By Pat Centner
(AgapePress) - Fairview, a stately northern Kentucky home built in 1860, sits high on a hill surrounded by 44 acres of beautiful bluegrass countryside. During the Civil War, several families sought refuge at Fairview while husbands and fathers were off scouring the hills for rebel raiding parties.
Nearly 140 years later, Fairview still serves as a safe haven for the people within its walls, for today Fairview houses Pure Life Ministries (PLM), the temporary home of some 30 men who are struggling to overcome addictions to pornography and sexual sin.
Steve and Kathy Gallagher are the heart and soul of Pure Life Ministries, and their journey to Fairview and Pure Life Ministries has been long and arduous. Steve battled his own 13-year addiction to pornography and sexual sin before God delivered him from bondage. As a result, he felt led to start a ministry for men like himself - men who are so lost in their addiction, they see no way out. Kathy supported Steve in his desire to start PLM, and today works alongside him as the ministry's administrator.
"Believe me, I know what it is to be in bondage to sexual sin," says Steve. "You become so obsessed you can barely function. Your wife, your kids, your work - seems impossible to climb out of."
Steve first became involved with pornography at age 10 when he found a Playboy magazine beneath his dad's bed. By the time he was 15, he was devouring any kind of pornography he could get his hands on.
As Steve grew into adulthood, he began frequenting massage parlors, soliciting prostitutes and becoming enmeshed in the whole underworld scene. He says he literally lived in two worlds. During the day, he wore a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff's badge. By night, he traveled a dark road into sin and moral debasement.
"I performed my job, but secretly, I had this overwhelming obsession. I was totally out of control, and I had no idea how to get in control," Steve explains.
It was during this time that Steve met his future wife, Kathy, who swept him off his feet. They fell in love and were married in 1980.
"I vowed to myself that I would stay away from the pornography and prostitutes. But the temptation was always there, and I returned to the old, secret life," remarks Steve. Kathy eventually found out, and she was devastated.
"I would leave, come back and then leave again," she says. "I finally just threw in the towel."
During one of the times when Kathy had left him, Steve finally came to the end of himself and experienced total despair. But a Christian deputy at the jail helped him find the Lord.
"That's where I repented, there in the jail in Los Angeles," reveals Steve. "And that started a process and a journey that took several years. Overcoming the addiction was such a struggle. I kept falling back, but the Lord helped me, and as He built His principles into my life, He transformed my heart and my mind. It took two or three years for me to get victory physically, and a couple more years to get victory in my mind. But I finally came to the place where I didn't think like a sex addict any more."
Meanwhile, the Lord was working in Kathy's life, too. Her parents had told her she needed to be with her husband, and although she had met another man, she knew the Lord was calling her to return to Steve.
"I really had it made in the situation with the other man," Kathy remarks, "but the Lord called me, and I obeyed His voice. It took a long time for God to restore Steve and me to the point where we were actually happy being together, but I'm grateful now that we stuck it out. It was hard for both of us, but God definitely moved in our lives."
Soon after, Steve left the sheriff's department and attended a Bible college where the Lord called him to help other men with the same kind of addiction he had. As a result, he started Pure Life Ministries in Sacramento, California, in 1986. "Unfortunately," Steve says, "no one back then really understood the concept of sexual addiction."
But Steve kept working to build his ministry, and in 1987, the Lord intervened again.
Don Wildmon, American Family Association's president, visited Sacramento. After learning about Steve's work, Wildmon promised to publish an article featuring Steve and Pure Life Ministries in the AFA Journal.
After the article was published, the Gallaghers received more than 900 phone calls in one month. "It is unbelievable that 900 people would call," says Steve. "That says so much for AFA's ministry. But the fact that such a great number of people either needed help or knew someone else who needed it was unreal."
Steve and Kathy say the AFA article was the real launching point for their ministry, and they've "Kept going ever since." In 1990, they started a faith-based, live-in program that allows addicted men to live in a godly atmosphere away from the influences of the world. In 1991, the Gallaghers moved their ministry to Fairview, where the beauty and solitude of the countryside provide a perfect backdrop for God to work His healing in devastated lives.
A man who has no accountability for his actions finds it extremely difficult to quit behaviors that have become engrained within him for years. But at Pure Life Ministries, because of the program's structure and Fairview's isolated location, it is virtually impossible for a man to be involved with pornography and sexual activity.
The live-in program is a minimum of six months long. It may take some men as long as nine to twelve months to overcome their addiction. PLM helps program participants find employment to offset the monthly fee of $600.
When asked how a man can afford to take six months or more away from his "regular" job and family, Kathy answers, "Let's pretend your husband, every night, pursues X-rated, hard-core pornography. And he treats you like garbage. He's angry all the time. You go to the store and he just leers at young girls. Your kids' lives are ruined because of his anger. You come to the point where you finally say, 'How can you afford not to do it?'"
Each program participant is required, among other things, to attend meetings and worship services, have daily devotions and work with a trained biblical counselor every week. The godly atmosphere at Pure Life creates a hunger within the men to know God in a deeper way.
"The key to breaking free is true repentance," says Steve. "It's the only answer God gives. But the problem with so many men is they think they have repented. 'I've repented over and over,' they say. But they are really making 'human resolutions,' which are very different from true repentance.
"True repentance is when God changes your heart, and that only comes through a real brokenness over your sin. A man needs a powerful encounter with God to overcome this sin. Only God can purify and make innocent where a person was once corrupt. So when you come to have a real hatred for that sin in your heart, that's repentance. And that's when victory comes."
To wives of sexually addicted men, Kathy offers this advice: "Go after Jesus with all your heart. That's where the hope is. Don't get caught in a trap of trying to change your husband. You can't. Only God can do that, and only God can change your heart as the two of you allow Him to restore your lives."
Pure Life Ministries offers an "Overcomers at Home" program, as well as a litany of books, videos, and materials written by Steve Gallagher to help both husbands and wives. For information, call 1-800-635-1866, or visit www.purelifeministries.org.
Photo Caption: Pure Life Ministries, located in Dry Ridge, Kentucky, is owned and operated by Steve and Kathy Gallagher.