Home of Grace welcomes alumni for celebration - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Home of Grace welcomes alumni for celebration

By Sylvia Hall – bio | email

VANCLEAVE, MS (WLOX) - Many of the hundreds of people in Wade Baptist Church Saturday afternoon have seen the depths of addiction.

Surrounded by friends and family, they exchanged hugs, cheers and tears of joy as they returned to the place many of them said gave them a new life. That place is the Home of Grace.

"I never dreamed that I would be standing here today, and I would be sober," said Melanie Cefalu, who gave her testimony at the ceremony.

Cefalu is among the Home of Grace graduates who traveled to South Mississippi for homecoming. Now, an addiction counselor in Baton Rouge, her life is completely different from the day she came to the faith-based program more than eight years ago.

"My life was over at that point," said Cefalu. "I really thought I was just washed up."

She credited faith, as taught by the Home of Grace, as the base of her recovery.

"The first thing is that I had to be forgiven of my past," said Cefalu. "And then my heart, I had a new heart. And I learned to fill it with the love of different things that the Lord put into my heart."

Steven Foster, another alumnus, works at Home of Grace. He said a scholarship to the program was his ticket to recovery.

"It really gets to the point of total distress to where you don't even know about your next breath," said Foster. "That's the very time that I realized how much I needed Jesus Christ.  And then, in finding him, through my opportunity to have been at the Home of Grace, I realize He's the only thing I've ever needed."

According to officials, nearly 40,000 people have come through the Home of Grace program in the past 45 years. Directors Billy and Shellene Barton said the reunion is a way to remind the graduates and their families the Home of Grace still cares about them and still supports them in their road to recovery, even years later.

"We want them to know that we want to keep them involved, keep them in touch, and it's just a shot in the arm," said Barton. "And sometimes they may be a little bit down or a little bit discouraged. It lets them come back and get excited again, get excited about the Lord again."

Mrs. Barton said the homecoming isn't solely for the graduates. It's also a celebration of the other lives touched by addiction and then recovery.

"It's not just about the individuals that come through the program, their families are affected," said Barton. "So the homecoming celebration, you can see how many people came back from the program, not just the graduates but their entire families because their lives were changed, and it's a new beginning. And they're here to celebrate that."

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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