(James Peterson delivered this message as part of the Outreach for Hope presentation at the Greater Milwaukee Synod’s Annual Assembly, June 2, 2017.)

Good Afternoon. My first experience with Cross Lutheran Church was six years ago when I needed food from the food pantry.  At that time, my life was messy. I had gotten caught up in drug dealing and using. That cost me some jobs, and closeness to my family. When I showed up at Cross, I was told by the pastor that I should join the men’s group.

The men’s group – called Men of Faith –  is a support group for men with drug or alcohol addiction. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this was exactly what I needed to bring some sanity back into my life. This group has become my anchor. I have met some good men who are also working on getting their lives back on track. We are all there to support one another.

These days I am a facilitator for Men of Faith meetings, and I attend weekly. The strength that I draw from this group of men inspires me to give back to the community… it gives my life meaning.

Together, we have led some kids in neighborhood clean-up projects, and we hold a mentoring group for young neighborhood men. These guys – most of them – have no father figures in their life, and really need some attention and support from men who care about them. We call this the Wellness group.

I am also working with my fellow Men of Faith to establish transitional housing for men in recovery. It’s really important for people in recovery to be in a stable and supportive environment, away from the influences that draw them back to their addiction.

I am very grateful for God, for Cross Lutheran Church and for Outreach for Hope, that provides funding for Cross. Today I feel like a very different person than the guy who showed up at the food pantry six years ago. I am no longer just a receiver, I am also a giver. To all of you who have in some way supported me, and other people like me when we needed support, I say thank you!!