Health officials tell us that between September of 2019 and September of 2020, over 87,000 Americans died of drug overdoses. That is a 29% jump from the previous 12 months. As data for the current year is just beginning to be processed, it is obvious the numbers will be even higher. But this is not just a problem in the United States because every country that gathers and shares data shows equally high numbers. A pandemic is defined as a disease that spreads across several countries, affecting many people. By that definition, our current opioid problem is pandemic.
One of the efforts made by the Does God Exist? ministry is to reach out to incarcerated people. We offer eleven correspondence courses postage-paid to anyone in prison who would like to study apologetics or Bible topics. One course, titled “Freedom Steps,” is specifically designed for people struggling with substance abuse. Right now, we have over 4,000 men and women involved in these courses, and a significant number of them are in prison directly or indirectly because of drug abuse. Opioids are the most common culprit we see in these prisoners.
As we consider that the opioid problem is pandemic, we must quickly add that opioids are a valuable medical tool when used properly. The majority of people in prison because of opioids purchased them on the street, but some were on a prescription drug and became addicted.
For many years we have worked with Buck Griffith and “Kings Crossing Prison Ministries,” an outreach of the Kings Crossing Church of Christ in Corpus Christi, Texas. In 1988, they began a program called “Christians Against Substance Abuse” (CASA). Buck Griffith and Don Umphrey have built a program to help people recover from substance addiction, but recovery is a slow process with no quick fixes.
One of their successful programs is a series of classes conducted in prisons called “Newlife Behavior.” The big problem we have seen in working with prisoners and substance abuse is that people and congregations don’t stay with it. When a Christian congregation working with prison ministry has a personnel change, it becomes a “new Pharaoh didn’t know Moses” situation, and they drop the program. Jerry Stephenson in Louisville, Kentucky, calls prison ministry “the best-known secret in churches of Christ.” That is a good description of the problem.
The opioid problem is pandemic, and substance abuse, in general, is a neglected ministry in the Church. That is something we all need to address. For a registration sheet of the courses we offer, please send us your name and either an email or postal address. The 47th national Jail and Prison Ministry Workshop will be held in Louisville at the Midwest Church of Christ June 9-11. For more information, call 812-207-7156. The Kings Crossing Ministry is at www.kingscrossingprisonministries.org or phone 361-855-3372.
— John N. Clayton © 2021