It began in Madrid, Spain in 1985 when Australian WECer, Lindsay McKenzie, took a drug addict to live in his home. Raul was the addict and he became a Christian, experiencing both physical and spiritual freedom. Freedom from addiction and freedom from the power of sin. Other WEC missionaries in Spain became involved and more substance abusers found the same freedoms. Betel International was born. Today Betel’s work spans 24 countries and it has residential communities in over 100 urban centres, including one in Melbourne. Over 30 years later nearly 200,000 men and women have passed through the program. For those who stay in a community for a year or more, a study showed that 77%-82% remained drug free after five years. About 2,500 people are currently in communities around the world. They receive help in an atmosphere of love and acceptance and have the chance to learn to live productive and independent lives by being offered meaningful relationships and meaningful work.
However, Betel is not only a drug rehabilitation work. Its ministry has resulted in many churches being established. Right from the beginning, worship and Bible Study has been part of the work. Soon after Betel started a church made up of former addicts began in Madrid. That church is still going and is now the biggest evangelical church in the city. As the work grew, former addicts continued to come together in worshipping communities and today there are Betel churches in many countries.
Much has been achieved, but sadly drug addiction is a growing problem. Tens of thousands of substance abusers still need the hope and freedom that Betel can provide.
For volunteers who would like to make a difference in the lives of substance abusers, Betel offers three to six month internships in several countries. Internships offer an opportunity to “Be Jesus” to Betel residents by living, working and worshipping alongside them. What is needed? A servant heart for broken and hurting people, a humble attitude and a willingness to work hard. Many skills can be used including mechanics, tradesmen, accountants and book-keepers, media and marketing specialists, IT workers, medical staff, farm managers. Board and lodging are free. For more information see http://www.betelinterns.org/
*Betel is the Spanish word for Bethel, meaning House of God.