Sobered by God’s Grace
By Dale Wolcott
Back in the 1970s, two sets of Navajo parents, unknown to each other, sent their teenagers to live in the dormitories at Holbrook Seventh-day Adventist Indian School, located 100 miles (160 km) away from home. At Holbrook, boy met girl, boy and girl both met Jesus, and they were baptized. In due time there was a wedding, the first to be held in the newly constructed Seventh-day Adventist church in the boy’s hometown of Chinle, Arizona.
When Dennis and Gloria Fulton’s first baby arrived, they took him with them to church. So, baby Oliver grew up knowing that the Adventist Church was his church. But, somehow, he never really met Jesus. Things got in the way, such as Gloria’s nursing job at the local hospital. Making matters worse, Dennis struggled with alcohol, and Oliver began drinking as a teen.
Oliver graduated from public high school, moved to the big city to earn a master’s degree in information technology, and discovered that alcohol was controlling his life. At 38, Oliver in desperation moved back home to Chinle, where he knew his mother had been praying for him. He started attending his childhood church, hoping that something would change for him.
Oliver found that the church ran an addiction recovery ministry in which 80 Navajo people with struggles like his own met in the church fellowship hall five evenings a week for “Jesus and Me,” a program modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous. His life began to change.
Meanwhile, the church pastor noticed Oliver in the congregation one Sabbath and suggested having lunch the next week. The meal filled Oliver with hope. “When I came home, I figured I was such a bad sinner that I could never go to heaven,” Oliver says. “I just thought that maybe if I sobered up, I could help some other people get to heaven. But at lunch that day, the pastor told me that my sins could actually be forgiven. Jesus would accept me just as I am. I was amazed. It gave me hope.”
Oliver has been sober for four years now. At the church, Oliver met a woman, Traci, with her own story of Jesus delivering her from heroin addiction. The pastor baptized Oliver just days before marrying him and Traci in the same church where his parents had been married about 40 years earlier.
Today, Oliver leads the Chinle church’s recovery ministry. He also is taking online classes to become a certified substance abuse counselor.
Incidentally, Oliver’s father has been sober for several years as well. Sometimes on Sabbaths, father and son sit together in church, their sweethearts at their sides and smiles in their hearts.
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Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission. Find more mission stories at adventistmission[dot]org