LIMA — Evangelism is a key mission for the Christian church, with members reaching out to the community with the hope of seeing souls saved from the grip of sin. At a Heroin Epidemic Leadership Project forum Friday at Shawnee Alliance Church, the discussion centered on how the church can help work in the effort to also save lives from the grip of heroin.
With 26 reported heroin overdose deaths so far this year in Allen County, according to the county coroner, the physical and emotional elements of the heroin epidemic are on full display in this area. According to Heroin Epidemic Leadership Project CEO Stephanie Jones, however, there is also a spiritual element to the addiction that must also be addressed.
“The spiritual component to addiction is the one that’s lacking,” she said, “and it will take those of us who are in faith in Christ to step up and give everyone the hope that they need with that mustard seed of faith.”
Friday’s forum had 40 people in attendance, according to Jones, but she is hopeful that group will represent that mustard seed that will grow into a larger support network for those suffering from heroin addiction, as well as their families, whether it is on the frontlines or helping financially behind the scenes.
“The hope is that the community will unite in collaboration,” she said. “Not one single agency can handle everything.”
The Rev. Greg Delaney, the outreach coordinator at Woodhaven Residential Treatment Facility in Dayton, has been working with the Ohio Attorney General’s office to help facilitate faith-based collaboration in attacking the heroin epidemic, and for him, getting involved is a natural outgrowth of his Christian faith.
“One of the things we’re asking the church to do is see this as a mission field,” he said, “and then begin to not only educate themselves on the problem but also be part of the community solution.”
Delaney emphasized that churches do not need to become experts on drug addiction or social work, but instead can “stay in their wheelhouse” and simply be that supportive community that addicts and their families need.
“The church is already ready-made,” he said. “We’re community every Sunday or Wednesday. The role of the church is just to be what it is designed to be. You don’t have to know everything the nurse is talking about. You can just be you in terms of listening and loving, but we’ll help teach you how not to be enabling.”
Churches or groups looking to help in this effort can contact HELP at 419-371-4388.
Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0390 or on Twitter @Lima_CKelly.