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Reaching for Recovery

by Samara Smyer

Over 41 million people in the United States struggle with diagnosed addiction; however, statistics show that approximately 90% of these men and women will not, or cannot, enter into a residential recovery program. “There are 38 million people that are not adequately seeking treatment. We need resources to help them,” Jimmy and Yvonne Oakes, U.S. missionaries with Adult & Teen Challenge, say.


They explain, “Not everyone is ready to start their journey to recovery at the same time.” Over the past two years, Jimmy and Yvonne have been working to develop and launch Ready Now Recovery, a program designed to reach individuals who will not go into an Adult & Teen Challenge residential program.


Prior to their work with Ready Now Recovery, Jimmy and Yvonne were missionary associates with Chi Alpha at the University of Arkansas for eight years and ministered in Athens, Greece, for two years. They also spent time with Teen Challenge Adventure Ranch in Arkansas as missionary associates for eight years before being invited to join the Adult & Teen Challenge national office in 2020.


Growing up in a home with addiction present, Yvonne’s passion for helping families with similar experiences started young. At 17, God radically invaded her life and she accepted Christ as her Savior. “I know there is hope out of that life,” Yvonne says. “I want to help place that hope within reach for others.” 


While Adult & Teen Challenge originally offered only residential programs, more people struggling with life-altering addictions can be reached now than ever before through the work of Jimmy and Yvonne. Ready Now Recovery, Adult & Teen Challenge’s small group and support group ministry, began development two years ago and was launched in June 2021. “Our vision is that every person impacted by life-controlling issues will have access to recovery through Jesus Christ,” Jimmy says.


Everything Ready Now Recovery does has a biblical basis. The program equips their group leaders, called facilitators, with the training and resources needed to run a support group for individuals dealing with addiction and their family members. They also provide referrals to residential Adult & Teen Challenge facilities.


Currently, there are 67 active Ready Now Recovery groups across the United States. This includes virtual groups that allow people to be involved no matter where they are. While most group facilitators are volunteers, they all must undergo at least 25 hours of training plus annual training before being eligible to lead a group. Additionally, the Oakeses believe that it is important for facilitators to help meet all the needs of people in their group, not just their addictions. They encourage facilitators to be aware of all local resources and volunteer in their community once a month. This allows facilitators to meet individuals in need and help them in practical ways. 


Jimmy and Yvonne explain that, while most people say mentorship is helpful, a majority do not know how to successfully mentor others. Ready Now Recovery’s training helps group facilitators learn feasible ways to mentor and walk alongside others. The program also works to equip churches, in partnership with local Adult & Teen Challenge programs, to know how to best minister to those struggling in their neighborhoods. “Our goal is to curate healthy communities,” Yvonne says. “It takes a community to make a community.”


“A lot of people who become facilitators are recovered addicts or have addicted family members,” Jimmy and Yvonne say. They tell the story of one young man who graduated from a residential Teen Challenge program. After graduation, he went to college and became a student leader at his school’s Chi Alpha group. His mother, seeing the affect Adult & Teen Challenge had on her son, has become a facilitator for a support group for parents.


“When we came to the national office, I thought it would be hard because it is not ‘boots on the ground,’” Jimmy says. Shortly after launching Ready Now Recovery, Jimmy and Yvonne heard the testimony of a group in Arkansas doing work in local jails. “They are having revivals in the middle of these jails and reaching people in ways we never could,” Yvonne enthuses. “Through the training and equipping of others, we are reaching so many more people!”


On top of working to equip others for ministry, Jimmy and Yvonne also facilitate a group once a week. “We do not want to be in a place where we are asking others to do things we will not do ourselves,” they explain. 


Moving forward, the Oakeses are hoping to continue expansion of Ready Now Recovery. They are working with Chaplaincy Ministries to get Ready Now Recovery groups accessible to military personnel. “Currently, most military has access to Alcoholics Anonymous,” they say. “We want to provide a voluntary faith-based option for people seeking help.”


Ready Now Recovery bases their ministry on the mandate to “go out to the roads … compel them to come in, so that my house will be full,” found in Luke 14:23 (NIV)


“At the end of the day, we want to know that we impacted someone for Jesus,” say Jimmy and Yvonne. 

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