Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bethel Village opens doors for the lost

(This was my Undercurrents column for Dec. 7, 2008)

Not too long ago, Tia Tate said, she felt like she was coming apart at the seams.
“I was, you know, totally discombobulated,” she said. “Working, (I) had a semi-normal life, functional but dysfunctional, you know. Drugs, alcohol, just a lot of things going on that could have been a lot better. I knew God, but got away from Him in the midst of all of that madness.”

Tate, 39, is a resident of the Bethel Village women’s shelter operated by the Panama City Rescue Mission. She learned about the shelter through CARE (Chemical Addictions Recovery Effort), which also has a women’s program.

Now in its fifth year, Bethel is designed to serve single women and single mothers with small children. It helps them get their lives back together, said Rescue Mission director Rev. Billy Fox. (For more information, call 914-0533 or visit

Life at Bethel, with its Christianbased long-term residential recovery program, has helped Tate make sense of her life, she said.

“Bethel Village has really been a refuge for me,” she said. “I decided I wanted to change my life, a complete turnaround, not just get sober, but grounded with a foundation in a relationship with God. I knew in order to stay sober, I was going to need that foundation in my life.”

Tate spoke to me Wednesday morning amid the tinsel and lights and cheery holiday music of a crowded reception for the Festival of Trees, the annual fundraiser for Bethel Village at the Visual Arts Center of Northwest Florida.

Women wearing Christmas colors circulated through the galleries, admiring the decorated trees, gingerbread houses and wreaths donated by area clubs, businesses and individuals. They placed bids in a silent auction and sampled refreshments.

Tate was serving punch when we met. She wore a Santa cap and a ready smile.

She beamed as she talked about her children and how proud she is of their accomplishments. And she spoke without reservation about the obstacles she had faced and how doors had been opened for her since she came to Bethel. She has been writing music, she said, and the right people have heard it, and she’ll be recording it after she finishes the recovery program.

“God — it’s just another door He’s boomed down for me,” she said.

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