I recently attended a meeting with the community health organization CHNA. It gave me an opportunity to meet community leaders, social workers, and police officers invested in healthy community. While I was there a panel of four people spoke about Burlington and the surrounding areas. Like most coastal communities Burlington is not immune to the epidemic levels of opioid and heroin use. According to the panel there have been 92 deaths this year alone in the neighboring town of Bedford. The old rules that said we can arrest our way out of this problem are replaced now with a three pronged approach that focuses on education, prevention, and collaboration. This includes things like, teaching our youth about the risks of drug use, helping those with substance abuse disorders by giving them a safe place to go after they leave get clean, and getting clinicians and police officers talking to each other. This is just a small piece of what these leaders are doing. It was a shocking and encouraging presentation. Probably the most difficult thing to hear was that most people with substance abuse disorder overdose after fifteen years of use. This means that these 27 year olds who are dying from drug use began using as early as 10-15 years old. It really changes your perspective of the problem. Officers and teachers are talking about the risks of drug use with 10 year olds. Prior to that age teachers are trying to instill in children healthy self-esteem and other character traits that will help them avoid drug use.
It gladdens my heart to see the work Alcohol Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and chemical dependency groups are doing in our building to help those with substance abuse disorder. I believe that Burlington Church of Christ is a place of healing for people. It’s not just about drugs; it’s about bringing healing to the whole person.
The Church is a place of healing but it’s also much more. The Church is a place of mysterious transformation that moves us ever onward to the likeness of Jesus. Why Jesus? He is our living and breathing example of what it means to be human. He epitomizes the divine character in which we were created. When those on a spiritual journey encounter Jesus they discover God’s mission to conquer sin, death, and the chaos of the world. They discover others who walk similar journeys to their own. Those who are willing to shoulder others just as Jesus carried them.
If we ever move away from the servile and healing nature of the church we lose the heritage given to us by Jesus. We lose our connection to the man who walked from village to village healing and sharing the good news of the kingdom of God.