Inmate to Reverend – 2018

“This is my dream come true!” says Cynthia McGowan, Associate Pastor for FreshSTART Recovery Church.  9 years ago my life fell apart because of addiction.  My 3 children were deeply affected and it took lots of work for my family to find healing and wholeness again.  FreshSTART Recovery Church is so important because it gives a place to call home for those who are struggling and need to be surrounded by people who know Recovery, live Recovery, speak Recovery.  They need a church with no judgment and no labels… where no one is afraid of a convicted felon and no one is surprised that you are still trying to figure out how to get your kids back… a place where kids aren’t ashamed to say their Mom or Dad is in prison… a place where people love on kids whose parents are still in active addiction or in jail. My family is so proud of me for being a part of creating this new ministry.  FreshSTART Columbia saved my life!

Having the opportunity to share my story with all of you is truly a blessing and I know it is what God has called me to do!
Blessings, Pastor Cynthia


Recovery God Story – June 2017

This month’s Recovery Story is about Kourtney G., better known as “KO”.  Our FreshSTART  leaders met KO a little over a year and have watched her grow in so many ways!  We are proud of her and the ways that she has allowed God to shape her and use her as a light!!  She is a LEADER on our FreshSTART Team inside Maury County Jail.  KO has a great advantage in that she gets to interact with the women inside the jail 24/7.  She teaches and helps women with Recovery classes and lessons.   The work that she does is nothing short of amazing!!

After Easter we heard stories about the Holy Week worship that KO led inside the jail.  About 45 women, many who hadn’t been to a church, many who had never before received Holy Communion, and many who didn’t know the whole Jesus story, came and listened and prayed and cried and the whole POD was impacted for Christ.  The stories of how the women in the POD squirreled away a bottle of grape juice (that lasted all week), a bag of crackers and the script from our Watch Night Communion Service on New Years’ Eve… in order that they might have a special Holy Week experience, touched the hearts of our FreshSTART team and every other group we’ve shared the story with… this month we want to share a bit about KO and this special Holy Week experience from her own words….

“I am a grateful believer who struggles with addiction.  I have been involved with FreshSTART and Celebrate Recovery on the Inside for the past year, and have been progressively transformed throughout my experience.  By working the eight recovery principles, the 12 steps, and remaining in recovery community, I have discovered the peace of God, which transcends all understanding. (Phil 4:7)”

     “The most valuable piece of advice that I have received is to maintain an attitude of gratitude.  Since humility and gratitude, I am told, walk hand in hand, this new mood adjustment calls for a daily surrender of self will.  I won’t say that it’s been easy since God doesn’t seem to spare us the hardships of life, but it does get easier as He provides the grace to get through these tough times CLEAN.  There is a lesson to be learned in these painful situations that may help someone else.  The rocks in the road can either be stumbling blocks or stepping stones, and we’re left with the power to decide.”

“I have learned to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thes. 5:18) because God works all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).  I am confident in the fact that God is using the “dark” areas of my life and the darkness of my past, including bouts of abuse, addiction, and incarceration, to shed His love and light unto my peers and myself especially.  I am currently serving my second Celebrate Recovery group as a leader and I assist “the wondrous” Pastor Angy Trimmer in a Spiritual Principles of Recovery class throughout the week. 

“I am here to support and encourage my sisters in recovery and even show compassion to those in search of a better life 24/7.  There is no set schedule for the Holy Spirit to work nor is there a set medium in which the power of His works are to be displayed.  Class projects can be quite challenging, yet powerful tools for transformation.  I am here to help in any way I can.”

“A big help for me was found in the magnificent presence of the Lord this year during Holy Week.  A group of female inmates (myself included) gathered in the pod to read the events of the sacred week in each one of the gospels beginning on Maundy Thursday through Easter.  Following the readings each day I led a communion service where I shared with the group a reading from the gospels in accordance with the day of the week.  I read a prayer of repentance and gratitude that moved many hearts, I handed out communion and read the Lord’s prayer.  The altar call was held at the seats of our dining tables.  I will forever remember the power of the Spirit as it flooded through me during the readings aloud to the pod.  My soul, and many others’, were refreshed and filled with a sense of wholeness as we came together to honor our Savior as one body of Christ.  I am immeasurably grateful for the series of events that got me to where I am, and I thank God who gives me the strength to keep going!”  – Kourtney

Tylee’s God Story – April 2017

Tylee Chino was raised on a reservation in New Mexico where she graduated from high school, then entered the U.S. Army. In the army, she served in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and South Korea working with a Patriot missile unit. She was in Iraq following the 9/11 terrorist attack and participated in the famous conflict between our Patriot missiles and Saddam Hussein’s Scud missiles.

After leaving the army she received a DUI in New Mexico then came to Tennessee to participate in a treatment program in Nashville, she then moved to Murfreesboro and entered a treatment program at the Way of Hope. She moved to Columbia with a friend she met in Murfreesboro and received another DUI and wound up in the Maury Co. Jail. While in jail she heard about the Celebrate Recovery program run by FreshSTART.  She started attending the Celebrate Recovery classes and it helped change her life. She now lives at the Discipleship House for women in Mt. Pleasant and has been sober for 11 months. She volunteers some of her time to helping FreshSTART and regularly attends our Celebrate Recovery sessions on Fridays and Sundays. Tylee envisions using her VA benefits to go to college in the future, but still undecided as to what area of study she would pursue. Someday she hopes to return to New Mexico in order to be close to her family. 


From the Inside – 2016


Hello, my name is Vanessa. I am an inmate at Maury County Jail and have been here for 2 years. I am here because of drugs. I have struggled with addiction for 22 years. Until I found hope in the FreshSTART ministry.
I came from a dysfunctional family where good parenting skills were not practiced or taught. The parenting inside-out class has taught me several important things. The best thing you can do for your children is treasure them, because they are prized possessions. I have 3 beautiful children in which I found myself overwhelmed at times as a single mom, with a drug habit, trying to raise them on my own. My FreshSTART instructor, Michelle Chaney, taught me several tips about parenting, such as how wrongly applied discipline can cause rebellion, how to teach our children good behavior and study habits, good work ethics, positive reinforcement, setting limits and sticking to them, how to develop a sense of self-worth, self-respect, good attitudes, proper conduct, family rules and consequences. Your children need love in order to develop properly. With this solid foundation laid, we can get our children to “Destination Adulthood” being successful, happy, productive citizens. My highest ambition in life is to be a good mother and to succeed. Parenting is a leadership role, the most important role in society.
Celebrate Recovery and the FreshSTART women who instruct the program (Pastor Angy, Cynthia, Sandra, Sharon), have also been a blessing to me. Both Parenting Inside-Out & Celebrate Recovery have given me a strong support system and has prepared me for my future by developing leadership qualities, parenting skills, and how to exercise all my faith in the promises of God. He has promised to supply our every need. And I claim that promise today!
God Bless, Vanessa

Not Just for Addicts – 2016

In the fall of 2004 a group of men were meeting in a rental house on West 10th Street in Columbia for bible study and ended the current study and were looking for something to draw them closer to God. Celebrate Recovery was the choice and materials were ordered for 10 men. Out of that 10, 4 finished the workbook and committed to sharing with others.
Since that beginning, Celebrate Recovery has had different locations but has stayed alive in Maury County. Today Celebrate Recovery takes place at Craft Memorial United Methodist Church under the ministry of FreshSTART for both men and women.

My name is Ron and I have been involved with CR since the first group and it has made many positive changes in my life. Celebrate Recovery is about learning a new way to think and trusting through a relationship with Jesus Christ. I grew up knowing about Jesus but never understood about our relationship until I lost everything and finally decided to check Jesus out. He turned out to be much more than I had heard preached. My attitudes began to change and my faith in God increased as I saw the difference happening inside me. I was finally able to make amends and offer forgiveness without fear.

The Gathering on Sunday nights is a great mixture of people and is filled with warmth and love. Out of the gathering we do step studies for different hurts, hang ups and habits. Come Sunday at 5:00pm for a meal and fellowship; check us out!  It could change your life!
God Bless, Ron McCarthy