Always with us

by Peter Twitchell

I never knew growing up that I would be called to be an alcohol counselor. I became a substance-abuse counselor in 1995 working at the Phillips Alcohol Treatment Center in Bethel, Alaska. Previously I had met Dr. Francis Phillips while attending ANARC in January 1995 in Anchorage. ANARC is the “Alaska Native Alcohol Recovery Center”.

I had met previously Dr. Francis Phillips at his home in Anchorage while attending ANARC. He shared with a group of us how he got in to the field of substance abuse treatment. Dr. Francis Phillips confided in me that I would be a good counselor in helping others on their journey to sobriety.

He encouraged me to study and to get my license to become a certified alcohol treatment counselor, which I pursued and obtained shortly after going into the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ 2 Year Human Services Program from 1996 through 1998.

Thank you Dr. Francis Phillips and your confidence in me to help others.

In treatment my personal ego, anger, resentment, and hatred was replaced with love, forgiveness, and what our ancestors of long ago taught our people, The Yupiaq People Of Southwest Alaska – to love each other and to love everyone and to hold everyone in high regard and to respect others.

In my work to help others I learned to have unconditional love for everyone. There was only one perfect man who ever walked our sinful world and that was our Savior Jesus Christ of Nazareth who was “without sin”.

Contrary to what the courts told our people – that they were the “worst case offenders”, I always told the men and women that I was hired to counsel: our Creator God Almighty “didn’t make a bad man or woman”, that we were made in His image, and that He breathes life into each one of us and that we had his light within.

I did tell my Clients the only “bad” thing was when we drank and took drugs, and as a result hurt each other, ourselves and others.

One morning we were having group with 21 men in our hut behind the jail complex we used as a meeting place when gathered with men/female inmates. The one room hut had a heater, 21 desks, one chair for the counselor, and an extra chair for his guest speaker should we invite an Elder from the community to speak with inmates.

That morning I told all the men, “You see this empty chair next to me? Jesus Christ of Nazareth is sitting in with us this morning.”

It was October and it was cold outside, there were no tundra flowers anywhere. Before the hour was up and we had to return to the jail facility, a strong aroma of sweet sweet flowers entered the room.

I remembered immediately what Ipli George had shared in the Moravian Church about when he died from his injuries in an emergency transport plane and the Lord Jesus Christ gave him a tour of heaven.

He shared that when he was brought to heaven the aroma of sweet sweet flowers was there in heaven. I recalled this comment he had made about his death experience.

At that moment a strong aroma of sweet sweet flowers filled the room. I wasn’t surprised, I was amazed!

Prior to saying “the Lord’s Prayer” to finish out our group, I asked a man, did anyone smell the fragrance of flowers?

Some of the men said, “Yes!” Others said, “No.”

I remembered the comment I had made at the beginning of our meeting that Jesus Christ of Nazareth, was in the room with us.

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