U-Turn for Christ battles men’s bondage to addiction

by Sheila Allen/Northwest Baptist Witness, posted Monday, April 17, 2017 (3 months ago)

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (BP) -- The ravages of life-controlling addictions cut across cultures, gender, age and economic status. U-Turn for Christ, a restorative ministry in southern Oregon led by Kevin Darr, has been standing firm amid the brokenness for nearly a decade.

"This is a program for men geared toward people in bondage to addiction," Darr said. "The people that we have ministered to vary from those just out of jail to those with Ph.D.s, homeless guys to CEOs and pastors. Drugs and alcohol is epidemic and affects all areas of our culture."

Housed for several years at Lampman Road Baptist Church in Gold Hill, Ore., where Darr also served as pastor, the ministry ran out of room for those seeking help. Darr searched for a new location without success until a golden opportunity was dropped from heaven.

"A man randomly came through and he told me about property he had that was available for Kingdom work," Darr said. "Within two weeks we signed paperwork for access to 166 acres of property, an amazingly scenic place to minister to these men."

The farm home on the property, originally built in 1904, was owned by a Dutch family whose last remaining member came to know Christ at age 91. With no other relatives, the owner wanted the land used for ministry.

"After sitting vacant for 14 years, we came upon it and God opened it up for us," Darr said. "We have a perpetual lease, that they practically gave to us and we can be there as long as we want. There is a group of trustees that manage it and now I have become a trustee as well."

The facilities on the grounds can currently house 25 men and U-Turn is considering renovating another on-site building into an apartment that would serve eight more. The property, which is just outside Grants Pass, also has other buildings that need restoration.

U-Turn for Christ now operates the Grants Pass location as a highly structured two-month program for those first leaving a life of addiction. Those who complete phase one then move to Gold Hill for another six months to continue the intensive effort toward a complete life change.

"It is a unique opportunity for those fresh from the streets or right out of the boardroom to focus on Christ and get well together," Darr said. "We try to limit the distraction of the outside world. They get on well together, and even though there has been normal bickering, that just allows opportunity to teach them resolution in godly ways."

Lampman Road Baptist Church merged with nearby Trinity Baptist Church in White City, with Darr continuing to serve as pastor. Serving alongside Darr is Jon Cavnar, a U-Turn graduate who uprooted his life to join the movement that changed his life.

"Jon, by all standards, was someone who society had given up on," Darr said. "In his early teens and 20s, he was a guy no one wanted to be around and spent part of his youth incarcerated. He got shot and spiraled in life, but God radically got ahold of him when he came through our ministry six years ago. He now has a beautiful wife and family and God was tugging on them to come back."

U-Turn hopes soon to establish a women's facility. The ministry receives almost as many requests for women as men. Darr wants to have a separate program for them up and running in 2017.

Graduates of the program have come from all over the United States but 75 percent are from the Northwest. Nearly 800 men have gone through rehabilitation at U-Turn since 2008. Participants produced 25,000 pounds of produce from the one-acre Gold Hill site prior to the move. Now 80 acres are set aside in Grants Pass for organic gardening.

"We use gardening to teach a work ethic and community involvement," Darr said. "We are now able to have livestock, including a horse, pigs and chickens. One of the greatest lessons they can learn is that addiction is a selfish pursuit. We teach to esteem others above themselves, a powerful lesson that can be learned in gardening and other pursuits. Other activities to give back to the community have included building ramps for the elderly and adopting a portion of a highway to keep clean."

While the men must contribute to enter U-Turn, financing the ministry is a constant need. "Funding for any church or ministry is often the biggest struggle," Darr said. "We are limited on what we can do and how we do it. We count heavily on churches to partner with us, so we spend time visiting in their services letting people know who we are. We will go anywhere to speak about our mission."

Success stories are readily recounted when the value of U-Turn for Christ is presented.

"We had a man named Tommy who had been a heroin addict for 25 years," Darr said. "He was married to a godly lady, but she finally divorced him because their son had been exposed to so much. After three years of no contact with them, he went through phase one at U-Turn and then into phase two. God then reignited their lives and they are remarried and living in Georgia, where he has a great relationship with his son. He owns his own landscaping business and is serving the Lord."

For further information about U-Turn for Christ, Darr can be contacted at uturn4christoregon.com or 541-295-5161.

Sheila Allen is managing editor of the Northwest Baptist Witness (www.goNBW.com), newsjournal of the Northwest Baptist Convention.
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