In the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, there’s a residential recovery facility dedicated to sobriety and spirituality. After seeking faith-based help for his substance abuse struggles, founder Jim Claffee turned his life around and decided to open his own facility. Started in 1948, Bethel Colony of Mercy is located in Lenoir, North Carolina, and it’s from here that missionaries are still helping men battle addiction.
Accommodations and Food
Bethel Colony of Mercy’s residential complex accommodates 82 men in dorm-like quarters. Each room has two beds, a desk and either a multi-shelved armoire or dresser—bathrooms are shared between 10 men.
The cafeteria receives supplies via donations or food banks. The menu includes things like casseroles, pot roast, chicken, green vegetables, soups, sandwiches and various starches (e.g., rolls)—water and soda accompany each meal. Though caffeine isn’t generally allowed, Pepsi sometimes donates beverages; but these drinks are served only during mealtime.
Treatment and Staff
Bethel Colony of Mercy is a faith-based program so there are no clinical or medical practices here and it requests that any detox take place prior to registering. However, it does offer its services to dual diagnosis clients.
All clients start with a 65-day program, with the possibility of four 30-day extensions—if a client desires more time—and a six-month vocational student program. Every client is assigned a primary counselor. Residents receive one individual session per week, but if a client is experiencing problems, their counselor will make room for them. Rather than group therapy, pastor-counselors teach classes. Again, there are no doctors, psychologists or psychiatrists—they call their approach “new-setting pastoral counseling.” Instead of 12-step meetings, residents are required to attend a local church, where they can testify and fellowship with the congregation. Bethel Colony of Mercy also holds three on-site services per week—two mornings and one evening.
A large portion of the program at Bethel Colony of Mercy is peer driven. The men are given assignments after attending classes—things like working in the kitchen, general housekeeping and chores—working alongside other men who’ve also been through Bethel’s program. The idea is for alumni to act as mentors, guiding new clients through early recovery much like a 12-step sponsor.
Residents get a total of four visits while staying at Bethel—family only. After a client completes his initial 10 days, his family is allowed to join him during any church service. If loved ones desire a more personal visit, they may come on Saturdays between 3 pm and 10 pm, or Sundays between morning and evening service. (Please note that weekend visits count as only one. Therefore, family members can come a total of four weekends.) Should a resident request it, family can participate in counseling. The first session is restricted to a husband and wife—the other members are brought in afterward. Bethel Colony of Mercy will also permit extended family members to visit, but only as a special request.
This is a working program. Clients are expected to be of service to each other and to the facility. Monday through Saturday, residents wake at 6:30 am for breakfast at 7. Room inspection follows at 7:30 am—beds must be made and rooms clean. 7:55 am is devotion time, with a Bible class at 8:30. Work assignments, including kitchen chores and general housekeeping, begin after class, with a break for lunch at noon. The work day doesn’t end until 4:30 pm, with cleanup and dinner at 5. Evening service begins at 6:30 pm (Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday only). After supper, if there isn’t an evening class, residents are given free time. Lights out is at 10:30 pm. On Sundays, residents have Bible study, prayer, an early morning worship service and an evening chapel service.
Five pastors and 12 staff members are available to Bethel Colony of Mercy’s clients—a client-to-staff ratio of roughly five-to-one. Though not all employees are alums, every staff member has been through some sort of faith-based-treatment program. With the exception of one female, the staff is all male. All but two staff members live on campus, allowing for 24/7 assistance.
Bethel Colony of Mercy not only welcomes those struggling with substance abuse, but also men with behavioral health issues, like eating disorders. Six-month residents enjoy extra-curricular activities such as bowling, barbequing in the mountains, visiting the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte and field trips to the Waldensian Trail of Faith.
Residents have access to an on-site weight room, a basketball court, Ping-Pong/air-hockey table and softball field—exercise is optional but encouraged. The media room has a computer lab, but it’s restricted to program-related use.
For Bethel Colony of Mercy, clinical methods are not the only way to find a better way of living. Ultimately, it’s a great option for men who are open to spirituality and on a tight budget—out in the country and away from urban chaos.
Bethel Colony of Mercy
1675 Bethel Colony Rd
Lenoir, NC 28645
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