West Virginia Baptists Tackle Opioid Crisis as a Key Ministry

Nick Hazelett, who is in recovery, is baptized by deacon candidate Kevin Bowman (left) of New Heights Church in Huntington, W.Va., and pastor Ryan Navy as part of the church’s ministry amid the state and city’s opioid crisis.

Soon after West Virginia Baptists passed a resolution last November urging churches to get involved in addressing the opioid crisis, the state’s Upper Ohio Valley Baptist Association started preliminary planning for a Celebrate Recovery group.

After five months of leader training, an interdenominational group of churches in the Moundsville area hosted their first Celebrate Recovery meeting in early September.

Ed Goodman, director of missions for West Virginia’s Upper Ohio Valley Baptist Association, believes churches have “the only answer to the opioid crisis.”

Ed Goodman, the association’s director of missions, helps lead a men’s discussion group on Tuesday evenings and a small men’s group on Monday nights. The latter involves participants working their way through Celebrate Recovery’s eight biblically-based steps.

“There’s a great need here,” Goodman said. “When we were doing a community forum, I told people I wasn’t involved in Celebrate Recovery for the purpose of seeing people set free from addiction. I was involved for the purpose of seeing people come to Christ. Addiction is just a symptom of a deeper sin problem.”

Bill Henard, executive director of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists, on the opioid epidemic: “There’s hardly a church out there that doesn’t have a family member or friend who’s been affected by this.”

Bill Henard, executive director of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists, said such reports are becoming more common as the one-year mark approaches.

In the resolution, messengers dedicated themselves to an “active, gospel involvement in the effort to rid West Virginia of drug abuse” by “seeking partnerships with civil, religious, and government groups and agencies to discover effective ways to solve the drug abuse problem in our state, including, but not limited to, the provision of spiritual counseling, the elimination of poverty, the strengthening of families, the restoration of hope, and the sharing of the gospel.”

The resolution further stated, “West Virginia has become the epicenter of opioid abuse, suffering from a rate of 33.5 drug overdoses per 100,000 people, compared to a national average of 13.4 deaths.”

Fairlawn Baptist Church, which will host the 2018 annual meeting Nov. 1-2, recently began working with a Parkersburg-based ministry called High on Hope.

Jason Spade, pastor of Fairlawn Baptist Church in Parkersburg, W.Va., says the congregation is among many affected by opioid crisis, with “a lot of members with family who are having problems.”

Pastor Jason Spade said members are providing gasoline cards to enable clients to get to rehab appointments and preparing toiletry kits for men and women going into treatment.

There have been discussions about Fairlawn hosting a community Bible study for those in recovery, the pastor added.

“We had a High on Hope group come to the church in late September,” Spade said. “The testimonies of what God brought them through were amazing. We have a lot of members with family who are having problems, so a lot of people are participating.”

Among other efforts statewide Henard mentioned are Immanuel Baptist Church in Princeton working with women in the adult entertainment industry; members of Cross Lanes Baptist developing bonds with inmates at the Charleston Correctional Center; and First Baptist Church in Kenova hosting a Celebrate Recovery meeting.

While a progress report on the opioid response will be presented at the pastors’ conference that kicks off the annual meeting, Henard said the effort is in its early stages.

With two new appointees due to join the convention’s Christian Life Committee (CLC) at the annual meeting, Henard hopes to see additional progress soon.

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Source: Baptist Press