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'My misery is now my ministry': Pastor, church target community drug abuse

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Posted at 6:58 PM, Aug 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-13 13:32:30-04

CINCINNATI — It’s a new day for Avondale’s Greater New Hope Missionary Baptist Church.

"My misery is now my ministry," said Donald Jones, senior pastor.

Jones’ church is cross-training ministers in battling drug abuse. They see so much addiction and overdose around them, it’s a natural calling. And their work is turning heads.

"All of us have family members that have been affected directly and indirectly by persons who are addicted to a substance abuse of some kind,” Jones said. “So this is the whole idea behind getting church members involved."

It started with lifelong member Dr. Kamaria Tyehimba, who oversees opiates treatment at Talbert House, the nonprofit addiction center. Tyehimba is a member of Hamilton County’s Addiction Coalition grappling with overdose ups and downs.

Overdose rates among African-Americans alarmed her, so she went to her pastor three years ago.

"If we don't have a sense of urgency,” Tyehimba said, “I'm not sure who is supposed to have a sense of urgency."

Talk led to a faith-leader summit, where ministers bound together a book of prayer, sermons and ways to smother addictions in their communities.

But Jones wanted more.

Starting in May, he and leaders in charge of everything from Sunday school to singing spend three hours every Thursday training online with Prevention First, Cincinnati’s 24-year-old substance abuse fighting coalition.

"It's truly amazing,” said Nicole Schiesler, CEO of Prevention First. “It's one of my favorite outcomes of this work."

They’re learning warning signs, labels to ignore, what to say when and who to call.

They see enough success they want to spread their approach to other churches with reach in minority communities.

"If we have impacted just one life, I think we can say that our service is not in vain," Tyehimba said.