21 September 2017

Betel of Ireland Giving Broken Lives New Direction

Betel of Ireland is a caring, not-for-profit Christian community dedicated to restoring homeless and long-term unemployed people to healthy, independent lifestyles. We train men in a wide range of life and employment skills, enabling them to rebuild a strong work ethic. Our residence is drug- and alcohol- free and totally free of charge. Betel of Ireland opened in late 2006 and has premises in Shankill, just outside of Dublin. Currently 10 men and a couple reside there. Betel began in Spain in the 1980s (Betel is the Spanish word for the Bethel of the Bible, which means ‘house of God’). Since that time it has grown into 22 nations and 85 urban areas.

All of our residents enter and exit voluntarily. We suggest men plan to join us for a minimum of 12 to 18 months. Everyone is required to do a telephone interview before being offered entrance. Following the interview, we receive people quickly, usually within one to five days of making their first contact. We accept residents of 17 years (with parental permission) and older.

Betel is different from many rehabilitation centres as it does not seek to do ‘professional’ rehab with psychologists, psychiatrists and other staff members. Our approach is to introduce people to a family environment with Christian teaching, and to engage them in work that then funds their rehabilitation. Betel is run by the recovering addicts themselves and a few missionaries, who do not take payment for their work, but are supported from a home church in the same way as missionaries to the developing world would be. The approach is to build a church and a Christ-centred community, using ministerial skills like scripture and prayer to address people’s issues rather than a clinical approach. There is prayer and worship every morning and regular Bible study.

Betel’s focus is to make disciples who yield their lives to the Lord. Betel deals with the mind-set of an addict – typically, “give me a quick fix that will make me feel better…pray over me and make it all go away.” It takes commitment, planning and hard work with all eyes on Christ, to become like Him.

One of the ways in which recovery is achieved is through the intensity of closeknit communal living, with strict boundaries and clear consequences if rules are broken. Living at close quarters puts the attitudes and behaviours of the residents under a microscope, and some see this as one of the main methods for healing.

In many ways Betel is stricter than a lot of mainstream rehabilitation centres; no drugs are allowed, including prescription drugs where these have a psychoactive effect.
No-one is allowed to smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol. When addicts arrive at Betel, they are expected to be ready to stop taking drugs. After a period of detoxing, the rehabilitation programme begins. The clients are accompanied everywhere and must follow strict rules within the houses where they live. They work full-time during the week, so at one level, it may seem harsh, but there is a warmth and love in the environment that balances the regime. Residents soon discover that life at Betel is not a goal-oriented programme but rather a commitment to daily choice—to aspire to the values and pursuits of a new and healthier lifestyle, as modelled by mature Christians. In the ‘advance-at-your-own pace’ environment, residents observe and learn character-building principles. They live out these principles at home and at work, building strong foundations for a stable future—off the streets, with the will to work, and living drug- and alcohol-free lives.

Community leaders and their immediate families live on-site. They form an integral part of the extended-family atmosphere. The most capable and compassionate of Betel “graduates” are often invited to become support staff. Having been ‘through it’, their first-hand experience and lessons thus learned are an invaluable encouragement to newer residents.

Residents help to fund their own recovery by working in one of our charitable businesses. This significantly reduces the financial burden on their families and the government while restoring self-dignity and a sense of purpose. The result is that, on leaving Betel, they contribute positively to their own family life and society.

Meaningful work is vital to long-term recovery. It takes many forms, from the necessity of daily chores in our residences, to the responsibility of managing a Betel business in the local community. Daily teamwork helps to build job skills, diligence, punctuality, dependability, self-esteem and respect for supervisors.

Residents are supervised and orientated to the realities of today’s working world in one of Betel’s workshops or businesses, which can include: furniture repair, house removals and clearances, garden maintenance and landscaping and painting and decorating.

Betel can be summed up as a place of love, acceptance and mercy, but it has strict boundaries and rules that challenge.

GLOBAL GOSPEL www.betelireland.org

Betel is open to anyone who is willing to follow the community rules and wants to be free from all mind-altering drugs. Anyone can call Betel of Ireland (00353)1 282 1207 (from the UK) or 01 282 1207 (from the South of Ireland) on a weekday and may be admitted within several days. See www.betelireland.org for more information.

WORDS BETH BIRMINGHAM