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Victory over the giants

On a hot weekday afternoon recently, a group of men washed and dried vehicles in the parking lot of a Suffolk NAPA Auto Parts store.

Standing near the street, one man handed out tracts at the stoplight and told anyone who would listen about the good news of Jesus Christ and about the Victory Gospel Spiritual Growth Center.

The men — some from Suffolk, some from elsewhere in the area — were raising money for the center, which helped them ditch substance abuse problems and homelessness and get on their way to a better life. Based in Portsmouth, the center accepts those who need help from all over the area.

The current leaders of the center were in the same situation 15 years ago.

Priscilla Eison said she and her husband, Elder George Eison, were homeless and had alcohol and drug problems. They weighed a combined 230 pounds, and all four of her children had been taken away from them.

“We were just strung out and out there on the streets,” she said. “They brought us into their ministry. They fed us. They clothed us. They ministered the Word to us.”

As the Eisons attended church more frequently at Victory Gospel Chapel, the parent ministry of the spiritual growth center, they grew in their faith and soon realized why support groups didn’t help them fight their addictions.

“Instead of talking about the problem all the time, we needed to talk about the solution,” she said. “We were able to face those giants in our life. As we faced each one of those giants, we were able to ask Him to forgive us.”

With the support of the center, the Eisons turned their lives around, got their children back and began to help others experience the same changes they had experienced.

“I just believe that God wants me to go win some souls,” Eison recalled her husband saying. “We began to go out and witness to people and pray with them.”

After two years of full-time ministry training, the couple opened up their home in Norfolk and started taking people in. They soon outgrew that home and rented a duplex in Portsmouth to continue the work.

“People start getting up and believing in the word of God to the point they just start changing,” she said. “They always were good people. They just made a mistake and didn’t know how to get up.”

The program as it exists today is completely voluntary. People who acknowledge they need help can live in the Portsmouth home for a year. During the first six months, they are not permitted to take outside jobs. They can only visit family or make phone calls on Saturdays and are required to help with the maintenance of the building. They take classes in Bible and life skills, and they attend church twice a week.

“We keep them very, very active,” Eison said.

The second six months of the program, the participants take an outside job and learn to pay bills, save money and create a budget.

“Some of them would make you cry because they haven’t worked in so long,” Eison said. “They cry when they go and cash their first check.”

The program has an 85-percent success rate, she said. A graduation is held every year for those who make it.

“These people have made up their mind that they want a better life,” she said. “I do believe the Lord sends them here so they can get away from the old people in their lives so they can get focused again.”

For more information about the Victory Gospel Spiritual Growth Center, call 397-8469.