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“Skin In the Game” – How a Local Faith-Based Group Is Providing More Than Lip Service To the Addicted/Incarcarated

By Scott Jester, 11/5/21 9:20 PM


Have you ever heard of the term “skin the in game”? It’s a phrase used in reference as to whether you are serious about your intentions on a subject matter. Your intentions are so serious that you are willing to go the extra mile, to do whatever it takes to see your intentions through.

Meet a group of local men who comprise the leadership team of Banner Hope Center. It is their sole purpose is to provide an avenue of help to the drug addicted, and in many cases, incarcerated in the local jail system. They are not investing simply time, money and prayers, these leaders are investing man hours, painful expertise on the subject of drug addiction, and a way into an learned skill that returns real money while still in the system.

Trying to see the forest AND the trees of the Banner Hope leadership group is Brother Daniel Bramlett, Pastor at First Baptist Church in Hope.

A Hope native who was raised in the same church he now leads. He returned to his hometown in 2017 and since has identified a need through diligent prayer to do something to combat the number one challenge in this area, drug addiction.

Since then, the Banner Hope group created a teen rehab that was partnered with the local juvenile drug court and was performing well for two years before COVID claimed both in 2020.

“We were sick of young men from this area, leave this area, get clean and build a network in another city or area only to come home and fail because they left their network (of support),” Bramlett said recently during a meeting of the Banner Hope leadership team.

“Their safety net is where they do their rehab work but when they come home, it falls apart because their network here is still messed up,” he affirmed.

Bramlett and his group now have been led through careful prayer that the Church (figurative) could be used for drug rehabilitation. Meaningful drug rehabilitation. Future-shaping rehabilitation.

“Show us how the Church could function as a rehab,” Bramlett says with an earnestness in his voice in their prayers. “WE can be that safety net.”

In order to create the safety net, first comes training on how to approach the fundamentals of drug rehabilitation. And, remember readers, we are not referring to the proper training of how to pull off the perfect wedding reception. This topic is ugly. It’s about kids as young as 13 being introduced to drugs for the first time by their mom or dad and who has grown to now 35-years-old and wanting out. Wanting out of anyplace including this world but not so lonely as to admit their own child to the deadly club.

So, for the training, meet Rusty Beck, who will be the point man for the leadership group and the face in the community.

Beck came to Bramlett and First Baptist Church after serving as a four-year staff member at Renewal Ranch located in Conway. Renewal Ranch is a faith-based rehab located on a 116-acre ranch that works with men ages 21 and up.

Beck is quick with a firm handshake and smile. He’s crisp clear-eyed and a young man that seems to be moving with a purpose. It’s because he is, the purpose of helping other young men, who were like he was once, drug-addicted and broken, but now clean and looking to add to the roster of success stories.

Bramlett also relies upon the partnership created with the court system and sheriff’s office, as well as, Helen Beyers with Hope in Action.

Equally important was a connection made with a group in Truman, Arkansas that has begun their own church that serves mostly addicts. They shared much of the learning notes and materials of what to do and not to do when trying to get started on such an ambitious undertaking. Then COVID made its presence felt and all the work ceased.

“When COVID hit, we had about nine guys in various stages of recovery,” Bramlett said.

“And so, we began praying with our desire to positively affect the drug community. It has been our stated goal that we want to eliminate drugs as the number one obstacle in this generation.”

“We went to Sheriff Singleton and approached him with an idea of having a full-on drug rehab inside his facility,” Bramlett continued.

“To say he was intrigued was an understatement,” he continued. “He leaned across his desk that day and asked “can we start tomorrow’”?

The group next took a trip to DeQueen in Sevier County to study a one-of it’s-kind rehab that operates out of the jail that is partnered with First Assembly (of God) and the First Baptist Church in DeQueen.

In fact, Streaming Channel Discovery Plus has a new reality-based show directly focused on the program titled “The Program: Prison Detox”, which chronicles the lives of several participating in the program, their successes and failures. So, the program has caught the attention of the nation, we equally pray for its successes to lead to more wins in other places.

Good things are equally happening on the Hempstead County front now. “We will be hiring staff on both sides, the jail and here at Banner Hope, Bramlett stated. “We have a list of curricula a mile long that we will be teaching. We are unashamed to say it will be Christian-based.”

Give addicts a fresh opportunity. Give them a possible future without drugs. Give them something to cling to that could lead to a spiritual eternity.

“We are going to go through an extensive interview with the residents, the Lord has gifted me with that gift of “discernment”, of who is just blowing smoke and who is for real. We get guys who are completely broken down and in tears and you know that this guy right here is ready and then you will see another who is there to say anything to sell you something.”

“Even a person that breaks down and shows you that side of them is no guarantee they will break free,” softly interjects Val Knight, another leader in the Banner Hope Center group serving as Curriculum Director.

“It really and truly does have everything to do with discipleship,” Knight reiterated. “Whether a person is willing to truly sell-out to Christ and walk with him. It’s not a lone wolf situation, but, in Christ, it’s about a family.”

Knight’s curriculum will consume approximately 80 percent of what happens with working with the addict. There will be much training for all involved on both sides of the equation: teacher and trainee.

The intent is to treat the entire person, becoming educated on things related to the family, work, finances, scripture, discipleship and worship wrapped together.

That’s a full day. Every moment is filled with learning and love of the Lord.

A pretty good combination when compared to repeating costly mistakes daily, and hating everyone’s life, mostly your own when you’re an addict.

Eric Turner was born and raised in Hope. He says he was doing “pretty good in life” had a “good family”, was an athlete. “About 18, I started drinking, partying and stuff. Real quickly I got in trouble and started messing with more drugs and rehabs.”

Turner says “I went to jail for plenty of stuff and then to prison in 2010,” as easily as someone ordering dinner. It could easily be looked upon as part of what made him up. As who he was then and who was standing here today, reflecting new, different colors used in God’s masterpiece.

“I was about 33 and was tired and broken and I finally surrendered my life to him and there’s been that turnaround,” he said with a beaming smile. “I went to church here younger and I came back to Hope Baptist since then and I’ve been reunited with my classmate here at the table,” he says looking over at Bramlett. “We sort of took two different paths in life,” the two chuckled together.

Turner was part of the early planning stages of Banner Hope and considered the lead pastor of the group.

“We began to get together and pray and God began to open these doors,” he says. “Here we are four years later. We want to see lives changed. After seeing my own life change and pulling me from it, how can you not want to be used to do the same?

“In the DeQueen program, the recidivism rate was 70 plus percent before starting this program,” stated Beck. “It’s now down to 17 percent.

“What we see down here is nothing but consequences (for their addictions) and time served in a cell as the only thing out there,” Beck continued.

“These guys don’t know what could be their next step because they are just tired of this way of life and they have zero life skills.

“We want to give them a basic understanding of what it takes to live responsibly in society as an adult,” he says matter-of-factly.

“Beyond the finance and family classes we will also be offering skills classes such as electrical, air conditioning, plumbing, and even culinary classes,” Beck continued. “We just to try to get some wheels turning in their minds about things that they may have never thought of before that could be theirs.”

“What we also want to do that is different is partner these guys up with a local church,” says Knight. “It doesn’t have to be First Baptist, but the reality is there is a life partnership you make with your church family and someone to walk alongside you.

In the system,” he continued, “they kick these guys out of the jail system and they are left on their own. Then they fail. Then they repeat.

“We have to change that environment,” Knight said. “Much like you would see in discipleship, walking that path with you.”

One would think as a society as a whole, we would have more balance in our lives with time scheduled for every need to be met properly and life going smoothly with no need for coping mechanisms, yes? Wasn’t the I-Phone 13 Plus supposed to have that feature?

Surely, we are more advanced and stronger than previous lifetimes? Previous generations? Previous ages? Sorry to disappoint.

“Science has not changed the basic desires of the human heart,” Bramlett quietly reminded. “We just keep going back to the “garden” that basic temptation that “I can be like God” and that “I can control my temptations”. This appetite to satisfy ourselves, especially in today’s society is stronger than ever. It’s what drives every destructive behavior that we’ve seen.” Bramlett concluded.

“All of this, all of what we do simply comes from a desire to help broken people” said Knight.

After talking with each member, it’s easy to say that among this particular leadership committee who is the absolute leader of this rehab project. There can be only One.

“I am shown weekly, that I can’t get out there and do it by myself,” said Bramlett. “I am helpless. All of this is completely from the Lord.”

“We have to have others come back to become “boots on the ground” for us to work and mentor the younger ones,” he continued. “They become advocates. They become very much a part of the “process”,” Bramlett concluded.

Where does, on this journey, one begins to see some land, not necessarily made of milk and honey but maybe made of something besides empty promise sandwiches?

“We want to give these guys an opportunity to see what work is,” said Bramlett. “The addict has spent a lifetime of taking and taking and we want to flip the switch to begin giving back and giving back.

“One of the skills classes will be a non-profit construction company that will build tiny houses and give them away,” said Bramlett “We will also be doing home remodels along the way as well.

“Our first house is being built right now by Eric and we will reproduce that over and over,” Bramlett states.

The houses are 400 square feet and have an efficiency kitchen with one bedroom and an open concept throughout, maximizing every inch of space and dream.

“We do not by any stretch plan to take away from any other construction company by our jobs, but these are aimed to help come along and help broken families and ask what can we do to help?

“These would be jobs that construction jobs wouldn’t be able to take but we would want to come alongside and offer help, repair and restoration.”

Our community has supported what we are trying to do here at Banner Hope,” Bramlett sincerely reiterated.

“As our guys graduate from our program and construction company, then they will have the opportunity to work alongside us and work for profit,” said Bramlett.

Don’t be surprised to someday see a Tiny House community located here in Hope. It may take the biggest dreams to live in the tiniest of houses, but they would have to be the sweetest dreams at night to be sure as well.

Our feature is about “skin in the game” and who possibly is willing to adding a little more to their effort, to look for ways to assist this leadership committee, or someone who may be planning to call a high school friend they know who continues to struggle with addiction and read them this feature story. Maybe pray with them or for them. It’s called skin in the game. Making a bit of a sacrifice of yourself for someone or something else.

For Christians, there is but One, The One, who in our lives, has the most “skin in the game”, the One who made the greatest sacrifice for us all. It’s about time we give some “skin” ourselves. It will feel good.

Want more information? Need to speak with someone? Call Brother Daniel Bramlett at First Baptist Church in Hope at 870-777-5757. You will not be turned away.

Please find the Banner Hope Center Facebook page and hit the “Like” button. You will be glad you’ve made that start.