is located in Newport, about 80 miles northeast of Little Rock. It offers a 12-month residential program that is open to women from anywhere. Residents have come from all over the state, as well as other states including Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Tennessee, Missouri, and Indiana.
The organization is non-denominational, and is affiliated with and located on the same campus as Remmel Church, which is a non-denominational chuch. Currently, the program can house around 45 residents and at least 10 staff members at a time, but they are already looking to expand the capacity.
The program offers classes on anger management, grief recovery, sexual trauma, self-image and more. The focus is on building a sense of community and belonging.
At the heart of all the ministry does, is faith. Residents attend daily Bible studies as well as concerts and conferences that are usually faith-based, said Rudd. Participating outside of the program in healthy activities is imperative for these women to prevent them from falling back into old habits.
Brandi Ford, the current fundraising coordinator at John 3:17 Ministry, is a living testament to the transformative power of the ministry’s program. Ford first came to the organization as a resident in October 2014. Just a year later, she was graduating and moving forward with her life.
“I serve here because I found my life while here. I found Christ, I found purpose, and I found goodness and love,” Ford said.
Individuals interested in the program can fill out an application online and call in to begin the process. Women are encouraged to begin as soon as possible–most within the next day. The program takes one year, but individuals can start at any time, with graduation ceremonies occurring every month.
According to Ford, John 3:17 Ministry frequently partners with other organizations, churches, and events, such as Amplify, to raise awareness and make new connections. Plans are already being made for next year’s Summer of Hope Event, but the organization has other events coming up, like their 5th annual Ministry Golf Tournament in September at the Newport Country Club.