By Stephanie Dolan
Volunteers from a local church are helping mothers and pregnant women in recovery from addiction with a fresh start in life – by introducing them to the love of Christ.
Emmanuel Church is a non-denominational multi-site church – one church in multiple locations – that offers live or video-streamed services at three physical locations on the Southside of Indy. Those locations include a Greenwood campus that opened in 1977, the Banta Road campus that opened in 2013 and the Franklin campus that opened in 2015. Also included is the Emmanuel Church Online Campus, established in 2017.
According to the church, they average more than 4,700 weekend attendees at four campuses, and they attributes this growth to relevant and authentic teaching and an unyielding pursuit of those who are far from God.
Pastor Danny Anderson has served Emmanuel Church as lead pastor since 2006, and the church partners with many local organizations who are helping to meet the practical and spiritual needs of the Indianapolis community, including the Shepherd Community Center. Each year, Emmanuel sends teams to Nicaragua, Colombia, Haiti and Rwanda to assist with needed projects and share the love of Christ.
Another of the projects near and dear to the hearts of those at Emmanuel Church is a new microsite at Theodora House, an outpatient treatment and residential recovery center at 927 N. Pennsylvania St. Theodora House helps mothers recover from opioid and other drug additions and have healthy children. The program serves pregnant women as well as mothers dealing with addiction.
According to the National Women’s Health Network, women are more likely than men to experience chronic pain and utilize prescription opioid pain medications for longer periods and in high doses. From 2003 to 2012, heroin use in women has doubled.
The facility helps with not only addiction treatment, but also mental health treatment, parenting skills development, housing assistance, aftercare planning, family and couples counseling, connections to community resources and court advocacy. The staff is trained in trauma-informed care, gender responsive care, motivational interviewing, and signs of abuse, crib safety and age-appropriate activities for children.
“Theodora House is a recovery addiction program for women,” Emmanuel Church volunteer Angie Funkhouser said. “They were partnering with Johnson County Jail for women who needed somewhere to go – they were part of that deal. We called just to get to know them so we could do a Bible study. They do amazing work for women in recovery.”
Every Sunday, Theodora House hosts two online services – one at 9 a.m. and the other at 11 a.m.
“We stream (Senior) Pastor Danny’s (Anderson) sermon in and then we sit and talk with them about it afterwards,” Funkhouser, 62, said. “We also have a program that not only follows his sermon but also gives seven days of reading and notes they can take until they get together again the next week.”
“We’ve been affiliated with Theodora House for six months,” Rev. Rachel Long of Emmanuel Church said. “To draw people to Christ we must behave like Christ. We bring the service into the establishments through our Lead Pastor Danny Anderson. We believe when they hear the gospel they will experience a heart transformation.”
Approximately six volunteers from Emmanuel Church rotate through Theodora House each week.
“If people were able to see what we’ve seen and heard what we’ve heard everybody would want to be doing this,” Funkhouser said. “It’s just sad that there’s so few people who can experience it. When we take somebody new in with us you can just watch them get emotionally get overwhelmed with it because there’s such a need there.”
Creating life changes
“It starts in the Bible in Matthew,” fellow volunteer Rhonda Upchurch said. “We’re sent to the prison. For me personally, God meets us in our hardest places. It takes others to sometimes come alongside us to create life change. None of us can do this alone. There are people praying right now for others who are in hard places. If we can be that bridge to help restore families and bring them Christ so these people have a chance, I’m honored that God would use me in that way. We could just tell you story after story of people who get their lives back. These people are not just their decisions. We’re all just one bad decision from being behind bars. These people deserve to be restored to their children and their families. To get a front row seat to the miraculous to watch God do what he does is amazing.”
“With the drug epidemic, most of these people are not criminally-minded people,” Funkhouser said. “They got caught up in the drugs and just went down a really bad hole and lost everything in life including family and friends.”
“We pray they feel loved,” Long said. “We pray that they will see that there are Christ’s followers who are pulling for them. We ultimately pray that they either come to Christ or start growing in Christ through getting plugged into a campus where they can join a small group, begin deepening their faith by serving and giving and that they will experience the peace of a transformed heart.”
“It’s a collective effort on the part of everyone,” Upchurch said.
“We have the honor and the privilege of bringing light into a dark place – to people who are struggling and who seem to be forgotten,” Funkhouser said.