‘Coming through the fire’: Local duo helping others overcome addiction through God

Published 8:00 am Sunday, July 7, 2024

Joey Nash and James Nowel Jr. have teamed up to help people overcome addictions, which they say can come in many forms.

“Drug addiction, pornography, depression, grief: It can be any of that,” Nash said. “We point people to the cross.”

Both Nash and Nowel have defied the odds and overcome drug addiction in their past. They both said they have a passion for people who find themselves in a difficult time and strive to offer a path for recovery.

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In addition to providing a home for seven adult men, Nash and Nowel lead weekly meetings under the program Celebrate Recovery at Living Waters Christian Fellowship. Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-centered ministry that provides a safe place for people to find freedom from the issues controlling their lives. Nowel said it is similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, but that Celebrate Recovery focuses on redemption through Christ. Payton Lipe, Bryan Huffty and Danny Ivey also assist with the ministry.

“We run a prison ministry. We go to Rankin County jail and the detention center here. We talk to the kids about our lives and where we went wrong, what happened to us,” Nash explained. “There’s a pivotal time for somebody seeking help . . . that first 24 hours after saying ‘hey, I need some help,’ if you don’t grab that person, get them somewhere, they have a good statistic of overdosing.”

Nowel, who said he at one time felt hopeless as he faced 130 years in prison for charges, added God helped him overcome his circumstances.

“The life I lived was all negative. Gangs, violence, drug abuse. I went to prison. In 2018 . . . I went to rehab and I was set free from everything. I was facing a lot of prison time, wasn’t expecting to come home again. I’d lost contact with all my children . . . had no visitation whatsoever. I sought the Lord, and he set me free from all that. My daughter lives with me now. I just want to reach out to the people that lived the lifestyle I once lived and show them that there is a better lifestyle, a greater lifestyle. That’s what I want to focus on, is helping others, bringing them out of that lifestyle into a better lifestyle.”

Nowel said his cousin, Lisa Kapp, who runs a similar program for women called Beautiful Deliverance, was instrumental in leading him to Christ. She brought him inspirational reading materials while he was in jail and encouraged him to enroll in Teen Challenge, an intense rehabilitation program that he completed in 15 months.

Nash credits his defense attorney Lane Campbell for seeing something in him that he didn’t see himself. Following an arrest, Nash was able to go to rehab instead of prison. At Home of Grace in Vancleave, Miss., he found a relationship with God.

“The scales fell off my eyes,” he said. “The colors were vibrant; everything was beautiful. Everything looked different. It was amazing.

“A lot of guys come home from treatment and they want to do right, but they don’t have the opportunity to go somewhere or the people to give them a second chance, so it leads them right back to the lifestyle they came from,” Nash said, as he recalled his own experience.

Nash said he faced challenges when he returned home from rehab.

“I had old friends calling me. Luckily, my cousins, Matt and Mike Finney, taught me how to live life as a Christian man. You can have fun sober. You don’t need drugs and alcohol to have fun.”

Nash recalled the ultimate test after finding sobriety was the death of his young daughter, Bexlee-Kaye Harper Nash. At the age of two, she was diagnosed with stage four cancer and passed away two years later. Losing Bexlee-Kaye strengthened Nash’s desire to help people by leading them to Christ.

“Ultimately, after that, that’s when I kicked it in hard. Me and the devil got problems now.”

The pair now looks to replicate the help they received following rehab.

“At that moment (after leaving rehab), I was right there at the line of going back,” Nash recalls. “That’s why we’re trying to have this program, so we can help men understand they can have fun sober. For Father’s Day, we rented a big water slide and all the ones who were able to have their kids got to be fathers, some for the first time in years.”

Nowel has learned to let God lead him, he explained.

“I had to really put my faith in the Lord and trust in him. When I do, it’s not like how I think it will turn out; it’s totally different, but it always turns out for the better.”

Nash and Nowel have plans to expand their ministry.

“We want to help as many as possible,” Nash said.

On July 13, they will co-host a program called Burgers and Blessings with Beautiful Deliverance at 4304 Halls Ferry Rd. There will be no charge for the food.

“All we ask is that you let us pray for you,” Nowel said.