When God called Mike Ellis in 1992 to pastor Geneva Park Baptist Church in Chesapeake, VA, the church sprang into action. “We started knocking on doors and reaching the people in the community with the Gospel,” shares Pastor Mike. “It just so happens that near the church, there were drug addicts and prostitutes.” The Lord gave Pastor Mike a burden for these types of people and a vision for the church to be passionate about reaching them. Although God called Pastor Mike away for a season to direct a homeless shelter in Gaffney, SC, He brought him back to Geneva Park Baptist Church two years later. Within a few months of his return in 2002, the church opened Victory Home, a residence recovery program for addicts. Most ministries of this nature operate as parachurch organizations, but Victory Home is unique in that it falls completely under the direction of the local church. “We wanted to see Christ transform people’s lives, and we believe that takes place best within the context of a local church. We make a distinction between reformation and transformation. It was not our vision that folks would come into our program and just make a few reforms or external changes in behavior. We believed that God wanted to radically transform addicts from the inside out!”
Geneva Park quickly learned that a lack in facilities was a barrier to growing the ministry. But God had a plan and was about to make a miraculous provision. Geneva Park was given the opportunity to merge with Bethany Baptist Church in Portsmouth. Bethany had a large facility and only a few attendees. Geneva Park sold its facility, and the two churches came together, retaining the name of Bethany Baptist Church and Mike Ellis as senior pastor. Funds from the sale of Geneva Park came in handy to make some much-needed repairs to Bethany’s facility and the necessary adjustments to house the ministry of Victory Home.
Constant fundraising is typical with this type of ministry, but not at Bethany Baptist Church and Victory Home. “Our residents work washing cars, repairing homes, cutting lawns or whatever else we can have them do to earn money for the program,” says Pastor Mike. “We teach them responsibility and work ethic. They work to support the ministry, and we provide room, board, and discipleship.” Participants in the program have intense Bible study every day. “We teach them how to live for God…how to overcome temptation; what the devil can and cannot do; what godly sorrow is that leads to repentance…ultimately, we want them to know that drugs and alcohol are not the problem. These things are symptoms of a deeper problem. When we help them understand these things, we help them understand how to walk in victory!”
Future plans include enlarging Victory Home to accommodate more residents and expanding an apprentice program for those who sense a special call to this type of ministry. The apprentice program involves a three-year commitment of on-the-job training coupled with theological training provided through Liberty University Online.
The fruit of the ministry is evident. At SBC of Virginia’s Annual Homecoming this past November, Bethany Baptist Church received a Pentecost Award for the most baptisms per-capita among SBCV churches. God is at work and souls are being saved!