With a twinkle in his eye, Scott Phipps will tell you that it all started the day a preacher sold him his convertible. The top leaked and there happened to be a red leather Bible in the back seat laying right in the path of the water. Scott’s wife, Tammie, didn’t go to church but she had just enough fear of God that she was afraid to let anything happen to that Bible. She called her aunt (a regular churchgoer) and asked her for advice about how to repair the water damage. Her aunt told her to lay the Bible out and turn the pages as it dried.
As Tammie dried out the pages, she started reading them and began to call her aunt with questions. Her aunt relayed these events to her friends at church and they all started praying for Tammie. In hopes that her aunt would stop asking her about attending church, Tammie planned to go to just one service in order to deliver the Bible. When Tammie came home that night, she told Scott, “Jesus saved me, I don’t want drugs anymore, and I love you.” Scott began to see that if he wanted to stay married he had to change. More importantly he realized that he needed what his wife had received. He sought answers at a nearby church, chose to follow Jesus Christ, and his life took a dramatic turn. “I thought I was living life and enjoying myself, but looking back I can see how miserable I was,” Scott recalled.
Now in the 15th year of their recovery, the Phipps’s have continued to share the healing love that they found in Christ. Initially, they ministered through a small country church, and more recently they have led North Main Community Church in Barbourville, Ky.
It was through the children’s outreach at North Main that the Scott and Tammie first connected with Christian Appalachian Project (CAP). When the church extended their outreach to serve young women seeking to recover from addiction, CAP’s Operation Sharing was an integral part of that expansion. Beds, wardrobes, tile, and lighting were all used in creating a place where women could heal.
Hope City Transitional House was created to give women a way to begin their journey to recovery. A lot of the women that Tammie was ministering to in detention centers were eligible for rehabilitation programs but had no way of paying for services, or no access to transportation to those services, before Hope City came along. When the first class of women got ready to graduate and leave Hope City, another set of needs became evident. Tammie realized that many of the women had no place to go home to. Hope City expanded yet again to include apartments, houses, and trailers that support the graduates as they pursue certifications, college degrees, and jobs in the community.
Every girl that comes in, you can see when they begin to understand the life that God meant for them to have, and that’s when the change starts,” Scott explained.
Change doesn’t stop when women finish the Hope City program. Many women go on to complete the coursework to obtain their Adult Peer Support Specialist Certification. The certification is offered on-site and several women have pursued it after finishing the rehab program. Kara recently graduated from Hope City and went on to become an Adult Peer Support Specialist. “People have always been drawn to me to talk and I love being able to help others. I’ve always felt like something has been missing from my life, and this is the missing link.”
Additional educational opportunities include Alcohol and Drug Counselor Certifications and college degrees. “We’ve been blessed because we have 11 girls in college,” Scott bragged. “President Obama designated our county as a Promise Zone – people may not know this, but 12 of the poorest counties in the United States are in Kentucky. The Paths-to-Promise initiative provides access to a free associate degree, work-study at minimum wage, transportation, and child care. The Ready-to-Work program pays for a bachelor’s degree for women with children. It’s been a real blessing, because the 30 hours that they are required to work, they can work right here.”
Meghan is another one of Hope City’s success stories. She lived a long life of addiction after leaving home at age 13, but has been sober for three years now. She has been reunited with her youngest child, attends nursing school, works at Hope City, and does motivational speaking throughout Kentucky.
“Hope City changed my life in every way,” Meghan said. “Not only did they tell me what I needed to do to be the person I needed to be, but they showed me through real action. All of the people that volunteer and work at Hope City love God and love people. They live this mission out every single day of their lives through serving others and teaching them to do the same.”
The program has been a tremendous success – every participant that was separated from their children has been able to have custody returned to them upon graduation. The recidivism rate (the rate of re-offend¬ing or being re-arrested) for Kentucky averages nearly 40 percent, while Hope City’s recidivism rate is under 20 percent.
“We have several girls that have come to us when people thought there wasn’t any hope. We credit all of their recovery, naturally, to the Lord,” Scott explained.
Stacy, for example, was found living in an abandoned house with her children and was 82 pounds when she arrived. After going through the program she has been reunited with her son and daughter and they are living together in a Hope City house. Like many women, Stacy has also become part of the staff.
“A lot of the women have had a tough life,” Scott reflected. “People wonder why they stay in these abusive relationships – we know they’re looking for love, they’ve just never found real love. Unconditional love. And that’s the love of God.”
Tammie agreed. “The Lord delivered me from addiction and drastically changed my life almost 25 years ago. I want to give others the same opportunity that I was given to know Him and His delivering power and love.”