About eight years ago my wife Carol and I had the idea of starting a ministry to the hungry and the lonely.  It eventually became known as The Jesus Table where people meet every Tuesday night for a meal and a conversation.  When we started we really didn’t know what we were doing.  We were learning on the fly.

One of the ideas that has become a signature part of this ministry was having table hosts at every table.  There are many benevolent meal sites throughout the Portland metro area.  What I believe makes The Jesus Table unique is our table hosts.  Every week our table hosts, host the same table.  Over time, our guests begin developing a relationship with the table host of their choosing.  The relationship starts slowly but as the years go by a deep friendship develops.  You see, our guests come for the meal (which is excellent by the way) but their much deeper need is to know that someone cares for them.

Help for the Addicted

One of the couples that Carol and I got to know at The Jesus Table was John and Candace Liebertz.  They were both recovering addicts that  started Fairhaven Recovery Homes, a ministry to alcoholics and drug addicts who have hit rock bottom and want help turning their lives around.  Fairhaven provides transitional housing and the necessary structure for those recovering from the ravages of addiction.  John and Candace started with one recovery home about nine years ago.  Today they are helping about 140 people to live clean and sober.  Fairhaven continues to grow because the need is so great.

My Friend Mike

One of the Fairhaven members that came regularly to The Jesus Table for a meal was Mike (not his real name).  When Mike originally came to Fairhaven he was addicted to methamphetamine.  But as the month’s progressed he was doing all the right things to live clean and sober.  He had proven to be so trustworthy and reliable that John and Candace promoted him to be a mentor over one of the Fairhaven homes.  For a couple of years Mike did well with managing his addiction.  And then one day, Mike relapsed.

The Boy and the Starfish

Mike’s relapse reminds me of the story of the boy and the starfish.  There was a young boy walking along the beach.  The night before there had been a violent storm at sea and the seashore was littered with tens of thousands of starfish.  As the warmth of the morning sun heated up the sand, the starfish were doomed to die if they didn’t make it back into the water.  The boy understood their fate and was tossing them back into the ocean when an old man approached him.  He said to the boy, “Don’t you realize your task is hopeless?” as the old man looked at all the starfish on the beach.  The boy replied, “Not to this one it isn’t,” as he tossed another starfish back into the ocean.

The Evil of Addiction

When Mike relapsed, I felt the emotional pain of losing a friend to the evil of addiction.  It hurt deeply.  The good news is that Mike’s relapse was short and he’s back on the road to recovery.  But the lesson I learned is this: I can’t help everyone who is addicted.  The task is overwhelming, but I can help one person in their addiction.  And I chose Mike.  I asked Mike if he would like to get together once a week to share a meal and a conversation one-on-one.  And that soon changed so now there are two other Fairhaven members who have joined us each week.  We are currently going through the Bible book of Proverbs which has all sorts of wisdom on how we should live but I believe the real hook for these three men is that they realize someone who is normal (their word for describing the non-addicted) cares for them.

Choose Your “Mike”

There are very few families in this country today that are not adversely affected by the epidemic of drugs and alcohol ravaging our country.  If you are one of the fortunate few who don’t have at least one family member caught in the web of addiction, then you have a friend or a co-worker who is.  You can’t help everyone, but you can choose to help someone.  Choose your “Mike.”  They need to know that someone – you – truly cares.

Source: The Starfish Story: one step towards changing the world by Peter Straube, Events for Change, June 5, 2011,  https://eventsforchange.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/the-starfish-story-one-step-towards-changing-the-world/