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Former criminal now holding church services to help others

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DUNCAN, Okla_An ex-meth addict in Duncan is using his experiences to change the lives of drug addicted people in his community. Dennis Hall lived as an outlaw for decades, running from police and hiding behind drugs. Now, he stands proudly at the altar at "The Recovery Church." It's a place where drug addicts, ex-convicts, alcoholics, law breakers and everyone in between can gather together and journey toward a life free of crime.

He went from running the streets to running a church. For years, he was being chased around Stephens County by law enforcers that he now calls best friends.

When you see Hall now at the altar in his church would you ever guess that he has a past that's too graphic to even describe?  His story begins when he was teenager.

"When my mother divorced my dad she married a guy who owned nightclubs here and was in the gangster world back in the 70's. I grew up in a nightclub south of town, that's not even here anymore. My heroes were all outlaws."

He started using and making meth. His addiction spiraled out of control. Dennis described himself as a monster. His lowest moment occurred on August 26th 2001, about 7 in the morning.

"I had an old junk store out there, but really all I did was cook dope in there and they knew it. And they come in over the highway that morning, over the fence and I saw him and I'd been in there cooking dope all night. I set the acetylene bottles off in that shop, I was fixing to blow them away and me away. And I'll never forget that as long as I live."

Shortly after this, then Assistant District Attorney Jason Hicks finally took Hall off the streets.

"They tried to give me two life sentences and send me away for 65 years, day for day and close to $100,000 in fines."

Hall described his life before prison as a godless hell. He said his time spent behind bars was sort of like seminary. He connected with the chaplain and helped him spread the message of Christianity to other inmates. When he was released only 7 and a half years later, he started doing the same type of work in the Stephens County Jail, alongside Sheriff Wayne McKinney.

"We felt that if we could help Dennis in any way, we may be able to get some other people too, save them from returning to a life of crime."

After working as a chaplain in the Stephens County Jail, Hall wanted to extend his ministry. Two years ago, he opened the recovery church.

"You'll find that people are recovering from everything in life. This really just isn't drugs and alcohol."

The majority of his congregation does have a past tainted with addiction. Hall said his purpose now is to free them of their pasts.

"Sometimes these folks coming out don't have a chance. If they didn't have someone to disciple them and love them and mentor them, they wouldn't make it."

Robert Wilkins is a recovering addict. When he was released from rehab, he had nothing. But then Dennis stepped in.

"He provided me with a home and job within two days. Now my family's over here, I'm working everyday, my bills are getting paid, I'm starting to see the light."

Wilkins is now a member of The Recovery Church. He lives a life free of drugs with his wife and daughter. He works at a car shop in Duncan that employees only ex-addicts looking to change their lives. Hall said Wilkins' story is just one of many testaments to the power of The Recovery Church.

"To see a life like mine that was fixing to be flushed down the toilet, with no chance, to see those lives get turned around. There is no greater satisfaction in life than that."

Dennis Hall said there is only one way to win the war against drugs and that is to really invest in the lives of those addicted. He said that saving lives is a team effort it's his entire staff and congregation combined that make recovery a possibility.

The Recovery Church is raising money for what they're calling 'The Castle House.' It's an 8,000 square foot home in Duncan that they would use as a women and children's shelter.

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