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Stephen Hopkins is one of the many "Stories of Hope" contributors whose life has been changed by ISP retreats. Today he is a member of ISP's Washington, D.C., team.
“Today I live a lot better than I used to live. I have my own place, I go to ISP spiritual groups, I spend time with my family. I’ve learned to give back to God." ~Stephen Hopkins

ISP Shares "Stories of Hope" in New Book

By Tom Drexler

The first Ignatian Spirituality Project (ISP) retreat for those experiencing homelessness and recovering from addiction took place in 1998. Since then, we have heard countless powerful and transformational stories from our retreatants. With the recent publication of Stories of Hope (available on Amazon), we can now share these stories with the world. Our hope is that people will read and share this book far and wide (all sales go to cover the cost of producing the book).    

Blending elements of Ignatian Spirituality and the 12-step recovery program, ISP retreats are an effective resource in laying a foundation of hope, community, and healing for those living on the margins. By offering a safe space in which to share their stories, our retreatants come to see that they are not alone in their struggles, that they are loved both by God and by those on retreat with them.

Those who can best attest to the power of ISP retreats are those who have made them. Below are excerpts from evaluation forms that retreatants are asked to complete at the end of each retreat; these and many other powerful testimonials are included in the book: 











The following story from Stephen Hopkins, a member of our Washington, D.C., team, offers a powerful witness to the ISP retreats and God's grace: 

I grew up in the Anacostia area of southeast Washington, D.C. Coming up, I made some choices in life that sent me down the wrong path. In that spiral going down, I got involved with drugs, and a whole lot of other things that just led me to more drugs. My life was chaos. I’ve been shot three times, I’ve been stabbed, and that still didn’t get my attention to stop using. I continued to use more. I was in and out of prison, I would come home, and I would still use. I was on parole, and I would still use. Just take the consequences, send me back to jail, that was my attitude. All my life, everything I’d done was about self-destruction.

It took me a long time to finally say that I needed to change. I came home from prison the last time, and I had made up my mind this was it. I had lost everything, so when I came home I had nothing to come home to. I went into a transitional program to continue my sobriety and move on in my life. That really helped me, because my thirst for change was there, but I needed a lot more as far as my spirituality part.



The program sent me to an ISP retreat, my first retreat, at the age of 56. The retreat experience was about serenity. It was so peaceful there, which was something I really needed. The peace and quiet gave me time to think of where I’m at and what I need to do with myself. The guidance I got through learning to listen to other people, not trying to do it my way, it helped me with all of that. The retreat opened my eyes up to show me that I was right where God wanted me to be.

I came to realize that the presence of God in my life meant a lot more today than in the past. The only time I would grab God was when I was in trouble — “Oh, God, get me out of this.” Now I grab hold of God to take all of that off my shoulders. When I can’t carry it with me, I give it to God and let go. I don’t even think about the drugs, my lifestyle is changing.

When I first joined the ISP team, I was afraid to share my story or lead a group, but then I realized that I was in God’s house. There’s no wrong in how I do this. He’s going to lead me in the right way. That gave me confidence in speaking to guys, and taking on my responsibilities. I want to give back. This is my way of giving back. I just ask for God to lead me. I take a couple of deep breaths, relax, and I let it flow. I let God lead. I don’t drive anymore, I let God do all the driving.

Today I live a lot better than I used to live. I have my own place, I go to ISP spiritual groups, I spend time with my family. I’ve learned to give back to God, to give God some time out of the day, to talk to God in my own way. My addiction has made me who I am today. I’m a person trying to have a better relationship with God.

My mother got sick recently, and I got in my feelings about that. I had to remember who the architect of this is. He knows best what needs to be done. My selfishness had to get out of the way. I asked for some prayers with the guys in my spiritual group at ISP. And I came to realize that God gave me the key to love, the key to love is my heart. I had to go into my heart and give it to God.

When you look on the face of man, you look on the face of God. I want to treat people in that Godly fashion. I look at the Godliness in every person, because I want them to see it in me. No matter how much chaos and negativity is in a person, I’m going to recognize the God in them and show them the God in me.

There are currently teams of ISP volunteers offering retreats in 29 cities across the United States and Canada, and the program continues to grow. 

Tom Drexler is executive director of the Ignatian Spirituality Project.





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Located 80 miles north of Milwaukee, the Jesuit Retreat House on Lake Winnebago welcomes men and women of all faiths to its silent preached and directed retreats.