A New Chapel, A New Life
Tim Humphrey smiled often, sang with joy from the choir, and shed a lot of tears the day the new chapel was dedicated at the Wilkes–Barre, Pa., Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC).
His reaction is understandable when you consider that Humphrey, an ARC beneficiary and carpenter, helped build the chapel.
“When I started working here, it was overwhelming to think about how many souls could be saved in this building,” Humphrey says while looking around at the handiwork.
Humphrey, who has some 40 years in the construction business, had graduated from the ARC program just last July when a Christian–owned company, Twin City Builders, hired him. The firm’s first job was to build a new chapel for the ARC complex in Wilkes–Barre.
A miracle job
A mason by trade, Humphrey took a job as a carpenter on the project. Major Kathleen Wadman, the ARC’s director of program and residential services, called Humphrey’s hiring a “miracle.”
“He cried every day,” Wadman says. “He has been through a lot in his life.”
Humphrey, 62, grew up in Bridgeport, N.J., in what he calls a “dysfunctional home.” His father was a truck driver and often on the road, and his mother struggled with alcohol.
“There was a lot of turmoil and unhappiness,” he says. “I looked outside the house for happiness.”
Humphrey found the Boy Scouts and eventually became an Eagle Scout, the organization’s highest rank.
“It’s about the only thing I ever completed,” he says.
Tim went to church as a youngster, but it never stuck. He was 12 when he and two friends got some beer and went into the woods.
“Drinking was a problem right from the beginning,” he says. “I’ve never had any success controlling my use of alcohol or drugs. And for many years, I didn’t try to control it.
“It was bad when I was in high school, but it was worse when I got out. I did marijuana, heroin, and everything in between. I was pretty messed up.”
Humphrey said he went “buck wild” for a decade or so. In 1976, he entered the military in an attempt to straighten out his life. But it didn’t work.
“The scars on my face tell the story,” he says. “I was in many accidents. But God kept me alive through the whole thing. I’ve been blessed.
“My past has been checkered, to say the least. The only reason I’m alive today is because I’ve spent half of my life in recovery.”
In 1982, Humphrey almost died twice. He went through the windshield of his car when a drunk driver, traveling 70 mph, hit him head–on. He also nearly bled to death when someone struck him in the back with an ax handle during a fight. The encounter also left him with a damaged spleen. Humphrey later survived two heroin overdoses, thanks to medical help.
The next year, Humphrey entered rehab for the first time at the Veterans Medical Center in Coatesville, Pa. For the next seven years he stayed sober, but then he relapsed. In subsequent years, he went through several rehab programs. But due to his continued drinking, two marriages ended in ruins.
In 2003 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Humphrey sat on a bench, out of money, and about to lose his hotel room. Then he saw a sign across the street that read: “Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center.”
“I didn’t even know what it was,” he recalls.
Humphrey applied for and was accepted into the program. He joined the ARC choir of 100 men who sang in a small chapel.
Holy Spirit’s visit
“At first, I had my head down. But all of a sudden, I started bawling my eyes out,” he says. “That was my first experience with the feeling of the Holy Spirit—through singing.” In that moment, he experienced “something different.”
“I learned how to survive,” he says.
Humphrey even went through the rehab program at the ARC in Wilmington, Del., and felt good about his future. However, after a few years of staying away from church and from fellowship with other Christians, he relapsed again.
“I ran around chasing money for a few years, but I was soon back on alcohol and drugs,” he says.
On one construction job in Maryland, Tim says he went from being a good supervisor to “just another drunk.” He lost the respect of his men. While living in a hotel, Tim realized he needed help.
In January 2015, he called the Wilkes–Barre, Pa., ARC. “Something had happened to me,” he says. “I knew that I needed God and I thought the best way to do it was to come here because I could work on my relationship with Jesus and with God.
“It took off. This has been the best place I’ve ever come to and I think all the preparation to get here has made me feel that way.”
A new life
Humphrey said the main thing he found in Wilkes–Barre was unconditional love.
“Don’t get me wrong, it was also there in the other places, but this was different,” he says. “Undoubtedly, the hand of God is here through everyone in this program.
“That’s what proved to me that Jesus and God were true. When I was struggling, I needed proof. I think the human kindness and spectacular things that people did for me were that proof.”
While working on the ARC chapel was a blessing, Humphrey would come home tired. He neglected his Bible reading and prayer, as well as his Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings.
More work to do
In January of this year, Tim relapsed a few weeks after being laid off. He is back at the ARC, a member of the “tune–up track.”
“I took it upon myself to stop the things that got me where I was,” he says. “It’s an instant problem when that happens to me.
“It takes vigilance. I felt the best I’d ever felt when I graduated from here and went to work, but as time went on, I slacked off on my recovery and my prayer life. Without strengthening my faith and continuing to grow, I strayed.”
Wadman said many beneficiaries “think they’ve arrived” after they graduate, but that’s not the case.
“That’s when the hard work really begins,” she says. “I think Tim learned from his relapse that he can’t do it on his own. “Even when they relapse, I let them know that they can come back and start over. We’re an organization of second chances in The Salvation Army.”
Today, Humphrey says he feels spiritually strong, but admits to being nervous about the future. With the chapel now built, Humphrey is building his Christian life.
“They say, ‘take one day at a time.’ I know my God won’t let me down, but I still have to do some footwork and continue on,” he says.
Humphrey says when he struggles now, “my belief is not weak anymore, but strong.”
“I have faith in the Bible,” he says. “I believe it’s true. I believe what I’m learning is true. I don’t doubt anything anymore and that’s a big start right there.”
Major Bea Connell, the ARC’s associate administrator for program, said Humphrey has had an influence on the younger men. He has also worked hard in the choir.
“He has given his heart and soul to everything he has done,” she says. “He’s been a real inspiration—even to me.”
Singing in the choir has been a highlight for Humphrey.
“I can’t wait to sing in the new chapel here because the acoustics are so good,” he says. “I joined the choir the first week I was here and it has been a big part of my recovery. It’s given me confidence. It’s been a rewarding experience.”
Humphrey said he spent the first part of his life living for himself and recently decided, “Why don’t I serve God with the rest of my life?” Whenever possible, Humphrey tries to “grab the new guy” and impart his experience.
Leaving a legacy
“Helping a newcomer is the key to staying fresh,” he says. “That’s really where true happiness comes from. When I’m helping someone, that’s when I feel the best. There’s several ways to be helpful through The Salvation Army.”
Humphrey said the new chapel he helped build will help people for years to come.
“The way it’s built, I think it should last 500 years,” he says. “It’s built like a fortress.”
by Robert Mitchell
photography by Susan Magnano