FBC Bonifay’s prayers answered for F.A.R.M. to help addicts
Aug 3, 2014
By CAROLYN NICHOLS
Florida Baptist Witness
BONIFAY (FBW)—A new ministry of First Baptist Church in Bonifay will soon offer hope of recovery to men struggling with addictions. Plans for the F.A.R.M. (Faith-based Addiction Regeneration Ministry) are taking shape in “an unbelievable series of events,” according to Pastor Shelley Chandler.
Chandler said requests for help with addiction problems “began coming across my desk” 11 years ago, soon after arriving in Bonifay. Three years ago, men of the church began praying about a ministry to addicts. They met every Tuesday at 6:30 a.m., not missing more than five Tuesday mornings in three years, the pastor said.
“We needed to know, ‘What is our role in this?’ ” he said. “We were led to pray for three things—a name, a place and direction.”
For years, Chandler had referred those who needed help with addiction to Dunklin Memorial Camp in Okeechobee, a 56-year-old facility with “close Baptist ties,” he said. Leaders of the South Florida facility became advisors to First Baptist in planning a ministry in Bonifay. The name, the F.A.R.M., was a suggestion from a couple in Okeechobee, and First Baptist readily adopted the name.
Meanwhile, Holmes County Baptist Association was struggling to maintain its little-used campground. The Holmes County Baptist Campground is now home to the F.A.R.M. after First Baptist leased the 22-acre site for five years at no charge.
A coalition of 10 sheriffs of Panhandle counties recently decided to donate some of the proceeds of the sales of seized goods to the F.A.R.M. By law, 10 percent of the sales must go to 501(c)(3) organizations, and “they are choosing us,” Chandler said.
Anticipating a need for a home for a future director of the F.A.R.M., the church put in a bid for $17,500 for a three-bedroom, double-wide modular home, and it was accepted. The almost-new modular home came with two-and-half acres of land. The company who was contracted to move it to the campground “traded out the land to move the trailer,” he said.
|THE LORD PROVIDES The F.A.R.M.’s first director, Jeremiah Guynn, and his family recently moved into a home at the campground where the ministry will be based. Guynn is a graduate of Dunklin Memorial Camp’s recovery ministry and its servant leadership training programs. Courtesy/Christina Guynn|
As First Baptist’s exploration board for the F.A.R.M. rejoiced in answered prayers, they were led to the F.A.R.M.’s first director. Jeremiah and Christina Guynn and their children, Andrew, 13, and Breannah, 10, moved into the modular home at the campground in June.
Guynn is a graduate of Dunklin Memorial Camp’s recovery ministry and its servant leadership training programs—a process of more than two years.
“You wouldn’t think that addiction is something to be thankful for, but I would not know the Lord like I do today if I had not been an addict.
The misery and hell of all that has gotten me where I am today,” Guynn said.
Guynn grew up in Cocoa Beach where his parents divorced when he was 11. He began “drinking and partying with my dad” at age 14.
Although his mother took him to church on Sundays, it made little difference in his life. He considered his unstable life “normal,” he said.
He made a profession of faith at a summer camp in Lake Wales, but continued a pattern of addiction. Guynn dropped out of high school at 15 as he “looked for anything that felt good.” He became addicted to painkillers, then IV painkillers and crack cocaine.
His wife of 13 years, Christina, left him, taking the children. She told him the only hope of saving their marriage was going to church. They began attending Hope Fellowship Church in Titusville, where they met Mark Swallo, who worked as chaplain at the Brevard County Jail.
Guynn said he often “went to church high.” Swallo approached him after a church service and asked, “Do you want help?” Guynn refused.
A short while later, Guynn was arrested on burglary and grand theft charges, and Christina left him again. He said he could not “stop the drugs” and became homeless.
He managed to talk a judge out of sending him to prison by claiming it was his first offense. Swallo again approached him.
“He asked me, ‘Do you want help now?’ and I said yes. Within a few months, Guynn was at Dunklin Memorial Camp, where his wife visited every weekend and took family classes with him.
“I was done. I was numb to reality and I believed my own lies. I had been tired for so long, but there I was able to rest—and peace came,” he said.
Guynn received a GED while living at Dunklin. Together, the Guynns began 14 months of training to prepare them to lead others in recovery.
The couple believes the Lord led them to the F.A.R.M. They were assured of His leading when they visited the F.A.R.M. in January.
While studying servant leadership at Dunklin and praying about his future, Guynn said the Lord showed him an oak tree with a wooden swing hanging from an extended limb. Thinking at first the tree was on Dunklin’s campus, Guynn said he looked in the backyards of dozens of homes on campus but could not find the tree.
As the couple was shown the site of their modular home at the F.A.R.M., each was stunned to see a large oak with a branch suitable for a swing. Christina said to her husband, “That’s your tree, isn’t it?” They, Pastor Chandler and other members of the exploration board rejoiced together.
“The pastor told us, ‘Take a picture of it so you can remember this moment when you saw God’s plan and His mysterious ways,’ ” Guynn said.
As the F.A.R.M. anticipates its first clients’ arrival in the fall, plans are underway to remodel and add on to an office building at the F.A.R.M. Eventually, the building will grow to three bedrooms and two baths and a shower. The building will be considered temporary housing while the larger pavilion on the campground is fashioned into bedrooms for 16 men.
“It’s rustic now, but it will get better,” Pastor Chandler said.
Live-in counselors will come from Dunklin’s Servant Leadership Training, and the first arrival of addicts may number 2-4.
“We’ll start slowly and grow,” Chandler said.
The F.A.R.M. is only one of the 23 ministries of First Baptist, most of which are “outwardly focused.” The church is focusing on the community’s needs, the pastor said. In addition to the F.A.R.M., the church ministers through a health clinic and a mobile home park ministry, and the church was recently given a 4,000-square-foot building in downtown Bonifay to begin a Hispanic church.
“All of a sudden the Lord is giving us evangelistic ministries. We really didn’t ask for them, but they have dropped out of the sky for us. God is doing this. I have to scratch my head when I consider the doors the Lord has constantly opened for us. God planned all of this. We didn’t,” the pastor said.
You must be login before you can leave a comment. Click here to Register if you are a new user.