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FIRST-PERSON: Rejoicing in a psychiatric ward

DURHAM, N.C. (BP)–A concerned associate pastor, spurred by the early morning message he had just heard, suggested that we and his Sunday School class visit a neighboring hospital. Our visit to the young man who suffered from longtime drug abuse problems would be brief because we were scheduled to speak at the second morning worship service.

Visiting restrictions at the medical facility prevented class members from a face-to-face encounter with the psychiatric patient. So, they remained in an outer room in deep prayer as we entered the locked ward.

We could empathize with the clean-cut young man who seemed pleased with our obvious concern for his condition. We hastened to emphasize the core of this ministry, “You don’t have to remain a drug addict for the rest of your life. We used to be drug addicts, but we are no longer drug addicts. We are recovered forever by the grace of God, and that same hope can belong to you!”

The young man smiled and seemed eager for a better lifestyle. The conversation soon turned to more important things — his spiritual condition.

“Are you a Christian?” the associate pastor asked. The young man expressed his need for the church. He had seen his uncle struggle through a similar drug problem and witnessed his life transformed after he began attending church regularly.

We continued the conversation, praising his desire to allow the church to play a more active role in his life. “But this is not enough,” we carefully explained. “Your addiction needs to be replaced with something stronger, and that is Jesus. You need to realize that without Him, you are lost, just as we were once lost. Would you like for Jesus to come into your heart?”

The young man had obviously been looking for such an invitation and he quickly replied, “Yes!”

The four of us knelt in an emotional time of prayer. God was alive in that hospital as we guided the young man through the sinner’s prayer, and he gratefully opened the door of his heart to allow the Master to come in.

“There is more to the story,” we reminded our new Christian brother. “You must now take up your cross and follow Him. Every day will not be easy, but by God’s grace, you now will have the strength to overcome your shortcomings.”

As each of us hugged our newfound family member, we promised that we would always be available to encourage him. He promised to make public this decision in a worship service the Sunday after his release from treatment and then follow his Lord in baptism.

As we exited the ward, we rejoiced at the victory with the faithful who had prayed outside while we witnessed to the young man. During the second worship service we humbly and happily announced to the congregation the momentous decision that was reached that morning between services. We also reminded the congregation that this new brother needs their support and encouragement as he grows as a new Christian.

Just as there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who have no need of repentance, so there is in our hearts also.
Ted G. Stone and Philip Barber are coauthors of two books on alcohol and drug abuse, “The Drug Tragedy — Hope for the One Who Hurts” and “The Drug Tragedy — Hope for the One Who Cares,” both available from LifeWay Christian Stores.

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  • Ted Stone & Philip Barber