The face of hope

Published 11:59 pm Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Crossover Ministry executive director Todd Sasser says there is hope for those who suffer from drug addiction, and he is living proof.

Crossover Ministry, located in Opp, is a faith-based rehabilitation program that helps drug users overcome their addictions. Sasser began the ministry in January 2005, four years after he was arrested for manufacturing methamphetamine.

“God intervened and I was able to get out on bond and get a chance to go to rehab for four months,” he said. “I stayed on working at that rehab place for two and a half years, and then I felt the calling to start a faith-based recovery program here in Covington County.”

Sasser said his story of addiction is similar to many other people’s stories. A self-described “country boy,” he said that peer pressure to try alcohol eventually led to trying marijuana and speed, and eventually to heavy meth use.

“It just controls you — that was my world,” he said. “I felt like if I stayed high enough, I wouldn’t be bothered by all the other pressures of the world. For 33 years of my life, I was one heartbeat away from dying and spending my life in hell. I would wake up in the morning, and I didn’t even want to face the world.”

Sasser said that God tried to put people in his life to convince him to give up the drug addiction, but he stubbornly ignored their advice. He has been clean for eight years and said working at Crossover is just one of the many blessings God has given him.

“There are probably 1,000 people in this county right now who want to get out of the mess their lives are in,” he said. “I get to see a few dozen people and see how God can work in their lives, and hopefully I can give back just a little bit of what He has done for me. I feel like I am the most blessed man alive.”

Sasser said when he first considered the idea of Crossover Ministry, it was as a vision that God put on his heart. Slowly but surely, that vision began to come into focus.

“I just asked God what more we could do,” he said. “And I got this picture of a ministry here in Covington County. The people were all standing there in prayer, and absorbing the word of God and having their sin lifted from their hearts. It was hard to imagine almost five years ago, but little by little, that picture is starting to come true.”

Crossover Ministry is an eight-month recovery program that includes four months of residential treatment and four months of follow-up care where the client can choose to either return home or remain at Crossover. Residents have a busy daily schedule that includes study, worship and manual labor — either in the ministry’s garden, at the Opp Service Center or by doing local yard work.

“It’s important for us to keep them busy,” Sasser said. “If we don’t always give them something to do, they’ll get bored and want to go home.”

In May, Crossover accepted women into the program for the first time. Sasser said there are several female staff members at Crossover who only work with the female residents, and that the men and women are always kept separated.

“We were about five weeks into a class, and one of the male residents here asked me, ‘Todd, are there really women here? I haven’t seen any of them.’ I know that’s a big concern of some of the people in the community, and we make every precaution to keep the sexes separated.”

Crossover Ministry is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and Sasser said it would not be possible without the help of countless volunteers, as well as the 10 full-time staff members. The ministry also has a full-time board of directors, which Sasser called “a previous board full of godly men.”

“We have churches who will come in and prepare meals every week, and then there are some people who volunteer their time nearly every day,” Sasser said. “Our volunteers are so precious. We’ve always said this is God’s ministry and he will provide for us. There would not be a Crossover Ministry here, if it were not for the people of Covington County.”

Sasser said he does not know how many people have overcome their addictions at Crossover, but he estimates a success rate of more than 65 percent. One goal of the ministry is for every recovered client to join a church.

“It is important for them to have that social network, that group of friends who will hold them accountable,” he said. “And there’s also the spiritual side of it. Man cannot overcome drugs or any other addiction without the help of God.

“If you’re trying to get off drugs without God, then you’re going to fail. Drug use is a sin, and until you get rid of that sin in your life and turn to Christ, then you’ll never be truly drug free.

“The greatest ‘high’ I have ever felt in my life was the day that I was saved.”