North Texas Daily

Motorcycle ministry aims to break the chains of addiction

Motorcycle ministry aims to break the chains of addiction

March 31
03:16 2016

Joey Stephens | Contributing Writer

It’s a cool day and the grass smells like dew from the rainstorm earlier in the morning.

There is a backdrop of aged trailers homes, a motorcycle in need of a new transmission and a broken-down pick-up truck missing its tires. Old junk metal is piled up in an open shed. A territorial Chihuahua’s incessant barking drowns out the pleasant sound of the gully draining murky rain water.

A small group of people stand outside smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee. There is laughter and what appears to be genuine appreciation of one another’s company. The trailer door swings open and out walks a man with a thick Philadelphian accent, accompanied by a slender blonde woman.

“This is Sandy. She got here yesterday,” said Tommy Billington, a Sons of Thunder “house boss.”

Sandy smiles and talks about her son, a student at UNT.

“He’s a short, pale-skinned kid. He’s a senior now,” she said.

This is the home of Sons of Thunder Ministries. A homeless shelter, or trailer, for recovering drug addicts and alcoholics.

Ryan Bibb | Contributing Photographer

Ryan Bibb | Contributing Photographer

Sandy is one of the newer residents who calls Sons of Thunder Ministries home. Sons of Thunder has been in Denton since 2002 and is a 501 C(3) non-profit acting as a homeless shelter for those struggling with addiction. The group operates two trailer homes in close proximity to one another. According to the organization’s website, its mission is to “provide biblical 12-step programs and offer 24-hour support to those suffering from drug addiction.”

Residents are required to attend weekly Bible studies, cannot use foul language and no drinking or drug use is permitted. If someone does not have a job, they are required to go out each day and look for one, bringing back at least three completed applications until they get hired.

Inside one of the trailers is a living room, three bedrooms and a small kitchen. Three people are sitting on an old couch, watching the local news on a small television. The smell of coffee and cigarette smoke permeate the air.

Billington said the ministry has run into financial hardship lately. He is concerned for the well-being of the trailer he calls home. Some of the wooden door frames are rotting away because of bugs. The tile needs to be redone in the kitchen. All of the walls need to be repainted.

He sits down on his bunk and begins to explain why, at age 57, he is now titled “house boss” of this shelter.

“Well, I was an addict. I was a crackhead,” Billington said. “My life fell apart after working 30 years for a company in Philadelphia. My job fell through and my wife told me that she had been cheating on me and wanted a divorce.”

Ryan Bibb | Contributing Photographer

Ryan Bibb | Contributing Photographer

Billington explained how he blew through all his savings in 10 months and found himself homeless and wanting to die. His sister brought him to Texas in 2012, but he wasn’t able to break his addiction. He eventually met one of the members of Sons of Thunder at a local Baptist church and said the rest is history.

“By the grace of God I’ve been here about three months, and within a month, I was house boss,” he said. “It’s hard some days because I have to make certain decisions like how to throw three people out just for misconduct.”

Across the street is where club president Ben “Tank” Carswell lives. He sits on his porch smoking a cigarette and drinking a cup of coffee. He wears a motorcycle jacket covered in patches that say things like “He who bows before God can stand before men” and “Satan is a punk.”

Carswell lived a past life of drugs, women and violence. He rode with dangerous motorcycle gangs.

Today, he is an ordained minister.

“All of this, the ministry, is not because of me,” Carswell said. “This is God’s.”

Ryan Bibb | Contributing Photographer

Ryan Bibb | Contributing Photographer

Carswell is known to baptize people in a small creek down the road, in a way that is in stark contrast to how many people may familiarize themselves with the Christian practice.

“One day we went down there with 15 people, surrounded by snakes. I just prayed to God that they didn’t bite us,” he said.

Carswell has seen his fair share of success stories, and has witnessed many struggles since the ministry began in 2002. Today, lack of funding has become one of the biggest concerns for the pastor. Despite the structural problems of the trailers, including his own, which has a leaky roof, he is more concerned about getting enough money to keep the operation running.

“The churches around here don’t help us,” Carswell said. “Ain’t nobody gets paid for what we do here. We don’t let nobody get a hold of the money and just blow it.”

Sons of Thunder is able to operate by charging its residents $60 a week, but it won’t kick anyone out because of money. Still, Carswell is determined and motivated to continue his work, despite financial concerns.

“You can’t turn your back on your own people,” he said. “And that is where it all originated from.”

Featured Image: Ryan Bibb | Contributing Photographer

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