UNDERGROUND OASIS MARKS 1-YEAR ANNIVERSARY WITH NEW PROGRAM
The old saying there's more than one way to skin a cat may not be an attractive metaphor to animal lovers, but it does imply there are always options.
In the community-wide fight against the increasing use of methamphetamine, the Underground Oasis in La Grande provides another tool to take the hide off the beast.
A faith-based addiction recovery and support program, the Oasis was founded a year ago by recovering addicts Dale Johnston, Kirk Shea, Leo Bristol and Steve Fund.
These men see addiction as a day-by-day battle in the ongoing process of war. But all have victoriously met their demons head on through their faith and the ongoing support of the Underground Oasis.
The Oasis Â— which has expanded to other communities, including Baker City, Burns and John Day Â— provides another option for people struggling with addictions.
This week, the Oasis is starting a new program specifically aimed at pornography and other types of sexual addiction Â— promiscuity, adultery, adult clubs and chat rooms, for example.
"It was here that the chain of addiction was first pointed out to me Â— the chain that often starts with a little porn," Shea says, adding there's no such thing as just a little porn. Pretty soon, he says, it's a lot of porn, mixed with alcohol or some meth to enhance the experience.
"It's all part of the chain Â— the lying, the meth, the porn, the not being a good father and a good husband. It's all hooked together," Shea says.
He freely admits a tragic past which, along with meth and porn, includes a failed business and the loss of his family.
"Hey, I did meth. But Jesus Christ has removed my shame. And I have faith he will heal that relationship (with my family). Right now, I'm focused on learning about Jesus and I want others to know. It's about James 5:16 Â— confess and be healed," he says, referring to the New Testament in the Bible.
So convinced are these men that pornography use is addictive, progressive and destructive to men and their families, they are starting a new group for men and women who struggle with porn or sex addiction. The program Â— Strength In Numbers Â— is part of Blazing Grace, an international ministry.
An informational meeting for Strength In Numbers is planned at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Underground Oasis, 1315 Adams Ave. The keynote speaker will be Blazing Grace founder Mike Genung.
"There are a lot of men sitting in church services that struggle with porn, and they sure don't want to ask anybody in the church for help," Shea says.
Adds Fund, "Porn's everywhere, even in TV commercials. It's a problem Â— a big one. And nobody wants to talk about it."
Except, it seems, the founders of the Oasis who believe they can face anything with the power of God behind them. Their leap of faith a year ago to start the Oasis has already made a powerful impact on others, they say.
"It all started because Steve had this employee who was coming off a meth binge Â— he was a mess,'' says Johnston. "We came and spent some time with him Â— shared Jesus's healing power with him. He told us, Â‘I have some friends who really need to hear this.' "
So the four unconventional Christian men started talking about what they could do to reach out to others in the community, and the Underground Oasis was born.
These guys aren't professional drug counselors and don't want to be. They certainly aren't law enforcement, though Fund used to be, nor are they traditional preachers. They don't trust mainstream religion. But they have all walked where addicts walk, have faced their inability to help themselves and turned their lives around by turning their hearts over to God.
Although the Oasis is not a church, what takes place there is definitely ministry. While there, no one is judged and no one is turned away, although nothing harmful is allowed through the door.
"It has to be a safe haven for everyone or people won't come," says Fund.
And people have come. In the year since the Oasis opened its doors, the basement at 1315 Adams Ave. has been filled with meth addicts, drug dealers, struggling Christians and non-Christians alike, as well as some notable members of the community.
Whether they come to share or observe just once, once in a while, or every week, Johnston says, all have found some kind of healing take place in their lives.
"The church elder? After coming, he realized he needed to be healed from the hardhearted way he looked at drug addicts. Now he sees these people the way Jesus does," Shea says.