3 nights with Bob and Gracie Ekblad at Mt Vernon, Washington State has been refreshing and enlivening. Their love and hospitality so gratefully received.
One of the organisations they lead, Tierra Nueva, provides love and support to the marginalised, especially the Hispanic population. We have not got our head around all they do but some is reflected in Adam’s story.
Adam (not his real name) is a tall, muscular, white guy with a heavily tattooed body, neck and head which is clean shaved. A blue tear drop marks his left cheek. Visually he is very, shall I say,  imposing.
He has been in prison 7 times and put in a mental institution 3. He has tried rehab 13 times, I think.
The last two times he was imprisoned was for producing methamphetamine. His record spans multiple counties. He has 4 children from 3 partners and his wife found out she was pregnant 2 days ago. It’s great, but kind of a problem because she is the primary bread winner and much of her money goes to child support for 2 kids living away and raising 2 of his younger kids who live with Adam and his wife.
Bob introduced us to Adam in the basement of Tierra Nueva’s building in a poor part of town right by the rail line. Bob greeted Adam with a hug – and Adam just held on, tight. How moving it was to see a ‘hard man’ show such tenderness.
Bob ministers in prisons and thats where he met Adam 8 years ago.  When Bob goes in the warden allows him 30 minutes to “give a bible study”. He does about 4 x 30min slots a visit, last visit which was two nights ago it is a slot with sex crimes (peds mostly), people kept apart because of some involvement in a pending trial, and two separate gangs.
Adam told us most christian folk come in intent on getting their message across so they monologue for much of the time. But Bob comes and asks people how they are doing and after listening says, ‘well you know the bible speaks something to that …’
Bob’s love for people won Adam over. He received prayer, healing and support. That continues. Tierra Nueva gives him a coach, an accountability partner, an accepting community and a context for him to contribute.
When Adam got out he had a mountain of unpaid fines, court order costs and government charges against his name. He has been trying to pay these off (and been making some progress) but its hard to find paid work – looking the way he does and with the history he has.
Bob has arranged for Adam to learn how to roast at Tierra Nueva’s small coffee house. 3 paid days a week he takes orders from folk in the community, roasts beans from a single farm in Honduras, bags and distributes them. While roasting and bagging he talks with and cares for gang kids who come to the basement to hang out.
Adam volunteers at his local church to support people who have indicated they want to follow Christ.
He is off methadone but still on opiate blockers, owes about $15,000 to the government and struggling to hold it together, but he is determined.
As Adam talked with us his face was alive. His persona was safe and warm. We loved being with him. He told us that the phase prior to actual relapse is a out starts about 7 days before anything actually happens.
“Relapse does not begin with the first drink. Relapse begins when a person reactivates patterns of denial, isolation, elevated stress, and impaired judgment” (Gorski and Miller).
Off the back of my time with Adam I did some reading about addiction and relapse and was struck that he has a much better understanding of himself than I do. His problems are less hidden than mine so he is better able to face up to his failings and better placed to be clear about is path to relapse.
Adam says the 7 days prior to relapse corresponds to 7 stages and  if he can arrest things at stage 1 then he is sweet. Stage 1 is when we start to avoid people or certain conversations, avoid accountability, steer to superficial conversations, avoiding support, increase tv or entertainment , and some other markers. He meets with a coach and an accountability partner to help ensure he does not get to stage 2.
I think too that Adam had a better handle of his redemption than I do. He knows he has been saved from a life of hell on earth and although life remains a struggle, it could easily be a hell of a lot worse without God and the love of His children.
Adam’s life is raw. His wounds are raw, as is his faith and his feelings.
We asked him to pray for our boys, he did not have many words, just tears for how much God loves them.
Here is a man the Jesus of the bible would have gone out of his way to be with. Jesus would have walked past all the clean cut, distant hearted church folk and gone right up and hugged Adam. And Adam would have just held on, tight and long.

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One Response to Adam

  1. Andrew Tyndale says:

    Wow. We lead such soft lives. Please forgive my selfishness and remoteness.

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