Lonnie Snell is pastor of New Life Chapel in West Chester.
Our community is in the grips of one of the worst heroin epidemics in the country. And when such a horrific crisis sweeps our community, when people are messy and solutions are hard to find, a feeling of helplessness can set in.
Because this issue of heroin is messy and complicated. When you have a traffic light that is damaged, repairs can be made. A budget that is ballooning brings cutbacks in spending. But when we have the evil of heroin killing our sons and daughters, our fathers, mothers, neighbors and friends, solutions aren’t so easy and obvious.
I’m not a politician, or a professor. I’m not in law enforcement or part of the judicial system. I don’t claim to have a quick and painless solution. I am a pastor. Recently, I had the privilege to sit among an amazing group of men and women from all walks of life as we discussed the heroin epidemic that has gripped our area. If we are to stop this siege on our community, I have no doubt that it will take an immense amount of teamwork from all areas of education, law enforcement, rehab professionals and more. I saw that day that there are amazing individuals who are working tirelessly to stop this assault.
Message of hope
But, as I said before, I am a pastor. I don’t write laws or create new systems. I have no power to implement health care policies or procedures. But that does not leave me helpless. In fact, I feel more empowered than ever to get out the message that I believe can change the human heart. And changing a person’s heart is where true healing begins.
My message is hope.
Hope that comes not from eloquent speeches I may give or magic phrases that remove the despair of addiction. I have hope because I have Jesus. I have surrendered to His will and follow His lead. And that hope is what changes the heart.
And if I have the ultimate hope within me, what kind of pastor, even more, what kind of man would I be if I simply tucked that hope away, prayed my safe prayers, and thanked God I had been elevated above others who weren't lucky enough to have found this hope?
So, I have to ask myself, is the Church as a whole effectively spreading this message to ALL people?
Or have we reserved our love and care for those who aren’t messy and complicated?
Everyone has value
If we, as a community, are to begin to push back at this scourge, we have to go into our neighborhoods, our schools, our workplaces with this belief at our very core: every person has immense value. The attorney isn’t more valuable than the addict. The “junkie” is not less valuable than the accountant. Hope and healing and value aren’t reserved for the clean, the sinless, those who have it all together. It is for every single person on this planet. We don’t get to pick and choose who in our community has more value than another.
God has already endowed everyone, that is every, single person, with an immense, utmost value, created in His image. That thought is what keeps me up at night. May our decisions or actions never be based on a scale where someone has been deemed more expendable or “less than.” That is where we all come in. Deciding that we will each commit to bring hope and value into a community where darkness is threatening to win.
The message that we must send into a community where darkness is threatening to win. The message that we must send and stand behind is this: every person matters. Regardless of their past accomplishments or failures - they matter. Their value is immeasurable.
Let's face this crisis together
I know this will bring criticism as a simplistic solution to an incredibly complicated problem. But I am convinced that the solution to the chaos that is happening in our world starts with the hope of Jesus. He makes all things new. From there, yes, my desire is that educators, politicians, law enforcement, rehab professionals, recovering addicts, and pastors all come to the table.
When we face this crisis together, change, hope and advancement begins to take place. We say this in our church and it applies to all areas of life, we are better together.
I want to encourage every person to pray for our city, speak life to everyone we encounter, spend time with each other, and take care of each other. And let’s never give up. Let’s never quit on each other. Let’s always believe that one another’s best days are ahead.