My name is Scott Alvarez. This is my wife, Pennie, and our children, Henry and Annamarie. We are members of Crescenta Valley Community Church (CVCC), a Foursquare congregation pastored by Scott and Kathe Wood in La Crescenta, Calif.
Together, Pennie and I have led the Celebrate Recovery ministry at CVCC for the past 2-1/2 years, and have sponsored people seeking freedom from destructive life issues. I recently celebrated three years of freedom from sexual addiction, codependency and work addiction; Pennie, 16 years sobriety from alcohol and codependency.
We met on an airplane in 1998, striking up a conversation across the aisle. I wasn’t in recovery or a Christian, but she was. By the end of the flight, we were friends. It was a “divine appointment” for both of us.
I told Pennie and her friends that I was open to attending their church, which was in San Francisco. I liked them and wanted to see what this church they spoke of was all about. I was amazed the first Sunday I attended. They talked about Jesus in a way I had never heard before. I gave my heart to Jesus that day and was baptized a few months later. We were married the following July, exactly one year from when we had first met.
A year later, we had our son, Henry, and Pennie and I felt a clear calling to move to Los Angeles. God had opened a few doors in the film business, and my filmmaking career was starting to take hold. We settled in the Glendale area, in the small town of La Crescenta, where we discovered CVCC. We also had our daughter, Annamarie.
I was struggling to make ends meet in the film business. But month after month, God provided just enough. As our faith grew, God started revealing areas of our lives He wanted to heal. This was where Pennie and I grew closer in our relationship with Jesus, and where I finally got into recovery.
Pennie had been involved with Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon for more than 10 years. It was in those programs where she first got sober and eventually found Christ. Through her, I learned about recovery, but I never thought I needed recovery myself. God knew better!
One Sunday at CVCC, some women who had participated in a post-abortion healing recovery group gave their testimonies. As I listened and wept, I wrote down words I believe God put on my heart: “If I can heal them, I can heal you as well. If you will give me your recovery and lead others along the same path I’m going to take you, I will heal you. As you lead, I will heal you. But first you have to step out in faith and lead.” Right there, I committed to God to starting a recovery ministry.
Neither of us had ever heard of Celebrate Recovery until Pastor Scott accompanied us to the Celebrate Recovery Summit at Saddleback Church. There, Pennie and I decided to start the ministry together, with the full support of our pastor. He said he’d been praying for years for God to start a recovery ministry at CVCC.
Although it has been a huge challenge and growth opportunity, it really was perfectly God-designed. I came into recovery as a Christian; Pennie came to Christ through recovery. Our perspectives were opposite, but exactly those of the various people we meet in recovery.
Some are in recovery and curious about Christ. Others know Christ and are curious about recovery. Through serving in Celebrate Recovery at CVCC, we have grown closer, our marriage has grown stronger, and we have grown in our maturity and heart to serve others.
Pennie is now studying to get her license in substance abuse counseling, and through my films, I’m exploring issues relating to recovery and telling others about what God has done for me. My first feature, Down for Life, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and will be released in theaters this spring.