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Programs don’t change lives. Relationships do.

EDITOR’S NOTE: See related story to be posted today on President Trump signing a bipartisan bill Wednesday (Oct. 24) regarding the opioid crisis.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (BP) — To say Huntington, W.Va., has a drug problem is an understatement. It has one of highest heroin overdose rates per capita in the country.

I’m a hometown boy. I’ve been a resident of Huntington for 27 years. But somehow I was numb to the issues and problems facing my city. In fact, when I planted New Heights Church in Huntington three years ago, I never imagined we would be involved in the recovery community.

However, something drastically changed in September 2017. God opened my eyes to realize everyone in our church was the same — looks, hobbies, backgrounds. We were more like a club than a church. A healthy church will look like its city. We looked nothing like Huntington.

After meeting with our deacons and leadership, we were all in agreement that we needed to become involved in fighting the opioid epidemic plaguing our city and state. But we didn’t know where to start. We prayed to the Lord on behalf of Huntington and for opportunities to serve. We prayed for a recovery movement in and through our church.

God opened doors. Our worship band started playing for a Monday night recovery service. I began attending the local Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. We became involved with local recovery houses, collecting needed supplies and sending donations.

We’re helping people to overcome their earthly problems, but more importantly, we’re pointing them to the eternal solution. Seven different recovery ministries are now represented at our church every Sunday morning. We’ve seen individuals in recovery come to know Jesus and follow Him in baptism. In fact, half of our baptisms in recent months have been folks in recovery. They’re not disappearing on Sundays either. We’ve seen them plugging into discipleship groups, serving, tithing and becoming committed members of New Heights Huntington because of relationships.

It’s not uncommon to see folks wearing ankle bracelets during our Sunday morning service. Chasity came to us during her parole. Jesus saved her and she followed Him in baptism. During Chasity’s baptism, her foot was held out of the baptistery so the ankle bracelet wouldn’t get wet.

Recovery ministry isn’t always rainbows and butterflies. It’s messy and it’s painful. We’ve experienced stories of redemption and grace, but also pain and suffering.

Please pray for us as we are merging two cultures together and Jesus is building His church. Recovery ministry has been an adjustment for our church, but we have welcomed it with open arms. I’m excited about what God will continue to do as He uses New Heights Huntington to love, edify and build up our city in Jesus’ name.