We have recently heard on the news that during the last week of August there were at least 174 heroin overdoses in the Cincinnati area.
Most of us have been touched by the heroin epidemic in some way, whether through our families, friends, neighborhood, school, or church. Yet even with high numbers of heroin related overdoses and deaths, even with our state and city leaders forming task forces to address the issue, it is still often a silent epidemic. It is still one that is not talked about in a personal way in public settings like church or work for fear of judgment and stigma.
Most of us as church leaders have felt the Spirit convicting us to do something to help, yet we’ve felt underprepared and unsure of what exactly to do.
This has been true for me. And so I was very glad to be invited to read Sam Quinones’ book, Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic,in preparation for the extended cabinet and conference staff retreat with Bishop Palmer last week. This book helped me to begin to understand the perfect storm of how we got to this point in our culture in relation to heroin. Factors such as the movement to address chronic pain, a new and aggressive form of marketing by the pharmaceutical companies, a denial of the addictiveness of pain medications containing opiates, and a new and highly efficient consumer oriented way of selling high quality heroin at lower prices targeting middle class young people all contributed to the increase of this addiction.
During the retreat last week, we were challenged to have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to understand this crisis in our midst and then to respond to it with the same heart and faith that John Wesley did to the problem of alcohol addiction in his time.
Even as I was challenged by this reading and the retreat time of study and discussion, I want to pass the challenge along to you. I hope that you will join me by:
1. Reading Dreamland by Sam Quinones and discussing it with others.
2. Share with us in the district office. If the heroin epidemic has touched you or those you love, let us know so that we can pray for you. If you or your church has begun a ministry to respond to the heroin crisis, please let us know so that we can celebrate and build on what you are doing.
3. If you would like to begin a ministry in response to the heroin crisis, let us know. We will be working as a district to partner with and support local churches in being a positive part of the response to this crisis.
4. Pray for those families and individuals whose lives have been destroyed by opiate addiction. Pray that we as the church may be a powerful force to help our region and country overcome this epidemic.
May our eyes, ears and hearts be open as we trust God to lead us.
Grace and Peace,