Celebrate Recovery now servicing Liberty Hill

Pastor Dave Amstutz shows his notes on a white board he focused on at a recent Celebrate Recovery session. (Christine Bolanos Photo)

Pastor Dave Amstutz shows his notes on a white board he focused on at a recent Celebrate Recovery session. (Christine Bolanos Photo)

By Christine Bolaños

A recovering alcoholic. A drug addict. An abuse victim who is closed off from the world. An emotional overeater. These are just some of the types of individuals who recognize their lives are not what they should be but have taken that first giant step toward bettering themselves. That step comes in the form of participating in the new Celebrate Recovery program at Life Springs Church in Liberty Hill.

It is a free program held on Wednesday evenings open to everyone including non-churchgoers. Though only in operation for about three months, the program, and its leader, Pastor Dave Amstutz, are already changing lives.

“What I really like about it is that when a lot of people think of Celebrate Recovery all they think is substance abuse and alcohol abuse. But, as Pastor Dave teaches, it’s about all the hurt, habits and hang-ups you deal with. Anything that could’ve affected you including decisions you made and things other people did to you,” explains program member Ronnie Yoder.

“I am an alcoholic and I’ve had substance abuse problems in the past. I never understood how this behavior affected other people. It was the lifestyle and the decisions that I was making [that was the real source of the problem],” he said. “When I began working up through the principles that Pastor Dave teaches us, the denial was revealed to me. You’re living in such deception and for me it opened the door to a lot of things.”

Leaving behind the alcohol and the drugs was only a fraction of Yoder’s journey.

“I’m talking about the how behind the what. I’ve been able to talk to the people I’ve hurt and apologize for past behavior,” he shared.

It is this self-reflection and self-betterment that Amstutz seeks to help his participants reach. It doesn’t matter if he no longer has a day off because every day off from his day job is one utilized for Celebrate Recovery. It doesn’t matter if he’s not the best cook in the world but cooks for his members or gets them pizza. He has opened his mind, soul and time to these individuals because he knows what they are going through.

Amstutz lost everything and found his way back to God twice before freeing himself of the things that were holding him back.

While Celebrate Recovery welcomes church members, it is particularly aimed at the non-churchgoer.

“There’s a lot of people in the community who don’t feel comfortable going to church per se, but they will go to a group who they know have the same kinds of questions and issues that they have and feel feel safe,” the pastor explained. “It’s going to be very important that people know they are safe here. That it’s a safe place to come to share their stories and to be ministered to. That’s the church mission – to reach out to people that are broken and need help.”

Everyone needs help at some point in their life, the pastor believes.

“Celebrate Recovery is for just about everyone. The reason I say that is because it seems like there is no one without some sort of hurt, habit or hang-up; some kind of brokenness. Our mission or our job is to help in the repairing of broken lives,” Amstutz stated.

“Brokenness can take form of a lot of different things: dysfunctional living, addictions, harmful behavior patterns. These kinds of things can lead to a sense of despair or hopelessness in many cases.”

Celebrate Recovery, the pastor said, is similar to Alcoholics Anonymous in that it helps participants overcome challenges and issues by following certain steps. Where the church’s program stands out, though, is that it is Christ-centered.

“Sometimes when a person tries to pull themselves by their own boot straps they can’t get past their own slavery to their addiction or slavery to their own behavior patterns or even slavery to their own misconceptions about themselves or others,” Amstutz said.

But, the pastor believes, God has a solution. That solution comes in the form of following the principles laid out in the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 5.

The Celebrate Recovery ministry is based on the “8 Recovery Principles” found in the Beatitudes and Christ-centered 12 steps.

“This experience allows us to be changed. We open the door by sharing our experiences, victories and hopes with one another. In addition, we become willing to accept God’s grace in solving our life problems,” reads a newcomer packet for the program. “By working the Christ-centered steps and applying their biblical principles found in the Beatitudes, we begin to grow spiritually. We become free from our addictive, compulsive and dysfunctional behaviors. This freedom creates peace, serenity, joy and most importantly, a stronger personal relationship with God and others.”

The eight principles are easy for participants to remember because they have been built into the acronym and program’s namesake, Recovery.

According to the packet, Celebrate Recovery is a safe place to share, a refuge, a place of belonging, a place to care for others and be cared for, where respect is given to each member, where confidentiality is highly regarded, a place to learn, a place to grow and become strong again, where you can take off your “mask,” a place for healthy challenges and healthy risks; and a possible turning point in your life.

The program is not a place for selfish control therapy, place for secrets, place to look for dating relationships, place to rescue or be rescued by others, place for perfection, long-term commitment, a place to judge others or a quick fix, the packet states.

“I believe that Jesus, through this program, gives us ways to handle, to deal with these hurts and the habits and the hang-ups that have resulted. Habits and hang-ups could be anything from alcohol dependency to pornography to food addictions to domestic violence. Many of those things are so prevalent we almost consider them normal, but they’re not normal,” the pastor shared.

“Unresolved hurts and habits like these tend to mess up relationships. I believe that God is in the business of helping people to get repaired and the program is simply for the purpose of restoring, repairing and rebuilding personal lives and individual relationships with family members. That’s what this is about and that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing and I love it,” Amstutz added.

The pastor talks about living intentionally and intelligently with integrity.

“To live our lives intentionally, on purpose, as opposed to by the seat of our pants. It has to do with our choices of course. We live intelligently by living with understanding or according to the principles of the Lord. With integrity — blessed are the pure in heart, happy are the pure in heart. So I talk about living intentionally, intelligently with integrity,” he explained.

He said newcomers to Celebrate Recovery should expect good food and just informal socializing for the first 30 minutes of the 90-minute sessions.

“We have been meeting upstairs (in the church). It’s a great big room and we have pool, hockey, ping pong and games set up. You can come in and eat and play for a while and just hang out for 30 minutes or so,” Amstutz said. “Then what we’ll do is we’ve got couches, we’ll sit around on couches and chairs. I’ve got a big white board. I do a lot of singing.”

The pastor teaches and has guest speakers talk about their own recoveries. Participants have the opportunity to share their stories with one another.

“I unashamedly tell you that unless there is an earnest and sincere relationship with Jesus Christ it’s really difficult to finally overcome your hurts, habits and hang-ups,” he adds.

According to the newcomer packet, Celebrate Recovery began in 1991 at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. The program is active in every state and throughout many counties.

Though the program is offered in nearby Georgetown, the pastor hopes the Life Springs program will serve the Liberty Hill and Bertram areas that did not have this type of service previously.

Life Springs Church is located at 15611 State Route 29 in Liberty Hill. Celebrate Recovery meets every Wednesday except for the fourth or last of the month. Call (512) 515-5591 for more information.