By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
BALTIMORE, Md.—Hazelwood Church members, Don and Melisa Riffle, look back on the last few years in awe. They can’t believe how bad things were and how God delivered them.
“My husband was suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. I had to kick him out of the house for a few months,” Melisa said with emotion in her voice. Don had tried Narcotics Anonymous, but it just wasn’t successful. Melisa prayed for Godly men to surround her husband.
“I came to the point where I had to make a decision one way or another about what I was going to do. I had been going to church for about eight years. I knew about God, but I didn’t have a personal relationship with Him. I was at my wits end. I got down on my knees and asked God for help,” Don shared. He turned his life over to Jesus.
God answered those prayers in the form of Stauros, an addiction ministry that focuses primarily on one-on-one mentoring and support. Melisa heard about the program through a friend who attended White Marsh Church, which hosted Stauros rallies and fellowships. She heard that John Burghauser, the only full-time pastoral worker in America, and some of his volunteers were going to share with White Marsh Church’s youth group. Melisa asked if she could sit in.
Afterwards, she felt Stauros was where God was leading her and her husband. She asked Don to talk with Burghauser. Don agreed and after meeting with Burghauser, Don’s life began to change and his Christian walk flourished. Melisa slowly allowed Don back into their home.
Melisa also had to heal from the experience. She explained that Stauros views addiction as sin. “That helped me digest what was going on. We all sin.” She was especially grateful for how the group supported her. “Everyone was so kind,” Melisa said, adding that unlike many support groups Stauros encompasses addicts and their loved ones. “When you’re in these types of situations you’re isolated. It’s like you have to relearn how to socialize. It was so great to have fellowship.”
As Don began growing, he wanted to help others. “I began asking what’s next. I got the part about staying clean. I got involved in the local church, teaching Sunday school, but I felt I needed to do more to help people struggling with addictions.” He had been helping another church member, Will Dubose who was also recovering from addiction problems.
Dubose was growing in the Lord, and even became a deacon shortly after Don did. When Don and Dubose talked to Burghauser about a way to help others, Burghauser suggested having Stauros meetings and one-on-one mentoring. Don and Dubose began having the meetings, taking turns leading them. When Dubose died after battling cancer, Melisa stepped in to help her husband lead the group.
Melisa went on to begin meeting one-on-one with several of the ladies as well as having ladies’ group meetings.
“Stauros gave us hope and helped us grow in Christ,” Melisa said. The couple is also very appreciative of Hazelwood’s pastor, Ed Reese, and his wife, Jody, for their ongoing support.
Stauros Ministries is a sister of the United Kingdom group, The Stauros Foundation. The Foundation was seeking to expand into the United States and they sought God for the right person for that position. They found him in John Burghauser, a former member of White Marsh Church. He and his wife, Peggy, recently moved from the White Marsh area, though they still have Stauros rallies and other events at White Marsh Church. Burghauser, a recovered addict himself, labors to build the ministry, faithfully meeting with struggling addicts, leading them to a saving knowledge of Jesus and discipling them. Now those disciples and others who see the merits of Stauros are stepping up to stand alongside Burghauser. Stauros now has two paid part-time staff members, including Peggy, now the administrator and Kim Arrogancia, a former White Marsh member who now does ministry in Florida, and seven volunteers (including the Riffles).
“It’s really exciting,” Burghauser said, stressing that Stauros isn’t really interested in having more meetings or even getting the name out there – but is focused on keeping that simple person-to-person foundation, educating volunteers, keeping clients protected and becoming a resource for churches.
Stauros also has a band now comprised of former addicts and friends of Stauros. “It’s a great forum for them to use the gifts they have,” Burghauser said. The band travels to different churches presenting concerts with testimonies. They’ve even released a CD, “He Has Set Me Free.”
Stauros is Greek for “the cross” and the philosophy of Stauros is that all the needs and sin in today’s society can be healed at the cross of Jesus. For information about Stauros, or to have Baughauser and/or the band perform, call (443) 791-1599 or email [email protected].