Last Saturday, I co-lead a seminar on how the Church can respond to the opioid crisis that is facing our nation. The seminar was part of the “Big Tent” event sponsored annually by our presbytery. The Big Tent is a day that begins with worship, ends with prayer, and has two modules for seminars. Over one hundred people attended this year’s event. To my surprise, our seminar attracted only six people.
We need to talk about this crisis. Our state leads the nation in opioid overdose deaths. Every one of us has been touched by the crisis – whether in our families or in the families of friends, we know people who have lost their battle with addiction. The opioid crisis is a public health crisis, and a spiritual crisis. We are quickly losing an entire generation to addiction and overdose. The crisis is exhausting our resources – real and emotional. It tears families apart, and it is exhausting our resources. Rural counties all over “small town America” are running out of money and resources because of the frequency with which emergency services is responding to overdose calls.
Twenty or thirty years ago, people thought of drug addicts as dirty, lazy and the very bottom of the social strata, hiding in the dark corners of the world, shooting up when no one could see. Addiction is very mainstream now, having conquered all parts of our society – rich and poor, every race, and so on. There are addicts holding respectable jobs, sitting in classrooms, and yes, hanging around on the streets. They are addicted to street drugs, like heroin, but they are also addicted to prescription drugs, like OxyContin.
We cannot simply watch and wait and hope this crisis ends, somehow. We need to engage with what is happening in the world. We must get involved. We are the ones bearing the image of Christ to the world, and the world needs to see him. I’m not sure what it means for us to get involved with this issue, and I’m not even sure what difference we will make. But I do know one thing we can and should do: pray.
Please pray about this – pray for addicts, for first-responders, for doctors, lawmakers, and everyone else who can help stem the tide. Pray for the families of addicts, especially those who have lost loved ones in this battle. And pray that churches will be brave enough to help those who need the comfort of God and the grace of our Lord Jesus.