Peniel Alumni Newsletter
Here is a sample article from our new Monthly Alumni Newsletter developed and edited by Peniel Staff member Whitney Botts, BS. Check out the full newsletter in PDF version here:
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There Is Hope: A Testimony
When Zachary entered Peniel in April of 2010, he did not yet have a sense of identity. Growing up, everyone in Zachary’s immediate family abused drugs and alcohol on some level, so he was introduced to that lifestyle early on. Without the presence of meaningful guidance or involvement in his life from his parents, Zachary began using drugs and alcohol at the age of 12.For 13 years, Zachary’s identity would remain tied to his addiction to drugs and alcohol.
After graduating from high school, Zachary spent many years traveling around the United States following musicians and attending their concerts. With one band in particular, he made it a point to attend every show possible, and he became heavily involved with the community of people that did the same. For a time, he felt like he was a part of a family-like community of people that were counter-culture and passionate about the many social injustices plaguing the country. Eventually, however, he became aware that many in the community had purely been part of this community for the sake of partying and postponing their responsibilities as adults, and they had not made the same sacrifices for a greater cause in the way Zachary felt he had been doing.
Upon reaching the realization that he was essentially throwing away his future, Zachary decided to move back to his hometown of Cleveland, Tennessee in an attempt to obtain a fresh start and a much needed change of scenery. What happened, however, was quite the opposite of what he intended. Zachary’s life of partying and traveling was exchanged for one of isolation and increased substance abuse. Zachary’s life had shrunk to a five block radius in which he went to work, came home, did drugs, and repeated the cycle the next day. The longer he spent in this cycle, the heavier his substance abuse became. While he was primarily addicted to opiates and alcohol, as he says, his drug use “led to [him] trying all types of drugs, and using whatever drug was available when [his] wasn’t around.” After many years in this miserable cycle, Zachary became aware that he was living a self-destructive lifestyle that would ultimately lead to his death. In an attempt to get help, he reached out to a family he had befriended that was highly active in the Church of God. One phone call became the catalyst for Zach to receive treatment, and ultimately, to receive salvation. This family helped connect him with Peniel and assisted him in walking through the steps of admission.
At Peniel, Zach discovered the truth about God’s unconditional love. “Through the love, consistency, and honesty of my counselors, the staff, and all of the leadership here at Peniel, I began to believe in hope and grace in my life and relationship with God.” Because of his sincere gratitude for everything Peniel did to change his life, Zachary returned to Peniel in 2020 with his family in order to join the Peniel staff as the Culinary Director. Now he tries to use his experiences to pour into the lives of other men in the program, and to demonstrate the love he has for people through his gift of cooking.
*In order to maintain confidentiality, only first names will be included in Peniel testimonies