Bibles and Breakfast
Lessons with the ‘Flunky Junkies’
If you step out for breakfast or dinner in the greater Worcester, Mass. area, you may run into a Flunky Junky Bible Study and Fellowship meeting. And you’ll overhear men confessing to one another their struggles with emotions, life, and addictions.
They’ll share their victories and express deep gratitude for having been given a second chance to fully engage in life and to learn how to do it through the study of God’s Word. And you’ll witness Captain Pat O’Gara, Administrator for Business for The Salvation Army’s Worcester Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC), lead the conversation.
“For one reason or another, these people have been discharged from the ARC program, or are no longer employed by The Salvation Army,” says O’Gara. “Nonetheless, we wanted to remain a part of their lives and to continue ministering to them. That’s how “Flunky Junky” started. At first, we were running it with only two former ARC graduates, Angel and Charlie.
“It was important to do this in a public setting,” says O’Gara. “Jesus died for us in public, so we want to return to Him in public. I also wanted it to be separate from the work done in the Salvation Army’s ARC building.”
The Flunky Junky Bible Study and Fellowship uses The Life Recovery Bible NLT, a biblical guide through the 12 steps of recovery, and its companion workbook as a biblical guide for the meetings. Rather than focus solely on recovery from drugs and alcohol, the Flunky Junky meetings are about recovering spiritually and reconnecting with God. When the Bible lesson is finished, the Flunky Junkies go to an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting together, carrying God’s message to other “brothers and sisters” who are trying to overcome their addictions.
A second chance
“My father went to church every day, but he also beat me every day,” recalls Angel, one of the original members of Flunky Junky. “My mother died when I was only five, and my father was in his 50s when I was born. So he had a real ‘old school’ way of raising a son. Naturally I rebelled, and when we moved from Brooklyn to Worcester, that was when my drug use really grew.
“When I finished the ARC program, I started going back to church after many years of being away. I even hosted Bible studies, which I enjoyed.”
Angel also became an employee of The Salvation Army as a resident manager for the building in the Worcester ARC. But a false accusation caused him to lose his job. Even after he cleared his name, he was unable to return to that position. “I understood why they had to do what they did, but I was angry,” he recalls.
Even though Angel found employment at a Salvation Army Family Store, the setback was devastating and could have threatened his recovery. “I knew that a lot of folks in a situation like mine go right back to using. But that wasn’t going to be me,” remembers Angel.
Fortunately, Angel had stayed in contact with Captain O’Gara. They decided to launch the Flunky Junky fellowship to give Angel and people in similar predicaments a second chance at Bible study. Angel asked his sponsor, Charlie, to participate. Although they occasionally clashed, Charlie, who had successfully graduated from the ARC program, seemed to be doing everything right in his own recovery and had been helping Angel through the steps.
Charlie says with a smile, “I know that sometimes I’m not the easiest person to work with. But an addict will soon find out that he can’t pull the wool over my eyes.” Prior to coming to the ARC, Charlie had been a drug addict for many years, but still found a way to provide for his family financially.
“I’m missing from my daughter’s prom pictures. She’s wearing a dress that I bought her. But that day, I was out using and running the streets. When she looks at those pictures, she thinks about who stood with her. That’s more important to her than what I had given her to wear. In a way, I cheated her and all my kids. Today, I tell beneficiaries, ‘Recover so you can have a future with your kids. If you don’t, the thought of what could have been—will eat you up.’”
After finishing the ARC program, Charlie continued to volunteer and to work with other addicts. He did that for so long, other beneficiaries thought he had failed the program and was repeating it. Ironically, he thought he had failed them.
“It came to the point when I had to leave my position. It hurt me to see them struggling, but when I reached out to them, I got no response. I guess I’m my own worst critic, but I seriously began to wonder, What am I doing wrong? Am I really helping them?”
The Flunky Junky Bible Study allowed Angel and Charlie to reconnect with what they loved to do—helping others through the Word of God.
Doug Mutton and his mother, Dee, also attend the Flunky Junky meetings. They are not part of the Army, nor are they addicts. But they joined their new friends to hear and to share life stories.
Says Doug, “One night while having dinner at a Burger King in Sturbridge, Mass., my mother and I were talking about taking a sabbatical from our church. That was when we saw the Captain across the room passing out Bibles at the tables. They were starting their lesson.
“We heard these men talk. And it was just awesome. It was what we were looking for. We introduced ourselves, and ever since then, we’ve been coming to the Flunky Junky meetings.
“We let God direct our feet, and He brought us here. Amazing things happen when we turn it all over to Him.”
On a warm Saturday morning in April, at the rear of a Burger King in Sturbridge, a Flunky Junky meeting begins. Captain O’Gara serves breakfast burritos. But before the lesson can start, Burger King employees, already familiar with the Flunky Junkies, come from behind the counter to sing Happy Birthday to Lee, one of the beneficiaries, who just turned 58. He smiles as they place a cake in front of him.
The opening verse is from Job 14. “How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble … Must you keep an eye on such a frail creature?” To this group, struggling with the plague of addiction, the verse resonates.
The topic of discussion is the question: “What are your objections to trusting God fully with your addiction and your life?”
Charlie begins by saying that, although He trusts the Lord with his life, he wonders, Why do I sometimes get the urge to slip back into addiction? How can I strengthen my will?
Angel says that he still asks God to help him with his newest addiction, the urge to help people overcome their demons—and the frustration and anger he feels when they “just don’t get it.”
“I want to step in, but I come off as too forceful,” he says. “I know this because I remember feeling the same way when people were trying to help me.”
Lee says that he has no choice but to believe that God will remove all addiction from his life. “A lot of times, I want to run. It can be so easy to do the wrong thing, but turning my back on my God will never be an option,” he says.
Doug confesses that even as a believer, he sometimes fears that God may not be there to catch him if he stumbles and falls. Dee describes the addictions that she or people close to her have gone through: excessive shopping, chain smoking, binge eating, and gambling. “That last one, gambling, is terrible,” says Dee. “It wasn’t me doing it, but it hurt me as much as if it was.”
John, the youngest and newest Flunky Junky, admits that putting his trust in God is still new to him. He remembers being so unhappy that he abused anything, from coffee to drugs—whatever would distract him. He’s learning that what he really needs is to speak to God, and ask Him for guidance.
“I just wanted a decent, happy life. I never wanted money or a mansion. Now when I go to bed clean, I wake up clean, and that makes me feel rich.”
Watching and listening
“We are all in this together,” says Charlie. “If there are seven of us when we discuss the same verse, then we hear seven testimonies, learn seven lessons, and share seven lives. And now, those lives belong to all of us.”
“I wouldn’t say that the Flunky Junky Bible Study is an ‘open–air ministry,’ but it comes pretty close,” says Captain O’Gara. “We’ve had people take pictures with us. Some listen from afar to what we’re saying. It’s interesting how the Lord works. We don’t look for the attention, but we welcome anyone who approaches us.”
As another lesson comes to a close, the Flunky Junkies gather their Bibles and prepare to go to their recovery meeting. Customers in the Burger King have been watching and listening to the conversation. They quietly continue eating their meals, but stay seated until the Flunky Junkies also rise.
by Hugo Bravo