There’s an old saying that goes, “Don’t just talk about it, be about it,” and that’s exactly what one local pastor is doing with his new addiction support group.
Anthony Prestage, pastor of Maranatha Assembly of God, is doing his part to show he is invested in the welfare of others by organizing a program called the Maranatha Lifeline.
Maranatha Lifeline, Prestage said, is a faith-based recovery support group that aims to help people 18 years of age and older overcome addiction of any kind while also offering assistance to anyone who may have a loved one suffering from addiction.
“We know addiction has touched everybody’s family. We either know somebody personally, or we know somebody that knows somebody who is struggling with it,” Prestage said.
Because professionalism and experience are two key components of the program training, Prestage said he is bringing in Jim and Amy Forakis, national trainers for Living Free, who run four different centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
According to Prestage, the program will consist of four different classes, with one being optional, including:
- Insight Group, a prerequisite class that will be the foundation for the program and is nine sessions long;
- Stepping Into Freedom, a Christian-based 12-step program designed to help develop Christian character;
- Free to Grow, which helps people remove setbacks that have hindered growth;
- Anger Management, which helps people achieve peace and getting anger under control; and
- Concerned Persons, the optional class that helps people who have loved ones dealing with addiction.
Prestage said his goal is to have the program up and running by early fall. The maximum number of people per class is 12.
The number of total participants, however, is unlimited and the cost per person is $25, which covers a workbook and lunch.
The training sessions will take place from 7-9:30 p.m. Sept. 6 and again from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 7 at Maranatha Assembly of God, 556 Cypress Lane.
In need of more teachers, Prestage said he strongly urges anyone from Mississippi and surrounding areas to sign up to help if they can.
How it got started
Prestage said some of his inspiration for the program came after he partnered with Living Free, a non-profit Christian ministry in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that provides churches and ministries with small group training and discipleship curriculums focused on helping people prevent and overcome life-controlling issues.
Prestage said he and his wife, Mary, took the Living Free training three years ago at the Southside Assembly of God in Jackson, which is over the Living Free center in Georgetown.
“About four or five months ago, my boss and I discussed it and thought it was time to lay the ground work,” Prestage said.
Prestage also said Teen Challenge USA is a significant backer of Living Free with 60 years of experience treating addiction holistically in 1,000 adult and children centers worldwide, three being in Mississippi.
“Secular rehab has a completion rate of roughly 25-30%. Teen Challenge has a success rate of 75% or more,” he said.
That statistic is one of the many reasons Prestage said he was motivated to hit the ground running with this program in Greenville.
At Tuesday’s Washington County Board of Supervisors meeting, Prestage received public support from all members after explaining what the new program is about.
Supervisors Tommy Benson and Lee Gordon also offered support in the form of sponsoring scholarships for anyone who would be interested in participating in the program.
Prestage said he has also solicited support from Mayor Errick Simmons and City Council, Youth and Drug Court, the Greenville Police Department and Delta Health Alliance.
Mayor Errick Simmons agreed to provide financial support for teachers and trainers’ lodging and three city council members agreed to sponsor scholarships for the program along with public promotion.
Prestage said Delta Health Alliance volunteered to partner with the program to aid participants who need assistance in any capacity and offered the use of one of their facilities in Leland if needed.
Having witnessed success stories from people who once struggled with substance abuse, Prestage said he believes the classes will make a great difference in peoples’ lives.
“Give us six months of hard work and we believe that you can be free of your addictions and stay free,” Prestage said.
Pastor Anthony Prestage is a native of Rankin County and his wife, Mary, is a Greenville native.
Prestage has been pastoring for 15 years and in ministry for nearly 30 years. He and wife both work for Region Six Mental Health, where Prestage works with the adult day treatment program and Mary is a licensed therapist.