Working the Steps

When Oliver finds the secret to freedom, he goes to work for himself and other addicts.

Back in the 1970s, two Navajo teenagers met Jesus and each other at Holbrook Seventh-day Adventist Indian School, many miles from each of their homes in America’s largest native reservation. After graduation, the two new Christians married in the newly erected Seventh-day Adventist Church in the young man’s hometown of Chinle, Arizona—the first wedding ceremony to be held in this church in the heart of the Navajo Nation.

When Dennis and Gloria Fulton’s first baby arrived, they took him with them to church. Baby Oliver claimed the Adventist Church as his own, but somehow he never really met Jesus. Life was busy; the church was small; other things got in the way. Over the years, Dennis had trouble with alcohol, and the now-teenage Oliver started drinking too.

Oliver graduated from Chinle High School, moved to Tucson, got a masters’ degree in information technology—and discovered that alcohol was controlling his life. Now 38, a desperate Oliver moved back to Chinle, where he knew his mom had been praying for him. He started attending the church of his childhood, hoping that something would change for him.

At church, Oliver discovered an active Twelve Step group where 80 to 90 Navajo alcoholics and drug addicts like himself met in the fellowship hall five evenings a week. A recovering alcoholic and cocaine addict from Texas led the meetings—a white guy named Don with an encouraging story.

Don, a baptized, church-going Seventh-day Adventist, had been in a Greyhound depot at 3am on his way back to his church family after his umpteenth cocaine relapse, wondering why he couldn’t stay clean. “I heard a voice in my head saying, ‘Don, you won’t take the medicine,’ ” Don told the group. “I knew what it meant. The Twelve Steps were God’s medicine for my disease. I had gone to meetings sometimes, but I had never really worked the steps.

“If you really want to get sober and stay sober,” Don went on, “you have to do three things: 1) Keep going to meetings; 2) Get a sponsor; 3) Work the steps.”

After the meeting, Oliver spoke to Don, and Don volunteered to be his sponsor. Oliver started working the steps.

Meanwhile, the church pastor invited Oliver to meet for lunch and get acquainted. Until that day, Oliver had figured that he could never go to Heaven, even though he wanted to sober up. But over lunch, the pastor told him that his sins could actually be forgiven. Jesus would accept him. This gave Oliver hope!

Oliver has been sober several years now. At church, he met a delightful Adventist lady with her own story of deliverance from heroin addiction. In December 2018, Oliver was baptized, and a few days later he married Traci. During the pandemic, Don had to return to Texas, so Oliver took over the recovery ministry, which is thriving under his leadership. He is taking online classes to become a certified substance abuse counselor, and is also mentoring another new believer into leadership in the Twelve Step program.

Oliver also has a passion for helping kids avoid addiction, and once each week he leads a group where children learn the “Twelve Steps for Kids” while their parents attend the adult Twelve Step meeting.

So what about Oliver’s parents, Dennis and Gloria? Well, Oliver’s dad has been sober for several years as well. Sometimes on Sabbaths, father and son sit together in church with their sweethearts at their sides—working the steps with Jesus!  

Arizona, USA

Pastor Dale Wolcott shepherds the Chinle Seventh-day Adventist Church and coordinates Arizona Native Ministries.

How You Can Help
Pray for the Twelve Step attendees in Chinle to overcome their addictions and be led to Christ. 

Pray for Oliver in his new walk with Jesus, and for the Chinle Church as they seek to save those in desperate circumstances.

Give. If you would like to support the Chinle mission on the Navajo reservation, send your gifts marked “Navajo Heartland” to: 

Chinle SDA Church 
PO Box 2299
Chinle, AZ 86503

Email: navajowolcott [at] gmail [dot] com

Learn more about the the Chinle Church’s Twelve Step addiction recovery program in this video!