Copeland offers beacon of hope

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 18, 2004

WINDSOR – Three and a half years go, on the second floor of his parents home in Bertie County, Kevin Copeland dropped to his knees and cried out for God to free him from the bondage of a 14-year drug addiction.

With simple, honest words from the heart, Copeland prayed a prayer that would mark one of the most pivotal points in his life. Having lost his family as a result of his behavior, he was holding onto the hope that there was something better.

In humility and brokenness, he begged, &uot;God, if you will take this addiction from me, I will serve you all the days of my life.&uot; That night, when he arose from his knees, Kevin Copeland was a man redeemed and ready for a change. Without further delay, he admitted himself into a rehabilitation program and never turned back.

Today, he is a new man with a vision to restore the lives of those who have been affected by these and other addictions that threaten to steal, kill and destroy those under its powerful stronghold.

&uot;The vision came to me while I was in at Potter’s Wheel,&uot; said Copeland referring to a Christ focused rehabilitation program based out of Mount Olive that helped him kick his addiction.

&uot;Just after midnight, I woke up from a deep sleep in a cold sweat, like I have never experienced before and had a vision of starting a ministry to help men and families find Christ and freedom from the addiction lifestyle,&uot; he said.

&uot;At the exact same time, my mother was sleeping on the couch at her home in Merry Hill, some three hours away from where I was, when she suddenly awoke with a strong sense of peace that God had got a hold of me and that I would be alright.&uot;

Copeland added that he didn’t find out about his mother’s experience until that Saturday when his folks came to see him and they exchanged stories. &uot;I took it as a confirmation of God’s calling on my life,&uot; he said.

Copeland has since founded Gateway to Heaven Ministries, a non-profit organization designed to help administer healing to addicts and their families as they seek to recover from a lifestyle of pain.

&uot;This program will be a regeneration program with a lot of discipline, compassion, love and understanding,&uot; explained Copeland. &uot;These guys don’t need a program that throws them back into the community after only three months in rehab. They didn’t get where they are overnight and they’re not going to heal overnight either.&uot;

Copeland modeled his program after the one he participated in and credited his success to a regimented, structured program centered on Biblical principles.

&uot;The program will be one year long, with the first six months staying at the facility and the last six months actively involved in after care, which will include weekly meetings and weekend stays,&uot; he explained.

According to Copeland, the facility will be built on 65 acres of property located between Midway and Colerain on Blackroack Road. The land, which was part of his inheritance from his parents, will be used to generate revenue to sustain the various facets of the ministry.

&uot;What we hope to start out with is a facility that will house up to 20 men,&uot; said Copeland, who emphasized structure and discipline in the men’s lives is a key component in their recovery.

&uot;Part of the program will include an emphasis on strong work ethic with daily responsibilities around the facility and the on site farm,&uot; he said.

&uot;The guys will work approximately five and a half to six hours per day. There will be classes, prayer and counseling and the men will learn how to submit themselves to accountability to God as well as to men.&uot;

And Copeland’s structure doesn’t leave room for those who aren’t serious about their recovery either. &uot;If they don’t want to be here, then they don’t need to be in this program,&uot; he said.

&uot;There are too many people who need help that really desire to change for us to focus on individuals who are just signing up for a program to pacify their families in an effort to get on their good side.&uot;

He also stated that while at the facility, the men would be free from distractions that would detract their attention from the reason why they’re there.

&uot;There will be no telephones and no television,&uot; he said, &uot;but the guys will be allowed visitation from their families on the weekends.&uot;

And speaking of families, Gateway to Heaven Ministries will be providing a division to help wives, mothers, fathers, children and other family members cope with their situation with regard to their loved one’s addictive lifestyle.

&uot;Many times, the remaining family members are the ones left holding the bag,&uot; he said. &uot;They are the ones answering the bill collectors, scraping pennies together to buy groceries and keep the lights on while dealing with the children, and they are hurting too as a result.&uot;

From Copeland’s perspective, for healing to be effective, the whole family must be involved. &uot;If these men are to be successful in overcoming their addictive lifestyles, they are going to need support from their families,&uot; he said, &uot;and that won’t happen if the family members haven’t dealt with their own anger and bitterness.&uot;

To help that healing take place, the program will allow family members to have one on one counseling, marriage counseling, small group sessions and prayer counseling.

&uot;We want the families to be able to heal from their hurts, so that when the men come home, they aren’t hit with an overwhelming amount of emotional stress,&uot; he said.

&uot;Too often a wife will harbor bitterness toward her husband over leaving her to deal with all the affairs of the household single-handedly while they were using or while they are away participating in the program. It’s really hard on everyone involved and it takes time,&uot; he said.

The program, according to Copeland, requires the men to be fully committed to being at the facility for the first six months of the program, followed by six subsequent months of discipleship, accountability and meeting attendance.

&uot;The first three months of the aftercare program allows the men to be home during the week, but requires them to return to the facility on the weekends,&uot; he explained stating that during that time, they will be required to attend weekly meetings.

&uot;The meetings will be held on Tuesdays from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. and will be open to the public and the families of those participating in the program,&uot; said Copeland.

&uot;We will be encouraging the families to attend the meetings because we want them to get the healing they need too.&uot;

Copeland stated that the last three months of the program, the men would be required to return to the facility every other weekend. &uot;It’s a slow process to step back into the world,&uot; he said. &uot;We want to help them understand and overcome their addictions and give them what they need to stay clean.

&uot;Addictions can come in many forms and sometimes it takes time to get to the heart of the matter, but we want the men to address the root of the problem, so they can deal with it openly in the company of others struggling with the same type of behavior.&uot;

He continued, &uot;When the men deal with the issues and motivations driving their addictive behavior, it makes it easier for them to place the thoughts, that might otherwise become actions, in check.

&uot;That helps them to recognize the problem before a destructive pattern begins, regardless of whether their addictions involves substance abuse, homosexuality, pornography, whatever. The addictive behavior is simply an outward symptom of a greater problem,&uot; he said. &uot;If we can help the men to understand the reason why they are repeatedly drawn to the same vicious cycle, we have a better chance of stopping it.&uot;

Copeland stated that the farming operation would include growing commodities such as cotton, peanuts and soybeans, while raising a few heads of cattle and tending to a year-round greenhouse of vegetables.

&uot;We want to teach the men different trades that they can use in the future,&uot; he said, &uot; and farming will help the men to reestablish a healthy work ethic that they can apply when they assimilate back into their respective communities.&uot;

Copeland also desires to have a mechanic shop on site in addition to church and office buildings, a dining hall/caf\u00E9 and a recreation and family center. &uot;Right now, we aren’t sure how much funding we will have to put towards the construction of the facility, but we will do what we can with what we have,&uot; he said.

&uot;We might have to start off by housing the guys in trailers instead of dorms, but the important thing is getting them the help they need, so they can be free from this bondage.&uot;

To financially support the endeavor, Copeland stated that the primary income would come from maintaining the small on site farm operation. &uot;The farm would generate approximately 60-70 percent of the income needed to sustain the ministry with the rest coming from private gifts and donations from churches, businesses and individuals.&uot;

He has also committed to raising money for the project with fund raising events. &uot;We organized a Benefit Gospel Concert for 7 p.m., September 4 at the Martin County Auditorium featuring The Wilburns, The Galloways and Double Portion,&uot; he said. &uot;The Celebration Praise Band will also be performing, which consists of myself, our office manager and some other folks.&uot;

Copeland explained that the money collected from the concert would be used towards the start-up costs of the facility. &uot;We already begun counseling with a few individuals, but our goal is to begin construction of the facility by February of next year. We hope to be open the facility officially by June of 2005,&uot; he said.

Aside from working on the Gateway to Heaven Ministries project off the ground, Copeland serves as the full-time pastor of Pritchard Road Baptist Church in Windsor. &uot;The Lord has been so good to me,&uot; he said. &uot;Not only did He give the privilege of serving Him as a pastor of this congregation for the past year and a half, but He completely restored my relationship between my wife, Gina, and I and our two daughters. On August 6, Gina and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. It’s been amazing to see how God has used this for good.&uot;

Copeland is currently taking extension classes through Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary under the Pastoral Ministries Program. He is also preparing to take classes for Biblical Counseling.

He and his wife reside in Bertie County with their two daughters, Rachel and Sarah.

Gateway to Heaven Ministries is located on East Granville Street in Windsor. Hours of operation are: 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Thursday and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday.

For more information or to speak with Copeland, call: 252-794-5522, or to make a donation to the ministry, write to:

Gateway to Heaven Ministries

P.O. Box 226

Merry Hill, NC 27957