Author: kentwhitaker

I'm the Oregon CR Inside Rep, a disciple of Jesus Christ, celebrating recovery from drug/alcohol addiction. Celebrate Recovery (CR) is the best Christian 'how to' program available today, it is a transformative process through the work of the Holy Spirit in us. I am also the NW CRI Team-Lead which covers Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, N&S Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming & N California. CRI is the prison/jail/re-entry aspect of Celebrate Recovery which started in 1991 & today has over 27,000 weekly meetings all around the USA & internationally.

Finally CRI at Deer Ridge (DRCI) in Madras, OR?

Well, that’s our intention since Chaplain Tim Woods reached out again & contacted the new national CRI website asking for help. By the way if you haven’t visited yet, check it out at http://www.cr-inside.org! The chaplain has been waiting many years for a team of CR men to bring the program into DRCI but now it seems God’s timing has arrived. After receiving an email from webmaster Tom at cr-inside.org, I contacted a somewhat disgruntled chaplain who flatly expressed renewed interest &, listened to my explanation of why we hadn’t started years ago when we’d first attempted to form a team. After the conversation, I reached out to Oregon’s 2 eastern CR reps, Kathy Matson & Sharon Weldin & both responded immediately! Sharon within a day had identified a man who is very interested in leading the DRCI CRI team & I’m looking forward to meeting him at our upcoming 10/4 CRI Quarterly. Thank you Sharon, many men will be reached with the life changing involvement in CR by your extra efforts.

The main ingredient for bringing CR into a correctional facility usually isn’t the invite, in fact, we have an invite from OSCI too. No the ingredient is volunteers, qualified CR individuals willing to sacrifice one evening a week to lead a CR program for the inmates. Being qualified means having over a year of sobriety in their area of recovery, having completed a CR step study & having the approval of the ministry leader where they have an ongoing CR attendance. Nothing new here, Jesus Himself was concerned, ‘Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”‘Mat9:37

Please consider carefully God’s calling on you to take action &, in gratitude for all He has done in your life, become available today for this incredible mission. CRI is the mission-field of CR, we step out of the comfort of our community CR’s to go visit men & women who live in a land behind the chain-link & razorwire. CRI ‘missionaries’ carry the message of redemption & restoration from brokenness, to hear from our own lips how God through Celebrate Recovery has worked in our lives. In the NW, CRI is growing & gaining energy, contact us today & become part of Christ’s concern for His children living in the prisons & jails.

Kent Whitaker
CRI Sr Rep, Oregon

Busy October in Oregon

As I sit here today, punching out this synopsis of the coming month, I’m wondering how it will all work out. Then I remember, as I’m more willing to do these days, that God has it all under control & all I need to do is my small part! Whew…

  • Saturday 10/4 is the Oregon CRI Quarterly at SW Bible in Beaverton, last time we were 22 strong, & I expect that many or more this time too. The Oregon state reps will be ‘rolling out’ a training on the re-entry process & how the community CR’s can be more involved. Re-entry has been moved to the ‘front burner’ in Oregon & become a goal for us to be able to train at the CR group level what a successful transitional program, including mentorship, looks like. Of course, we’ll hear all the reports from the 18 different CRI groups in Oregon institutions too & have some lively discussion on concerns, challenges & techniques!
  • Thursday 10/9 my wife & I will drive the 3.5 hours to Pendleton & meet with the chaplain for Eastern Oregon Correctional Institute (EOCI), the deputy in charge of programming at the Umatilla County Jail, & finish the day meeting with the CRI team at 1st Assembly of God’s CR, where I’ll also give my testimony that evening.
  • Saturday 10/11 a CRI men’s team will be in Sheridan to train prior to bring our program into the Federal Correctional Institute (FCI) there. I’m so excited to get my federal clearance & to be part of the kickoff of what will hopefully be 2 different CR groups there; FCI Sheridan is both a minimum security camp & a medium security prison so we need CR in both.

The month will then shift gears, as we all prepare for the CR OneDay at the Eugene Christian Fellowship on Oct 25th. Celebrate Recovery’s awesome national team travels to Eugene to train, both the newcomer & the CR leader, in an all-day seminar format. CRI’s state reps from the NW will be hosting a lunchtime breakout session with, special ‘satisfied customer’ guest, Rick McDaniel. David Jones, the new national CRI director, will not be present at the OneDay’s like Hector had been, but our state reps are up to the challenge of representing CRI at the OneDay. This will be a great opportunity to come together, learn from each other, introduce new people to the ministry/mission of CRI & energize ourselves for the long winter into spring season of service to our Lord Jesus & the least of His children.

I’m looking forward to seeing each of you somewhere in my travels throughout October. Stay safe with His blessings & mercy until then.

Kent Whitaker
Oregon CRI Sr Rep

‘Rule-Models’ by Kent Whitaker, CRI Sr Rep Oregon

The LCC CR team was at a WA DOC training being given by Chaplain Bill Cardin a few weeks ago, he said, “Issues with authority is the main reason these men end up in prison. You volunteers are role-models for the participants in your program, you following the DOC rules & regulations, submitting to authority, is watched closely by all. Don’t allow the inmates to ‘manipulate’ you away from standing firm on the DOC rules or, form the structure of your program. What you model consistently when you’re here, is the most valuable lesson that you bring or, if you don’t, the greatest harm you’ll do.”
In Scripture, leaders who are role-models appear from beginning to end: Abraham, Moses, David to John, Paul, Timothy… Jesus Christ being the ultimate role-model of course. And, conversely, those who weren’t & who caused such damage to all around them: Cain, King Saul, Judas Iscariot, to name a few.
I’m confident that we all see all through Scripture, the expectation to follow very precise rules & submission to God’s purposes, it is a thread running throughout. The CR program has taken years of development, before it was even CR the basic concepts formed AA & AA evolved out of a program from the Christian Oxford Group; all of this didn’t begin as the genius of men but directly from God’s Word, all good is from God. Salvation is an unearned gift from God, earned for us by Jesus Christ’s work on the Cross & freely given us by His grace & not because of our works; ‘sanctification’ requires us to work out our salvation with fear & trembling, ‘discipleship’ means to actually love each other not merely talk about it! Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), the part most often quoted is, ‘Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”. The verse usually ignored spells out the work we’re engaged in, “and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Let’s become students of the Celebrate Recovery model, it’s elements & be diligent in administering our program.. be consistent week to week. When we walk into the institution it’s ‘SHOWTIME’ & all the eyes are on us, the officers, the inmates & each other. Make your time ‘inside’ count, don’t be pulled to the right or left, don’t allow your performance to be mediocre! Let’s practice good stewardship over this incredible ministry & mission God has given us.
Recovery, above all else, is structure, constantly improving the structure in one’s life, our thinking & choices each day, our attitudes & decisions to have Jesus Christ consciously involved in everything we do. God’s creation is one of extreme organization & structure, if you don’t believe me, read Leviticus, Numbers & Deuteronomy a few times!

New NW Institutions Coming Online Soon

Larch Correctional Center (LCC), Yacolt, WA
An enthusiastic team of 7 men, led by Bob Liddle, from several CR groups in Vancouver & Camas are in their final stages of WA DOC volunteer training. LCC is a minimum security state prison located high above (1200 ft) Vancouver, WA & while the 40 minute drive from Vancouver or Camas is very scenic, there are plenty of reports of volunteers & staff getting stuck, even rolling their vehicles, during winter snows! LCC houses 480 men & has never had a CR program, they are very excited to see us coming in. Interestingly, arranging all the details with Oregon CRI Sr Rep, Kent Whitaker, Chaplain Bill Cardin made bringing this CR program happen his farewell accomplishment as he retired a week after conducting the preliminary training session for volunteers. Chaplain Cardin told Kent, “I’ve been hearing people talk about CR & bringing it here for 15 years & finally here you are! I’m very pleased you’ll be starting a Celebrate Recovery for the men here at Larch, they’ll sure will benefit from it.” Thank you Chaplain Bill Cardin!

Federal Corrections Institute (FCI Sheridan), Sheridan, OR
Chaplain Richard Kowalczyk met with Steven Hardgrove & Kent Whitaker on June 26th to discuss having a CR program at FCI Sheridan. He wants TWO! FCI Sheridan has a minimum security camp & a medium security prison so we will be forming teams for both. While this is a wonderful opportunity, Sheridan is a little off the beaten path & finding the manpower is definitely going to need God’s help. Of course, we all know that our Lord has everything in order so hopefully we can relax & prepare to bring a crew to the FCI training on October 11th! If you have interest, please contact Steven Hardgrove, Steven is the Worship Leader at Northside CR in Newberg, OR, his number is 503-550-6107. Or, contact Kent at 503-789-3756 with any questions.

Oregon Re-Entry Coming Into Focus

In Oregon, the state CRI reps are gearing up to bring the 3rd leg of the ‘CRI 3 legged stool’ into place. What are the 3 legs? Jails, prisons & re-entry! Why the analogy of the CR Inside mission with a three legged stool? Because, just like with the stool, if only 2 legs are in place the stool will fall over, without a healthy re-entry program all of our efforts inside of the institutions will fail once the inmate is released. Re-entry, is the term used to cover many aspects involved in the transition of an incarcerated man or woman back into the ‘outside’ community. A person may have been locked up in the environment of a prison for many years, or for only a short time in a county jail, but in either case, helping that person to ‘start over’ upon their release doesn’t leave much room for error. Over the last year we have seen a great response with volunteers taking ownership of the many CR groups inside the chain link & razor-wire, the efforts to expand into new institutions & deepen the existing teams with new volunteers will continue. But, the time is right & urgent, for developing a strong network of volunteers serving in re-entry efforts within our many healthy community CR groups around Oregon.

The Oregon CRI team’s new state rep, Mike Cross, has spent several years serving as a professional mentor in Washington County, as well as, ministry leader of a community CR group, pastor over a transitional housing program for men, ministry leader for the CRCI CRI group & now, as the Portland CRI Rep, serves as the Portland Tri-County CRI liaison to the Home for Good in Oregon (HGO) re-entry program of the Oregon DOC, Religious Services Department. The HGO program in the greater Portland area sees the most offenders released of anywhere else in the state. In Salem, Stan Sorenson working closely with state CRI rep Larry Courtain, is our liaison to the HGO there, in the second highest releasing community in Oregon. Mike is currently developing a CRI training which will be first taught at the next CRI Quarterly meeting on October 4th. Re-Entry Training will provide CR groups & CRI volunteers a basic understanding of what is involved in assisting a man or woman to successfully re-enter society. We will also incorporate the HGO volunteer training to give those people, who want to volunteer as HGO mentors, the tools they need & certify them as potential mentors to individual offenders. Additional training, will be offered soon, for CR leadership in community groups to prepare them for the challenges of welcoming the man or woman offender into their group & assisting them successfully. For all of us, ending up finding a home in a community CR, establishing a network of friends & sponsor/accountability partners & becoming part of the leadership serving others, is what Christ uses to restore & grow us as His beloved children. It’s what we call recovery & it’s crucial for the transitioning individual to immediately find & embrace as their own!

Oregon CRI reps have started identifying CRI Coordinators in community CR groups who will focus on re-entry ‘work’ within their CR group & the local community on a regular basis. The CRI Coordinator will assist the Ministry Leader, or other members on the TEAM, responding to letters from inmates, answering questions about CRI volunteering, learning about the various resources available in the local community for those in transition, etc. The activities of the CRI Coordinator will be approved by the Ministry Leader, but chosen by the CRI state rep, the Coordinator will be knowledgable & be able to respond appropriately to the needs of those in transition. Having a knowledgable person, man or woman or both, serving in this capacity will increase the opportunity for success of the re-entering person, & thus the overall community. Forming a synchronized network, around the state of Oregon, of the inside programs & volunteers together with the community CR groups is our long term goal & we’re excited to begin ‘attaching the 3rd leg to the stool’. In Celebrate Recovery we are God’s hands & feet, what we do ‘for the least of us’ we do for Him. If we do anything for our Lord, it’s imperative that we do it with all our might & confidence, that we cooperate with each other & lift each other up in prayer & in action.

Going inside CCCF to hear a testimony.

I was invited to attend Apral’s testimony, Apral is the CRI Ministry Leader for the general population CR group in Coffee Creek Correctional Facility (CCCF). CCCF is Oregon’s only women’s prison & currently has 3 CRI groups: general population minimum security, A&D (women in alcohol & drug addiction treatment) minimum security and, general population medium/maximum security. Apral has been leading her group for almost 3 years and currently serves with 3 other women every Thursday night. This group has 24 women on the ‘call out list’ and has a waiting list because the room size won’t accommodate more, the women arrive in various demeanors but generally upbeat, they’re excited for this group with these leaders. Inside a state correctional facility there are very definite required boundaries between our volunteers and the participants in our groups, it’s obvious that all the women enjoy each other and banter between them is lively but respectful. Women love to give each other hugs when they greet each other but here that is prohibited, showing to much favoritism to any particular inmate can be misinterpreted, none the less there is much interaction and mutual love shown as more ladies arrive and get settled in.

The group starts, as it typically does, with each volunteer performing different functions of setting up and responding to the participants entering the room: signing in, checking in ‘homework’ from previous lessons, answering questions, greeting the newcomers and handing out their start up materials, checking in copies of ‘Life’s Healing Choices’ (LHC; this is the book written by John Baker, with it’s study guide and each of the 8 lessons taught by Rick Warren on DVD, that make up the weekly curriculum used in most of our CR Inside groups), and an assortment of other things, to what has become in Apral’s group the norm. Then Apral starts the meeting and greets everyone who are now seated around the outside of the room, she open’s in prayer and, all are asked to stand for worship in song of our Lord. A CD leads us through 3 songs, most everyone participates, and then Apral numbers off each person 1 or 2 and designates one participant to read an accompanying affirmation to each of the 8 Recovery Principles from LHC, 1’s read the Principle, 2’s read the Beatitude and lady selected the affirmation. As I look around the room I see a variety of emotions, anxious & calm, upbeat & downcast, expressive & reserved, engaged & detached, much like any CR meeting anywhere, but here there is always a sense of relief to escape, if only for a couple of hours, from a life cut off from the outside and a life that these women feel is slipping by them.

Then it’s time for the testimonial and everyone is anxious to hear Apral’s story, Apral has been working for some time preparing to share about how her life has been transformed, she has been writing, editing and selecting the best way to tell about her life, covering how it was, what happened as God started to intervene and what it’s like today. Celebrate Recovery (CR) testimonies need to fit into a time frame, because each week the program needs to cover all it’s many elements during it’s 2 hour window, testimonies need to be approximately 20 minutes. Since most of what happens at a CR must remain confidential I can’t relay Apral’s story here, hopefully sometime you’ll be privileged to hear it for yourself, nor is doing so my intent for this post, but to say how grateful that I am to be involved in this ministry and mission behind the chain link fence and razor wire, to be involved with men and women the caliber of Apral and, to be part of providing a ‘hope that has a set of instructions’ on accomplishing what for many of these participants was thought lost: a good life with integrity, freedom and meaning. Apral’s testimony brought myself and several others to tears, her life is not without trouble but she has come to know Jesus Christ and seen how He has been with her, lifted her up when she’s fallen, encouraged her when she was without hope, and healed even the most hurtful events in her life. God brought her into a room inside a state prison, like me she had no intentions of her own to serve this way but answered His call, and it’s been here that so many ‘loose ends’ have been tied up. It’s here each week where she receives more than she gives, where getting to know and see the transformation of the ‘courageous Christian women’ who have found a safe place with her, each other and Jesus each week away from the dark culture that’s common in a prison; it’s here that Apral has reached her stride, where it all makes sense in a marvelous and humbling way and where God is given all the glory.

Various CR Event Dates

Kent Whitaker
Oregon CRI Sr Rep
503-789-3756

Upcoming One-Day Seminars:
4/5 Austin, TX
5/3 Seattle, WA

5/17 Ontario, CA

East Coast Summit:
July 9-11 Orlando, FL
West Coast Summit:
August 6-9 Lake Forest, CA

Event Registration, Tools & Group Finder:
www.celebraterecovery.com

CR Inside Information & Group Finder:
www.crinewsletter.com