by Beth Townsend
When God calls people into ministry there is often a misperception that things will be easy; that the path will be illuminated while doors swing wide open so that ministry can flourish. That is often not the case.
Those called to ministry usually have their faith shaped by roadblocks, trials, and for pastor Errol Faust, the unlikely blessing of a closed door. In fact, at the time, it seemed the door was slammed shut for no good reason.
Faust did not give up when that door closed, knowing that his calling was true, that his God was real, and he could trust in circumstances to lead his ministry where God wanted him to go. “I was pastoring a church, and there was a lady who came in who had a 22-year cocaine addiction,” he recounts. “I knew enough about recovery that she needed to get some help. Sitting there and praying with her was not enough. We found her a place to recover, where she went away for 28 days.”
Upon her return, they began to walk through the Celebrate Recovery program together. They met together every Tuesday. Over time, the pastor realized that the woman had friends who also needed recovery. Feeling that he could help, Faust suggested that she invite her friends to start a group on Tuesdays. Once that group began to grow, the program was moved to Friday nights. Then things began to take off.
Faust was an associate pastor of a church, but found that some in church leadership were increasingly uncomfortable with this shift in ministry. Finally, those in charge called Faust into a meeting to tell him they determined that the church did not want to host or grow a recovery ministry. The pastor was stunned at the decision. He was told, “We like your preaching, but we look around and there are crackheads in the church. We don’t want them and we don’t want you.”
Left with no choice except to accept their decision, Faust knew he could not quit what God started. People who needed help were seeking help and he could not walk away. “I went back the next Sunday and preached. It was my last Sunday,” he recalled.
With no church, no place to meet and not wanting to lose momentum, Faust remembered the next step. “I went to a friend and asked him if he had any property. ‘I need some help, pretty quickly.’” That is when God’s hand appeared mightily. The man responded to Faust’s question saying, “I just bought a property that will work! I’ll build you a building and put $500 in the bank. Then I will rent it to you.” It was a Godsend, a friend eager to help.
Errol recalled how the story unfolded. “We built the 2,400 square-foot building.” Faust admitted that he was concerned that they would never fill the space. Then Hurricane Katrina hit. Suddenly the building became a warehouse for supplies. Word got out; people from all around filled the building with supplies that were needed for hurricane victims. People came and went; others delivered supplies. Suddenly this building became a church.
“We got busy. We opened the doors to everyone. We had water and clothes. We were not preaching, we didn’t want people to have to listen to a sermon; we were just giving stuff out. We even had a big pot of red beans,” he laughed. “Then people started asking where we were from.”
The phones started ringing at this little place called Fountain of Life in the little town of Albany. Starting officially with a Friday night service, Errol was still concerned no one would come. “Then it got to where they were lining up, looking through the doors. You could not fit in another person, often there were three deep standing around the doors, kitchen and waiting room. I was preaching and we had a person doing music.”
Soon, Errol was approached by Mark Doubois, a young man who liked what they were doing. Doubois shared the same passion for a recovery ministry, and wanted to help. Faust remembered, “He had a job making good money. But he told me, ‘The Lord sent me to you to be a Barnabus.’ I said, ‘have you lost your mind?’” Together the men started fighting an uphill battle with little money, but they agreed this was of the Lord. Soon the ministry had the team in place to start a residential treatment home for men fighting addictions.
“At first you come in and stay 30-days, we look at it as discipleship. The addiction is not what we are immediately focused on. My philosophy is that we are all in recovery from the fall, it’s called sin. Sometimes it comes out in addiction or gluttony,” Faust says. “We have Bible studies twice a day, everyday. We are all in recovery, no matter the sin, so don’t put down this sin or that sin. But the person that over-eats is not endangering other people. Addiction needs to be jumped on fast because they can get out on the highway and can kill people. You have to get it under control, we need a place for them to go and stay.”
Facing expenses was and remains an area of faith. Apart from God, the ministry could not provide what people needed. “It costs $14,000 a month, whether we have one person or ten,” Faust shares. “ We ask everyone who comes in to pay $600 a month. We will feed you and give you a safe place to live, and then we will help you. We don’t turn anybody away because of money, but we do ask them to commit to six months. We can teach you John 3:16 fast. But we want to disciple you so you have a foothold in your relationship with Christ.”
Some people in the area label The Fountain of Life as the “drug church.” Faust admits that even though he graduated from a seminary, people sometimes look at him funny. “My momma is a Godly-woman, but when I told her I was going to open up a drug ministry, she said ‘They will kill you, you are going to have to watch them,’” he said with a laugh.
Yet there is a realization that things have changed and today, the typical drug user is not easily recognized. “They are sitting in church beside you,” Faust states matter-of-factly. “I am 47. When I was growing up, you would see a guy riding a motorcycle, tattooed with chains hanging, and we would say ‘there is a drug user.’ Now they look like me and you.”
Still The Fountain of Life experienced tremendous growth over the past decade, becoming more and more a regular church, while remaining welcoming to all. “We do Sunday morning church from 10-11 a.m. Amazingly, we have reached 40,000 people in ten years.
Sometimes God has a unique way of showing Faust how his obedience affected others. “I felt someone tap me on the shoulder recently who was a former client,” the pastor shared. “He said, ‘Errol, if you would not have obeyed God, I would not be buying steaks and potatoes for me and my wife.’ The Lord was showing me we are making a difference. I went to Cherry Street and O’Neal Lane and eight or nine random people approached me and said ‘that place changed my life,’” Faust continued with humility. “The Lord uses those people to remind us, we are making a difference. That is how He says ‘keep doing this.’”
Semi-weekly on Tuesday nights at 7 p.m., the church offers a program called Ear to Hear. Randy and Yvonne Volles come from Baton Rouge. Their son was once a resident and they wanted to remain involved in the addiction ministry. They host small group discussion with people affected by addictions and recovery. Faust explains, “Sometimes, you just need an ear to hear. You are not going to fix people, but you can learn some steps to take. We try to help the whole family. My daddy was an addict so our whole family was in Al-Anon. But you must know who that the higher power they talk about in that program is … Now-a-days God could mean anything. Preachers need to talk about Jesus. If you will cry out and say ‘God would you help me?’ He will start revealing himself to you. We’ve had atheist, Hindu, Muslim, a homosexual.”
Life is different now for Faust than when he worked on a church staff. The pastor recalls, “Back then I could sit back in my office with a full staff. I was getting comfortable when the Lord started stirring. God said, ‘Don’t get comfortable here.’ Now and I see how the Lord brought me here. I’ve always had a soft spot for this ministry, because I know what it is like to have addiction in a family. When daddy had to go to CDU, it brought our family together. He died 40 years later of a heart attack. My two siblings and myself are now very close.”
Still the road to building a ministry has been rocky. Faust suffered a personal setback when his wife left him. “In 2006 she said ‘see you later.’ It was the lowest part in my life. I did not see it coming. I was like, ‘God, I have been serving you and doing all this and this is what I get? To hell with all this.’ I had a 13-year-old and a 16-year-old and me and a ministry.” Faust remembers it as his season of confusion. This led to ministry taking a back seat to personal issues. Through the hurting he was in his own season of loss. As Faust struggled, unsure of what to do with his ministry, others took over the pulpit, and the church kept going. After a few months of what he called ‘getting his head on straight,’ Pastor Faust decided to start preaching again on Friday nights.
Even a mentor to many, sometimes we all need one of our own. For Faust that was Jerry Kinchen. “Mr. Jerry Kinchen has been a supporter of our ministry. When I went through the divorce, I would cry. He would come every day and sit with me in the church. He would drink coffee and read a magazine. He was a family friend, but now he is like my daddy. Sad thing is he has a son who is addicted to drugs.”
Months later, Faust met Michelle. “I needed to find my girls a mamma!” he laughed. “I called her and asked her out, it was God who brought us together,” he says lovingly. The couple has been married eight years.
Staying true to his call, Faust has learned a lot from starting a residential recovery ministry. “Treatment is not a cookie cutter treatment,” he explains. “One person may get healthy in a month, the next person may take two months. Under-treatment or over-treatment is equally bad.
Beyond the recovery ministry, however, Fountain of Life is a busy place. That 2,400 square-foot building, which Faust once feared might never be filled, hosts services Sunday morning, Wednesday and Friday nights. Every other week on Tuesday there is Ear to Hear. On Thursdays there is a men’s fellowship with an average attendance of about 30. “Sunday mornings we offer children’s church. We have a metal building and have been talking about what to do with that space for two years. With the idea of using it for ministry, Mr. Jerry (Kinchen) called and said ‘I will pour the concrete.’ That was a good start. The church decided to launch a fundraiser to get that building ready. The leaders agreed to use a drawn thermometer to keep the congregation updated on fundraising efforts. One Sunday Faust announced the plans to the congregation.
“We came out of church,” Faust remembered, “and, there is this guy who came for the first time and has only been back one time. His name is Kevin Keller, he is a contractor who just came to visit our church. He said, ‘Tell Jerry that I will pay $40,000. On Monday they came with the plans, and on Tuesday they started to work. They bricked it, put windows in, carpet, AC stuff, put classrooms in and glass doors.”
As it so often happens when God closes doors, followers of Jesus find that closed door just may be our own personal miracle from God. That is the revelation of Errol Faust and the genesis of a giant ministry, Fountain of Life, in the small town of Albany, Louisiana.