The LEAD Team made a brief presentation to the congregation on Sunday October 1st. Here is a summary of the powerful presentation as well as information on the next steps of the process.
The LEAD process has involved three great listenings: listening to God, listening to the congregation, and listening to the neighbor.
Last February, you may recall that the LEAD Team surveyed you as a congregation. We heard two common themes in our questions:
What is the brokenness in our neighborhood, community and world that God has given you a passion to help address?
The single highest response, about 20%, was ‘Drug Use’
How has God positioned Joy Reigns to serve its neighbors?
About two thirds of the congregation responded, ‘Thrift Shop.
This summer, with some training, the LEAD team then began listening to the neighborhood, with over 15 one hour listening sessions completed with schools, hospitals, community leaders, and businesses. We asked the same question about the brokenness, and their responses were:
- 85% of the interviewees identified ‘drug use’ as one of the concerns for the community
- Interestingly, although not asked nor tracked, at least 20% of our interviewees identified JRLC as the ‘church with the trailers’ or the church with the ‘Thrift Shop’
Why we heard it
- More than 100 Americans die every day from drug overdose
- For perspective, that’s about 16 plane crashes per month (assuming 185 people on a Boeing 737 flight)
- Maryland had a little more than 2000 people die from drug overdose in 2016
- That’s almost one plane crash per month in our state
- As of 1 September, 94 people in Anne Arundel County have died from drug overdose
- Many families in our church have been touched by this crisis directly
The LEAD Team has heard many powerful and real stories:
Counselors at Central Middle School
Without hesitation, they all agreed the greatest problem is children coming to school struggling because their families are battling/struggling with addiction. They were quick to point out that they are not therapeutic counselors, they are educational counselors. They refer families to outside, community services. But can’t guarantee that they follow through or are getting the help that they need. This truth became clear to Jenny last week when a coworker, an Edgewater resident, shared a story about her neighbor, a woman, her boyfriend and 2 children. The women and her boyfriend are both addicted to opioids/heroin. Last Friday the boyfriend overdosed at their house and was not able to be revived. He died at the home with the 2 children present, a first grader and sixth grader. Those children will need support and love.
These stories are more than the “right answer” because people are reading the newspaper. The Opioid Epidemic is the brokenness that is touching many places in unique ways. The librarian told us that she can “see it in their eyes” when a drug user comes into the library, maybe for a safe place to be out of the elements or because they are asking for help. She also encounters many families and friends who come looking for resources in the library and the community on addiction and recovery.
ER Nurse at AAMC:
In general, the ER sees an average of 200 patients per day. They’ve seen an uptick in overdoses, particularly fentanyl overdoses, that’s what killed Michael Jackson. Because of this increase, AAMC has begun an outreach program for overdose victims. There is a staff person in the ER to help with their issues that led to the overdose. AAMC is now prescribing Narcan (medication that reverses the dangerous respiratory effects of opioids) to overdose victims. She sees that this crisis is affecting ALL people, ALL income levels, ALL backgrounds and ALL races.
What’s next for LEAD?
The LEAD Team has determined the need to go deeper into our neighborhood listening. We have done wonderful general listenings and will now be doing approximately 10 more listenings specifically with those who have expertise in the Opioid Epidemic including prevention, active addiction and recovery. The LEAD Team is listening with open ears, but also listening for ways that the Thrift Shop (how we are known in the community) and solutions to the opioid epidemic (greatest brokenness) might work together to bring about renewal, abundant life and community healing.
After these listenings, we will them move into the final three steps of the implementation phase.
What is needed from the congregation?
First, your prayers as the LEAD team continues this work. We are prayerfully expecting to find a nexus of our gifts and the community’s need in these next specific listening.
Second, names and contact information for individuals and organizations that you might think the LEAD team should be in contact with. Please provide those names by our next meeting on Monday October 9th.
Third, and finally, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the LEAD team with your comments or questions:
Melissa Fullerton, chair
Pastor Sara Yotter