As most would agree, life can be a real zoo – full of obstacles, struggles and temptations. But The Zoo Church Village in Dennard is helping women overcome these struggles, specifically those involving addiction.
The church is doing so through its new women’s ministry, Zoo Outfitters Operation (ZOO): Outfitting Women to Live Without Addiction, which began in March. The goal of the biblically based program is to help women rid themselves of their addictions to alcohol and drugs.
Pastor Rick Montgomery said The Zoo Church Village, a Baptist church located at the site of an old roadside zoo that has been renovated, is located in one of the most notorious locations in Arkansas for making and using methamphetamine, so the ZOO program is needed.
The program’s focal verse is Titus 2:12, which speaks about the command to “deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.”
A desire to start the ministry had been on church members’ hearts for years, he explained. The church’s property was so run down when they acquired it about five years ago that church members didn’t realize its potential, he said. But as they cleaned it up, they realized God had provided them with a location for ministry.
“So from the get-go, from about six months in, we planned to do this women’s ministry because it’s so desperately needed,” he said.
Several programs are available for men, he said, but not many for women.
“It’s really a need, and I think the New Testament Church is supposed to meet those needs, so we’re really excited about it,” he said.
“You know, if you can’t find Christ, you’re probably not going to get rid of your addictions,” he said, noting he truly believes “Christ is the answer to the problems.”
To participate, women must meet certain criteria, complete a series of interviews as well as a physical and a background check. Each participant must also pay an entry fee and submit to a drug test, though Montgomery clarified that the inability to pay the whole fee or pass the drug test does not necessarily prohibit one from entering the program.
Women are encouraged to pay a little each week, and the program also seeks supporters to give monthly amounts in order to keep the program afloat.
Additionally, women are required to attend church. In fact, they must attend a church service before being considered as a candidate.
Montgomery said the residential program is fashioned after several similar programs, such as Renewal Ranch in Conway.
During the six-month program, women work on the property and attend biblical classes “that direct them to live for Christ.”
“In the process of learning how to live for Christ, some of them will probably find Christ,” he said.
Without Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit within a person, he said, “Some of these addictions – especially methamphetamine – I think they are just almost impossible to get over.”
In addition, volunteer counselors work with participants weekly.
Montgomery hopes that after women complete the program, the church can help them transition to a local motel for another six months so they can monitor the women as they get jobs and transition into normal life.
“This is just a passion for us. … We covet everyone’s prayers,” Montgomery said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News, newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist Convention, arkansasbaptist.org. Jessica Vanderpool is a former senior assistant editor for the Arkansas Baptist News.