An Epidemic of Hope
On April 15th, the Niswonger Performing Arts Center is bringing four-time World Series champion Darryl Strawberry to our region. Presenting at the Niswonger, Darryl has a message of hope that will speak to anyone dealing with addiction. You’ll hear his personal testimony of chemical dependence and recovery as well as ways we can all be a part of the solution.
The presentation will begin at 7pm at the Niswonger and tickets are free — simply contact the box office to reserve yours at 419-238-6722.
Why is this a “crisis”?
We hear about the opioid crisis a lot in the news, but do we fully understand it? Statistically, the majority of us will have someone in our life affected by drug addiction. Chemical dependency knows no boundaries and all walks of life are affected by it, from millennials to business professionals and beyond.
In many cases for older adults, addiction begins after an individual has been using a doctor prescribed medication for pain or a post-surgery recovery. They become dependent, eventually turning to street drugs for their fix.
However, teenagers and young adults can also just as easily get hooked. Hopelessness knows no age limits, and Van Wert area pastor Paul Hamrick talked to me about the time he did a funeral for a 28 year old young man who had overdosed. Staring back at him during the services were empty eyes needing to be filled with hope. Their families have broken the bonds of trust, friends have abandoned them, and institutions failed these individuals who now turn to drugs for relief.
Unfortunately, for many the church is one of the institutions that has failed them.
Why can’t they just quit?
Paul shared with me an amazing insight: as the church mobilizes to be a part of the solution, some congregations simply aren’t able to be a light to those individuals. As someone who has taken pastoral leadership classes, I was taken back by the comment — until he framed it for me this way:
Would a parent feel safe with their kids sitting beside someone who had committed a serious crime just so they could get their next fix?
The Christian response should be to embrace others with love but naturally parents are protective of their kids. This exemplifies the challenge facing these individuals for restoration.
Paul then pointed out a bias within church culture: the belief a drug addict can quit anytime they want. Paul often frames this statement with a counterpoint: could you give up your coffee cold turkey? Substitute coffee with anything — sports, soda, sugar — and you have the same result: we all have the things we’re “addicted” to and would find it incredibly challenging to give up.
Drug addiction is 1,000 time worse. If a recovering addict can stay clean for 24 months, they still have a 50% chance of a relapse. If they can stay clean for 5 years, their odds of staying sober increase to 90%.
Unfortunately, many will relapse because the dependency on the drug does not go away easily.
Being a part of the solution
Paul gave up his salaried position as a pastor to launch Hope Chapel and New Hope Recovery. He’s partnered with the Van Wert County Ministerial Association, Harvest Recovery Ministries and the Office of the Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine to bring Darryl Strawberry’s message of hope to our area. Paul draws strength from Matthew 25:35-40:
37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
Paul has served in missions across the world, but realized that right here in Western Ohio is one of the most critical mission fields of our day: drug culture and its socioeconomic effects. It takes getting your hands dirty and thinking outside the box to minister to the ones who need it the most. Quite frankly, It’s a battle for the very soul of our communities.
One step at a time
Bringing Darryl Strawberry is the biggest event so far for this mission. The Ministerial Association meets monthly to pray with the current focus on Darryl’s presentation. Where it goes from here is up to God, and this is where you come in.
While being missional is a mindset shift making its way across the North American church, many parishioners have yet to fully grasp what it means. Take a small step today and commit to praying for this mission field. Pray for someone to stand in the gap and to bridge the cultural divide. Pray this region would become a beacon of light and a place of refuge. And lastly, pray An Epidemic of Hope featuring Darryl Strawberry would be the first step in solving a problem affecting so many lives across our community.
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