Like most of our honorees in our Citizen Spotlight, we celebrate someone who has quietly worked behind the scenes within a charitable organization, the type of individual who gives to those in need, and a person who is reluctant to take credit for these works. Eric Turner, Director of Banner Hope, is the perfect example of this type of citizen. Banner Hope is a faith-based addiction recovery program created to be a safe haven for men in recovery and a vital resource to the community. These men work together closely providing tangible necessities and assistance to fellow citizens while also delivering a message of comfort, hope, and love.
But, Eric’s story is bigger than the scope of his role in the organization. His is also a story of redemption, a story about struggle and finding the light in the darkest of places, and how what one chooses to do with that light can make all the difference. Eric will gladly tell his story and share his testimony with anyone in the hopes that they, too, can find salvation. However, Eric will preface the account of events with one simple, but oh so powerful statement. He says, “This isn’t my story, this is God’s story,”
In order to understand the beginning of Banner Hope and how Eric came to be such an integral piece of this organization, one must travel a little further back. Eric was born and raised in Hope; he graduated from Hope High School where he played sports and did well in school. He says he was “raised right” and had great parents. However, as he got older and began the journey from teen to adulthood, his life veered toward a different path. He says he began partying and experimenting with drugs, which ultimately led to addiction. This heavy lifestyle was destructive and unhealthy, lasting almost 13 years, leaving what was once a promising future in tatters. The addiction, and the poor choices thereof, spanned a long period of darkness and confusion in Eric’s life, leaving him with only legal troubles and isolation to show for it, but also an underlying yearning for change. “I was broken,” says Eric. “I had lived that life of addiction for so long that I had destroyed every relationship I’d ever had, especially with my parents. I was seeking and searching for answers. I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life; I was this drug addict with no home. I was just so tired of living that way. That’s when Christ came into my life and I surrendered.”
As Eric recounts the day he gave his life to Christ, he says he can now see the events leading to his salvation are so unique that they can only be a design by God. “About six years ago, I decided I was going to go on the Hope Watermelon Festival Treasure Hunt,” begins Eric. “I’m following these clues all over town and thinking I’m going to find this money! The clues made sense to me so I thought I was on the right track,” he says. “What was really happening was God intervened. I ended up in a little church courtyard in the memory garden, not far from the church I attend now. As I’m standing there, the light bulb came on. I wasn’t supposed to be living life this way. I knew the story of Jesus; I had heard the message, knew He had died for my sins, seen other people who had been saved, and even called on Him myself at times and felt moved. I always had the knowledge, but in that moment, I knew it was real and that He was the answer. So I surrendered. Right there in that little churchyard memory garden, I gave my life to Christ. From that moment on, I was changed.”
As Eric relays his testimony, he is again moved by this experience and becomes animated with the re-telling. He is again right back in that moment where he went from complete despair, feeling lost and aimless, to the immense relief and elation of feeling God’s love and acceptance and knowing his new destination. “It was like this huge weight was lifted off my shoulders,” says Eric excitedly. “I had been searching for the answers and God showed up; He cleaned me up after that.” Eric later learned that he was nowhere even close to where the actual treasure hunt was supposed to be; it was on the other side of town. “That was all Him,” says Eric. “I went looking for treasure that day. I didn’t find any money; instead, I found the best treasure there is. I realized I had never really been alone. God had been there the whole time.”
Eric says he learned quickly that the path to salvation isn’t just about that one big moment. The seed was sown early on, and looking back he can see the moments in his life where God intervened or directed a person into his path. A few weeks after the treasure hunt, Eric attended a service at First Baptist Church of Hope, the same church he attended in his youth. He was sober now and eagerly anticipating a life dedicated to serving God. “Everything felt so new,” says Eric. “I was amazed at this beautiful place with these wonderful people who made me feel welcome; my life and heart had changed. I looked down at the program and saw my name on the prayer list. People I didn’t even know had been praying for me for weeks! I was wrecked in that moment. I knew then the power of praying folks and the power of God in my life. That’s what had been going on: these people were praying for me and God stepped in and changed me.”
Eric began attending church regularly after that, serving as much as he could, and he focused on rebuilding the relationship with his parents and loved ones. Any time he could help someone or participate in a church activity, Eric was there. He stayed the course, cut out the old, toxic relationships and habits from his former life of addiction, and after much prayer, time, and patience he began to see even more positive changes. During this time period, a new pastor came to First Baptist and into Eric’s life; actually, he was a classmate from Hope High School, Daniel Bramlett. This was the beginning of a relationship that would soon have everlasting effects on both men, and ultimately the surrounding community. “Daniel is awesome,” says Eric. “What the Lord is doing through him with this church and community is just amazing. He has been there for me and so many others, too; just talking to him or just being around him is uplifting.” Another person came into Eric’s life around this same time period: his lovely wife, Hanna. Eric says meeting the love of his life is just another example of God’s plan in motion. Hanna, too, has walked the path of addiction recovery and knows first-hand the transformation that occurs when faith is the guiding principle. For years, they knew some of the same people, but they never met until both were healthy, happy, and fulfilled by living life according to God’s purpose. Eric says, “I’m so grateful that I met this amazing woman at this point of my life. Hanna’s love, faith, and acceptance is an inspiration. I feel so fortunate to have her on this journey with me.” Eric continues with, “ I did what God wanted me to do and got my life back on track. He started putting all these great people around me.” Eric continued to be grateful for the blessings in his life, still choosing to serve others, and before long Eric’s course would veer again and a new purpose would be revealed.
Around four years ago, Daniel approached Eric about some ideas he had and the two began a conversation about a faith-based recovery program. Soon after, Banner Hope was born. After much prayer and conversations with others in the congregation and the community, doors began to open and the way was cleared to acquire a building. (This building used to be a mission…. another coincidence?) At the time, there was a need to work with teens so the program started as a juvenile behavioral center. They partnered with the juvenile drug court and Eric served as a mentor, working with teens after school and in the summer while sharing the gospel. After a while, and changes in local infrastructure, the program morphed into what it is now, a faith-based recovery program for men. The original goal and prayer that had been on the hearts of these men had come to fruition.
Banner Hope provides a safe place for men in addiction recovery to work with like-minded individuals while also providing a valuable service to the community. Eric serves as Director of Banner Hope and each day he and the guys start the day with devotionals and prayers. Eric says, “The most important thing is keeping the guys clean, and that their lives are restored through Jesus. We want them to have a place where they can be around people who love and support them, grow their confidence, and build a new network so they don’t go back to the old network of bad habits and unhealthy relationships. Here, they can see all around them the wonderful things God can do in their lives and it helps the healing process.”
Banner Hope performs a wide array of work for community members in need like re-modeling, demolition, yard work, repair. Anything the guys can do to serve others, they are eager to help. Recently, they even began the process of a complete build for a local resident who lost his home during the ice and snow. The group also paired with a visiting youth group from Garland, Texas to assist some local business owners with cleaning and remodeling projects. The Banner Hope crew also assisted in the re-modeling at First Baptist church to create a new youth room. The work itself is a type of healing, also. Helping others in their time of need draws their focus on the positive aspects of life. Service doesn’t just help those we serve, but those who serve. “Each day, I get to witness the amazing work God does,” says Eric. “It’s so cool to watch these guys grow with healing and salvation through the Lord.” When asked if he had any future goals in mind, Eric says he’s been praying about Banner Hope one day being able to provide housing for the men in this program. He says. “If it’s God’s will, He will make it happen.”
Eric isn’t comfortable taking credit for the accomplishments of Banner Hope. He says God has worked through so many people to make this organization happen. To him, there are many other people who should be recognized for their hard work and support. He says, “This is a team effort. Daniel, Rusty, the guys I work with, other churches, other organizations, and members of this loving community all work together to make this happen.” However, if one would ask anyone else around town about Banner Hope, the name Eric Turner would be repeated frequently. Eric’s selfless works and gracious disposition have made an impression on many. Some have heard his testimony, others have witnessed his service, and those who knew him before are profoundly touched by his transformation. Daniel Bramlett gets to see it every day. Daniel says, “Eric Turner has one of the greatest comeback stories in Hope, Arkansas! He is a walking, talking picture of grace. I see in him a servant’s heart that won’t quit and he’ll go far for anyone in need. I see a deep love for broken-hearted people. Eric is quick to get down to the heart level of the people God places around him. Probably the greatest gift I know of that God has given Eric is a shepherd’s heart. He feels what the people around him feel, but refuses to leave them there. By God’s grace, this shepherd lifts people up and helps them take another step with Jesus. I thank God for Eric Turner, his friendship, his family and his life.”
Eric’s wife Hanna says his work has motivated her to consider what she could contribute, as well. She says, “Watching Eric has inspired me. It’s in my heart now that maybe, someday, I could do something similar for women who are in need of faith-based recovery. I’m praying about it and if God chooses this for my path, I would be honored to work alongside Eric. Our children and I are so blessed to have Eric in our family.”
Eric says the lessons learned in his life aren’t just for addicts. God’s teachings are for all His children and it is an open-ended exercise that changes constantly. He says, ”It’s a journey, this life. It’s a blessing and it’s beautiful here, but at times we’re going to go through things we can’t explain. We’re going to hurt, and times will be tough. But I’d much rather walk through that knowing someone is sitting on the throne. I’d much rather do it with Him than do it by myself, because I’m going to fall and fail, and when it gets really bad he’ll be there to comfort me and walk me through it.”
These aren’t just words for Eric, he lives it honestly each day. If only one lesson could be taken from his story, it’s that in the complex tapestry we call life, interwoven in between the dark threads are bright ribbons of light just waiting to be grabbed, and what one chooses to do with that light can change the entire pattern of future events to come. Eric chose to take his light, his salvation, and bring forth positive change for others. His compassionate acts and generous contribution to this community are why we celebrate citizen Eric Turner this week, and his divine message and soulful story are why he is admired by so many… but, again, as Eric tells it, this is not his story, it’s God’s story.
Anyone needing help or information about Banner Hope and faith-based addiction recovery can call First Baptist Church of Hope at (870)777-5757 or they can contact a Banner Hope representative at (870)826-3037.
Banner Hope is completely funded by donations. Anyone wishing to make a donation can send a check made out to Banner Hope to First Baptist Church of Hope, come by the church office, or visit the First Baptist Church of Hope website to download the app and make donations.
Thanks to Eric, Banner Hope, and the congregation at First Baptist for letting us observe and share what you do with the community!
SWARK.Today’s Citizen Spotlight is for recognizing those whose dedication and knowledge are an essential part of our community and industry. Often, those roles behind the scenes are equally as valuable, yet not common knowledge. To achieve success, every job is necessary and every person’s role is critical. If you know of someone who should be nominated for a Citizen Spotlight, send an email to [email protected] with the person’s name and a brief description of what he or she does, we would love to talk with them!