Opioid Problem is Pandemic

Opioid Problem is Pandemic

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

Prison Ministry Reaching Inmates Who Want to Learn

 Reaching Inmates Who Want to LearnOne of the major efforts of this ministry is to provide educational materials and support for men and women in prison. The United States has the largest prison population in the world, both numerically and in the percentage of the nation’s population. For that reason, workers are greatly needed in prison ministry.

In 1962 John Clayton began working with men and women in the local jail, and then at the state prison in Michigan City, Indiana. Helen Richards had been doing work in prisons, and the two of them began teaching both classes such as mathematics, and Bible-study classes. It became very apparent that a high percentage of the prisoners had embraced atheist teachings. When convicts were brought into the prison to begin their period of incarceration, they would be asked about their religious affiliation. They would pick a denomination, or the clerk would do it for them. The reality was that a vast percentage of inmates had rejected God and the Bible as useful in directing their lives. We wanted our prison ministry to help those prisoners.

In 1968 John Clayton wrote a three lesson apologetic course to use in prisons. This quickly evolved into a 13 lesson course so that prisoners could complete a lesson once a week each quarter. This course was written at a 4th-grade reading level, and there was a question sheet at the end of each lesson. The number of students grew rapidly, and the course became a nationwide correspondence course. Ten years later, John developed a college-level course reaching inmates who want to learn more advanced material.

At the same time, Helen Richards built up a series of lessons that were straight Bible studies. Interest in this educational prison ministry was so great that additional help was needed, and more courses were added. We now have just under 4,000 students in our two apologetics courses, about half of whom are active. We have nine courses graded by other workers with a large number of lessons being graded by this team every month. We provide students who enroll with the lessons and answer sheets to fill out and return to us in postpaid return envelopes. They take one course at a time, and the nine studies we offer are broken down into four areas:

1) Basic Courses – Bible lessons in simple language written especially for people who need a beginner course. Most of our prisoners start with this course.
2) A Special Needs Course for those who need help with substance abuse.
3) Four general courses dealing with Christianity as taught in the Bible.
4) Two Advanced Courses with in-depth biblical studies.

Students who need out of state visits or specialized help with substance abuse are referred to “Christians Against Substance Abuse” (CASA). Buck Griffith and Don Umphrey have built a program that has helped thousands of men and women pick up the pieces and live productive Christian lives. We have been able to help several men get college degrees. Several prisons have a class in progress using DVDs of our video series taught by an inmate who has studied our materials. For more information, or to enroll, contact us for a “Request Form.” All of the courses and programs in our prison ministry are free.
— John N. Clayton © 2019