Glenn Sandifer says the twists and turns of his own life help him better understand those seeking redemption from poor choices, which is why he began Unforsaken Ministry.
“God’s never given up on me,” Sandifer said. “I’ve done more rebelling against God than anybody has rebelled against Him. If God can love me and forgive me, then who is out there that I cannot love and forgive?”
Based in Trussville but reaching as far as needed within the state, Unforsaken is a result of Sandifer’s experiences before getting saved and his life, career and ministry after giving his heart to Jesus. The ministry seeks to be a conduit between individuals — most often addicts or those in prison — who need help and the people and programs who have the ability to help. It provides practical support, walking alongside the person through recovery programs and back to a new life.
Sandifer had grown up in church but as soon as he turned 18, he decided he didn’t want any part of God or church. He started drinking and doing drugs and eventually became homeless.
His father showed him tough love and let him come back home, but only for three months. Sandifer was able to get his life together enough to function but he didn’t change.
After getting married and having children, he and his wife decided they needed to go back to church so their children could be raised in church. It was there that God took hold of Sandifer. He was saved and walked away from drugs and alcohol.
“I swore I’d never be a preacher,” he said, but he eventually felt the call. He served as a youth pastor and then a pastor before God led him to start Unforsaken Ministry.
There is no set group of people Sandifer works with or any set program he uses. Currently, he is working with prisoners to plan for new lives upon release. He uses the book “Crossroads: A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Addiction” by Edward Welch as an accountability tool with those he helped in the past and those he is mentoring now.
Sandifer refers some people to outside agencies. Some of the facilities he collaborates with who help those dealing with addiction or prison are the Lovelady Center for women, Aletheia House for men and Center of Hope Recovery Center for men and women.
Through the monetary support of churches and individuals, as long as funds are available, the ministry will also pay the intake fees for rehabilitation and will help with housing and furnishings after recovery.
Sandifer readily admits that he is not a trained counselor or an addiction specialist. He hopes to use his past to lead others out of that lifestyle.
“The only thing I have is personal experience when I was an idiot and learning from these folks that I’ve been able to help through the years,” he said.
Knowing that families and friends of addicts want to do something to be proactive, Sandifer’s advice to them is not to intervene and to allow the consequences of the addiction bring them to rock bottom. However, he recognizes that every situation is different.
“I can’t tell them what to do because I’m not walking in their shoes, and their child is not my child. However, I tell them this, ‘I will support whatever decision you make and help as much as you’ll let me help,’” he said.
Sandifer’s goal with family and friends is to take the emotion of the relationship out of it and to give an outside perspective by sharing his and others’ stories of recovery.
Sandifer gets especially excited when the worlds of addiction recovery cross with those of people raised in church.
One woman he worked with had spent nine months in jail. The first Sunday after her release, she attended church. The attendees saw her coming and made a receiving line for her at the door.
In another instance, a young woman who was so far gone was described by Sandifer as having “dead eyes.” After finishing the program at the Lovelady Center, she told her boyfriend that she wasn’t going to be with a man who doesn’t love God and was planning to be celibate until she found that man.
“She should have been a ‘60s child, just free-living and [wearing] what she was comfortable with to church — a spaghetti strap shirt. She had tattoos on her arms and one of her babies, she’d breastfeed in church. She was just loving Jesus. She wasn’t worried about other people,” Sandifer said.
One Sunday, he saw that she had sat in the same row as a woman who was her opposite — a retired schoolteacher who had moved back home to take care of her mom.
Sandifer saw them worshipping together and thought, “That’s beautiful.”
Later the second woman came to Sandifer, admitting that she had doubts at first why a woman like that would be in church — until God revealed to her that it was simply that they both needed Jesus.
“Some Sundays we have more ink on skin than in the bulletin,” Sandifer said. “These people coming in, not feeling shunned but feeling accepted. It grows my heart.”
The message Unforsaken is sharing is that those who are being helped need to get to know who God is and what He says about them.
“We’re created in His image. That means we have value. We have purpose. God doesn’t make losers. God doesn’t make failures. Do we fail sometimes? Yes, but that doesn’t have to be our identity,” he said.
To find out more about Unforsaken Ministry and hear testimonials, go to unforsakenministry.org.