Skip to content
Need some Easter Sermon inspiration? Check out our Easter Sermon Collection Learn more

Celebrate Recovery

Restored Purpose

By Ray

Hi, I am Ray. I am a U.S. Army veteran, believer and follower of Jesus, who struggles with life issues and self.

My recovery story began as a child. In 1952, my parents were missionaries to Argentina, where I was born. Six years later, I accepted Christ as my Savior. My mother led me to the Lord at the kitchen table.

Shortly after becoming a believer, my dad started treating my mom badly, both verbally and physically. I learned later that he was leaving the ministry and abandoning my mom with four children. She was getting ready to deliver her fifth child.

Everything came to a head one night. My dad almost killed my mom. The police came and some other missionaries took my siblings and me with them. My mom had to be hospitalized. She gave birth to my sister with no complications, except she had a concussion and bruising.

My life changed that night. We went from a family serving as missionaries to feeling abandoned, as my mom arranged with the mission board to return us to the United States.

We went to live with my mom’s parents for a while, until my Mom was able to find work as an elementary teacher. My grandfather was a pastor, so I had a stern upbringing. He applied the board of education to the seat of my pants on several occasions. I deserved it every time, just ask my mom.

Once we moved into a mobile home, my mom started teaching in a military school in Charleston, South Carolina, where my brother and I were able to attend on a scholarship. My brother did not like the military school, but I loved it. I can remember my first day in the third grade learning to stand at attention. I was wearing wool military slacks with a short sleeve shirt in the hot sun. I fainted and was sent with half my platoon to the infirmary. We made it out great and the staff served us ice cream!

I struggled in school and kept up a semi-spiritual life growing up in the church. After high school, I was accepted to a Christian university and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Church Administration.

My career began in full-time Christian service on a one-year contract. To be honest, I had not developed spiritual maturity in my life. I had a lot of head knowledge of the Scriptures but had applied little of the Lord’s principles to my own life. I could not wait for my year to be up.

It was the next year, after I had left the ministry, that my life went out of control. My first marriage was on the rocks. I was not the husband that I was supposed to be nor the spiritual leader needed at home.

Early one afternoon at work, my phone rang. My wife called telling me that our three-month-old son died of crib death. This was devastating to me in every way.

After my son’s funeral, I decided to live my life the way I saw fit. My marriage ended in divorce. I left my regular job and started waiting tables in Washington D.C. I worked 12-hour shifts and rode the Metro back to my apartment late every night. One night on the Metro, I had a moment of clarity.

If I was going to continue to live this lifestyle, I was going to die an early death. So I decided to go see an Army recruiter in the morning. I signed up for the infantry, and in two months, I was in basic training.

Fort Benning, Georgia, was my first training station. I was the oldest in my class at age 32. The training helped me to remember what my mom taught me—please the Lord in everything that I do. It must have been all the push-ups!

I served in the Army all over the world with one combat tour. It was during that tour in Iraq that the Lord got my attention. I was guarding a road near Trikrit on an IED location with the bomb squad. I heard my name, “Hey, Ray.” I turned around and no one was there. I heard it again, turned around, and no one was there. Then, I heard it in my spirit and realized it was the Holy Spirit pursuing me. I surrendered my will to the Lord on that occasion.

When I got back home, I retired from the military and started a brand-new pursuit of spiritual growth as a fully-devoted follower of Jesus Christ.

While serving in a church as a Sunday school teacher, I met and married a great Christian woman who serves right beside me as the ministry leaders in our Celebrate Recovery® group.

I also lead the Welcome Home ministry, which is Celebrate Recovery’s ministry to veterans. Celebrate Recovery—especially the veterans I meet with every week—has helped me grow spiritually and prioritize serving others.

Following the 12 steps and 8 principles of Celebrate Recovery, and talking about my life issues with other veterans in Welcome Home, helps me live a life that is pleasing to the Lord.

Philippians 1:21 is my life verse: “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (NIV). I have made a conscious decision to live for Christ daily rather than to live just for myself.

As a result, my relationship with my God has become more intimate, and Celebrate Recovery has given me the tools to maintain my spiritual sobriety. Serving God and veterans through Celebrate Recovery has restored my sense of purpose and mission.

Related Posts

Subscribe to Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox

Weekly Email for Pastors and Church Leaders

    We care about your data. Read our privacy policy.

    Pastor Rick Warren smiling