Names of participants have been changed to maintain their privacy. Lacey Napier* was facing a failed marriage with her husband Steve. Steve was addicted to drugs, he had been in an out of rehab and after his last relapse, Lacey didn’t know what to do. She was an educated professional with a successful career, but felt her personal life was crumbling. A friend recommended Celebrate Recovery and the couple began attending. “I realized it wasn’t just for my husband, I had issues too,” said Napier. “I was codependent and a control freak. It taught me to be accountable for myself.” Napier explained the program, lead by Pastor Bill Rieser, helped to restore their marriage and change their family life dramatically. “In the beginning I wanted to run out of the room, but as I started to talk about these deep dark secretes God started a healing process for our marriage,” she explained. “I’ve never experienced as much change and growth as I did with that ministry.” Napier began serving on the leadership team and when Rieser left Real Life Church’s Celebrate Recovery several months ago to launch his own program, Napier and her husband followed. “His ministry was the only reason I attended,” Napier explained. “He offers such a deep, spirit filled ministry. I prayed about it and felt God was leading me out of Celebrate Recovery and to the new ministry. We weren’t following Bill, we were following God’s plan.” For Lacey and her husband, they knew Rieser’s program was a formula that worked. It had gone deeper when it needed to, offered hope, recovery and a place to grow. They wanted to experience what the new program would offer and help others find that healing. Encounter Bill Rieser has lead Celebrate Recovery at Real Life Church for 3 years and lead other Celebrate Recovery programs across the country for more than a decade. Using the tools of Celebrate Recovery he has helped hundreds of people face their addictions, find hope and help with life’s hurts. “So many people are hurting and no one had answers how to get hope for the issues and problems in life,” said Rieser. Now, using a curriculum he’s developed helping others over the past 10 years, Rieser is launching his own recovery program, Encounter. In partnership with The Sanctuary Church, the new program has similar aspects of the Celebrate Recovery program, but with new elements. “I’ve really been teaching beyond the borders of Celebrate Recovery for the past 9 years,” explained Rieser. “Celebrate Recovery has a great curriculum, but I’ve discovered people need something more to really overcome life’s hurts and the issues they deal with.” Rieser parted ways with Real Life Church several months ago and began devoting his time to developing a program that addressed the areas he felt were missing from Celebrate Recovery. He launched his own non-profit organization and created Encounter, a recovery and discipleship program that will be hosted at The Sanctuary on Friday nights. “I don’t know if there is a program that exists that combines recovery, spiritual growth, evangelism and safe communities all together like Encounter does,” said Rieser. A heart for recovery “I think when people hear about this kind of program they think drugs and alcohol, but I learned recovery is for everyone,” said Danielle Kirk.* Kirk and her husband also found healing during their time at Celebrate Recovery. Her husband was addicted to drugs and Danielle struggled with guilt and pain from a failed marriage and her struggles becoming a mother as a teenager. “I realized I didn’t deal with some of the issues and hurts I had, I had built up walls,” said Kirk. Kirk said within a few months the family began to experience change. Her relationship with Jesus began to deepen and she saw a change in her children as well, as they became calmer and happier. She explained, when Rieser left Celebrate Recovery to launch his own program the decision to follow him to the new program was natural. “As a program Celebrate Recovery was a little limited and I think with the transition Bill will be able to bring even more to the program,” said Kirk. “The way he cares for people, he really has a heart for recovery and for Jesus.” A safe place for healing “Most 12 step programs teach you are your sins and addictions, but at Encounter that may be something you struggle with, but it’s not who you are,” explained Rieser. Rieser explained he has a deep respect for Celebrate Recovery and Real Life Church, but felt the program was somewhat limited in what it could truly offer people who wanted help and change in their lives. During his time leading Celebrate Recovery programs he had expanded the curriculum. The new Encounter program will offer the best of many recovery programs with tactics and lessons Rieser has found were most effective over the years. Encounter held several soft launches in December, hosting 180 attendees each night. Tonight’s official launch will welcome more than 200 attendees, some coming from Celebrate Recovery but many newcomers seeking a fresh start. “It doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve done, what’s been done to you, or what you believe,” said Rieser. “This is a great safe place for you to come find healing, wholeness, and freedom from life’s hurts and adversity. That’s what Encounter is all about.” Encounter launches tonight beginning with dinner at 6 p.m. and featuring special guest Hosanna Poetry. Hosted at The Sanctuary at 26444 Friendly Pkwy. For more information visit theHopeEncounter.org.