Thanksgiving is a time where families come together to laugh, love, fellowship, and eat. In South Mississippi, we are no different, with a few exceptions.
There are people, of course, who may not have friends or family nearby to spend Thanksgiving with. Some people have to work. We always want to be mindful of those who serve in the military and are far away from home. We want to say a very special thank you to those men and women, as well. There are, however, people much closer to home who are fighting a very different kind of battle. This battle is also keeping them away from their families on Thanksgiving. I am talking about those men and women who are in rehabilitation programs fighting addiction.
My name is Greg Bufkin. From March of 2016 thru June of 2016, I was a client at one of our area rehabs. I had been battling an addiction to prescription pain medication for almost 13 years. I was in treatment for my birthday, anniversary, Easter, mother’s birthday, and Mother’s Day. Rehab can be a very lonely place at times, but especially when you’re missing holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries.
My wife and I are the founders of El Roi (pronounced “row-eye”) Ministries. We founded El Roi in response to two very big needs we noticed (while i was in treatment) that men and women in treatment have. The first need was the family of the addict. The family has financial, educational, and emotional needs that were often unmet. If the family of the person in treatment is faltering or failed while they were in rehab, their odds of success were significantly decreased. The second need was that the addict needed to be loved on while in treatment. They needed help in breaking the cycle of shame and guilt that all addicts find themselves in. Without being loved on it can be very difficult for the addict to maintain the motivation to continue the hard work of recovery.
One of the ways we go about loving on the addicts is by providing lunch on Thanksgiving Day. For Thanksgiving 2017, we had 30 volunteers from Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, come together to spend Thanksgiving with the men at The Home of Grace, in Vancleave, MS. Some of our volunteers were former clients at The Home of Grace. Some of the volunteers had loved ones who were previously clients, some were people who just wanted to spend Thanksgiving doing something for somebody else rather than doing the same old family gathering.
Eddie, who is from Hattiesburg, was one of our volunteers. He is a former client of The Home of Grace. When asked about why he was giving up thanksgiving with his family to be there he said, “So many people did things to show me that i was loved, while i was at The Home of Grace. I just want to demonstrate to those who are there now, that they are loved as well. I guess you could say I’m giving back just like it was given to me.”
Another volunteer, Darren, who is a resident of Jackson County, had plans with his family later that day. This is what he had to say when he was asked about his participation, “You know, i could’ve slept in or gone to the gym. I could’ve done several different things that were about me. But one of the things I’ve learned about fighting addiction is that we have been selfish for so long. One way to break that pattern is to serve others. I love the Home of Grace for what it did for my life, and I want to give back, just to show the love of Jesus to these men.”
Troy is another former client who came from Slidell, LA to volunteer. Troy had this to say to the men at The Home of Grace, “I was here for Thanksgiving during my time. I can remember a group coming in and feeding us. It just melted my heart that these people would come in and love on us like that. I want to do the same for you guys. I want you to know that you are loved and that there is hope for you.”
The most amazing thing about the day was simply how much food was donated and provided by various people to make this day possible. We had 20 turkeys (The Shed was kind enough to smoke these for us), 4 gallons of gravy, over 400 dinner rolls, over 500 individual dessert servings, green beans, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and more. We fed all of the men, offered seconds to anybody who wanted it, and left enough food for two more meals per man. There was A LOT of food. More important than all of that was the chance we had to love these men, and demonstrate our thankfulness for all that we have, by giving to those who need it most on this Thanksgiving. It was truly a great day.
If you, or someone you know, is battling an addiction, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We will help in way that we possibly can. You can check out our web site www.elroiprovides.org check us out on Facebook, www.facebook.com/elroiprovides
You can also come to Celebrate Recovery at Mosaic Church in Ocean Springs, Thursdays at 6:30. Mosaic has groups for addicts, groups for the family members of addicts, groups for teenagers struggling with addiction, as well as grief share, divorce care, and men struggling with pornography. Child care is provided.
Below you will find more pictures of our Thanksgiving Meal.