Former addicts participate in the Second Chance Ministry worship service led by Jeff Collins.
Former addict now on divine mission
and Caleb Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News
AUGUSTA – On Aug. 16, 2009, Jeff Collins died. His three decades of drug abuse had worn down his body, and a heart attack had left him clinically dead.
At that moment Collins, then 46 years old, did not see a flash of bright light and Jesus welcoming him into heaven. Instead, he found himself in hell – much worse than the hell he had been living on earth.
Soon after his descent into hell, however, Collins was resuscitated from what he calls his “death experience.”
“I’ve been to real hell,” he said of his life-changing experience. “God took me there to show me what it (hell) was,” adding that he wants to spread the word that hell is real.
Although most of his life had been spent in a blur of drug addiction, Collins said that when he awakened from his death experience, “I didn’t know what it felt like to be an addict.” Since that day he has never used drugs again, and he has never even had the desire to do so.
“I’m a miracle,” he said.
Collins had made a profession of faith as a child, but when drugs had their death-grip on him, he wandered far from God. Still, he knew his wife and mother continued to pray for him. “They never gave up on me,” he said. Occasionally they would persuade him to attend church, particularly for special events. To relax himself to walk into the church building, however, he would “get high” first.
After his death experience, Collins realized that, in spite of his running from God, “God had never left me.”
Collins had been given a second chance, and he wanted to make the most of it.
Instead of wasting the life that God had given back to him, Collins sensed God calling him to start a ministry aimed at helping other addicts escape the devastating effects of drug and alcohol abuse.
Although, he said, “I had forgotten how to pray; I told God, ‘If You will help me with my addiction, I will serve You.’”
Soon, Second Chance Ministry was launched. Through the ministry, Collins, a member of First Baptist Church, Augusta, goes into rehab centers, prisons, churches, homes – wherever he can go – to encourage and support addicts and their families in finding freedom from addiction.
Collins leads a weekly class at Wilbur D. Mills Treatment Center in Searcy. The alcohol and drug abuse rehabilitation center was built in honor of Mills who served Arkansas in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1939 to 1977. Mills struggled publicly with alcoholism. During his last years in Congress and until his death in 1992, Mills raised funds for alcohol recovery centers and programs and spoke nationally on the subject.
“I go to where the need is,” Collins said, adding that he receives phone calls anytime of the day or night from addicts, frantic family members, law enforcement officers and others.
God, he said, “puts the words in my mouth, and I speak.”
He tells addicts, “I’ve been where they’re at,” and he tells them of the freedom they can find in Jesus Christ.
He doesn’t guarantee that every addict he meets will be saved from their addictions, but he can guarantee that he will tell everyone he meets about God.
The ministry, he said, “is all God. I know God is using Jeff to make a difference.”
“If I can help save one person’s life, it’s worth it,” he said.
One young woman, who had struggled with addiction throughout her life, expressed gratitude to Collins in a personal letter. She wrote: “You talked me back to sanity and prayed for me and with me. You showed me forgiveness, compassion and real love. Most importantly … you (encouraged) me … to ask God and Jesus into my heart again so I could start anew on the path of His will for my life and the strength to carry it out.”
A rehab center counselor said, “Every single week I see Jeff touch and change lives with his testimony and words of inspiration and encouragement. His message is simple, but it has a profound impact on those fortunate enough to hear it: ‘You must give your life to the Lord and work for Him in order to face the demons that you are battling.’ He is a positive light in this world.”
Because the drug epidemic is so prevalent, Collins said he would love to see his ministry expand. He dreams of starting a ranch that would help addicts break their addictions and also help prepare them for productive lives moving forward beyond their addictions.
On July 11 Second Chance Ministry began a new outreach. Each Tuesday night at 6 p.m. the ministry holds a Celebrate Deliverance service at Honey Hill Christian Union Church in Searcy. The service includes a Bible study, corporate worship and a message, followed by a time of fellowship.
A Second Chance Ministry promotional poster states that the service will “provide the tools for healthy Christian growth and healing.” Psalm 18:2, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,” is the scriptural basis for the ministry’s new service.
“We want to support and encourage all people to celebrate their deliverance alongside them. We provide a place to talk to the Higher Power, not just about Him,” reads the poster.
While the new Celebrate Deliverance service meets at Honey Hill church, volunteers from other churches are also involved. Kay Helm, a member of Calvary Baptist Church, Searcy, who volunteers with Second Chance Ministry and has done prison ministry for 16 years, attended the
July 18 service.
“A lot of the different area churches have become part of Second Chance Ministry,” said Helm. “This (Celebrate Deliverance service) is something that has been needed for a long time.”
Helm said that when people are in treatment for substance abuse they receive assistance, accountability and stability. However, often when they leave treatment, that accountability and help are no longer there, and many fall back into their old struggles.
“It gives them (recovering addicts) another place to go after they leave treatment. A lot of them go out and right back in. It gets them back in church and allows them time to be taught and accountability. And we all need that,” she said.
“Some of these (attending services) are the ones we have worked with at Wilbur D. Mills (treatment center),” said Helm. “This is the start of figuring things out,
adapting changes and determining what the needs are going to be and how to minister to them.
“A lot of them don’t even have places to stay. It’s a challenge,” Helm said, adding she was pleased to hear the service is now being offered and to be a part of it.
“My heart is drawn to those dark situations. We need to be a light. The churches need to step up,” she said.
For more information about Second Chance Ministry, email Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact the Arkansas Baptist News staff at email@example.com.