Celebrate Recovery Program now available in American Samoa
The program Celebrate Recovery was founded by Pastors John Baker and Rick Warren in 1991 at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. The program utilizes Christian principles to aid participants struggling with drugs and alcohol, abuse, anger management, grief and loss, gambling, pornography, and other problems.
Today there are over 22,000 Celebrate Recovery locations around the world. Celebrate Recovery is growing in churches, rescue missions, and prisons and jails around the world.
Now Celebrate Recovery has come to American Samoa through the efforts of Mrs. Mona Uli-Lopez, who previously served as a leader in the program for over eight years in the Northern California/San Francisco Bay Area.
Born in Hawai’i to Samoan parents, Mrs. Uli-Lopez grew up in the Bay Area, where she lived, moving here early last year. “Upon arriving, I realized how much a program like Celebrate Recovery is needed here,” she said. “The distinct thing about Celebrate Recovery is that it's Christ-centered. We accept that we can't fully recover on our own strength, realizing that we need Jesus. That's why it's especially appropriate for American Samoa, because I look around at all the beautiful churches here and this tells me that American Samoa is definitely a place that still honors and acknowledges God.”
Uli-Lopez describes Celebrate Recovery as “group based, as opposed to one-on-one counseling or therapy. The group meets to support one another, not to attempt to fix one another.”
Her years of working with Celebrate Recovery resulted from her personal experience with the program and the healing it provided. “I lead this program, not because I'm perfect,” she openly admits, “but because it's helped me overcome many issues in my life, including a history of drug abuse, being physically and sexually abused as a child by a family relative, and with dealing with the grief and loss when my first husband died of a mass heart attack in 2005. I'm still not perfect, only striving toward perfection.”
Celebrate Recovery meetings, led by Uli-Lopez, take place every Saturday at 10 a.m. at the American Samoa Alliance against Domestic and Sexual Violence (ASADSV) office located in the Rose Joneson Vargas building in Nuu'uli next to Westside Airbrush.
The program runs continuously for about a year. “It's good to get in and start as soon as you can, because the program is a 12-step program and every week we work on one of the steps,” said Uli-Lopez. “Recovery is a process and each step prepares you for the next. So it’s best if you start with Step One.”
She described early reaction to the program as “well received”. “Every week we get a few more people, so the word is getting out,” said Uli-Lopez. “I know this is a new concept for people but Celebrate Recovery, really is a safe place. Anonymity and confidentiality are taken very seriously.” Uli-Lopez said that she hopes to bring Celebrate Recovery to churches and community organizations in the future.
Uli-Lopez credits the ASADSV with helping her get Celebrate Recovery started in the Territory.
“I am a volunteer at the ASADSV and at the Samoa Victim Support Group,” she explained. “Because both these organizations help build up our community, being part of them allows me to be in the loop of what's going on locally in terms of social service. At the ASADSV, I'm one of the coordinators of the Moso'oi Resource Network (MRN) Wednesday lunchtime meetings. I enjoy doing this because it gives me the opportunity to meet others in the community and to find out what resources are available out there. I don't get paid for what I do, however, I am open to sponsors who’d like to help with our Celebrate Recovery wish list.”
She can also be found at the ASADSV office on Wednesdays at noon for the weekly Moso’oi Resource Network meeting, and also on Saturdays at 10 a.m. at the Celebrate Recovery meeting.
Media release ASADSV