While I love to tell stories, this is one I have dreaded sharing.
Several weeks ago, I told about my friend Beverly (not her real name) whom I had met at a Bible study at the jail last January. (I loved her right away!) She gave her heart to Jesus a few weeks later and was baptized in March. It was the first time she had been clean in a long time.
Beverly told me she started doing drugs at age 11. When I asked her where in the world she had gotten drugs, she said from her family. She had already lost many of them to drugs: her mother, father, a brother, and numerous friends.
After her baptism, Beverly began to change. She was reading her Bible and LOVED it…seeing clearly for the first time in decades. After several months, she was transferred to an in-house drug rehabilitation at another county jail. I visited her regularly, talking on the phone through plexiglass. We prayed each time before I left with hands together on the scratched glass. She was upbeat and thriving! We were making plans for her future; not just for the upcoming holidays, but Beverly hoped to become a peer counselor helping others overcome addiction.
After she finished her rehab, she had 30 days left to serve in our county. A few weeks ago, I asked for prayer that God would work miraculously to find another place for her to finish that time-not in jail lest she digress. Many of you did just that and even contacted me. Thanks again! God did work a miracle! Her lawyer, the assistant county attorney and a very kind judge arranged for her to go to a rehab facility for those 30 days. I was beyond thrilled! Though I could not contact her, knowing she was warm, in a real bed, being fed and going forward helped me sleep at night.
Less than a week in, my dear Beverly walked away from that rehab. She went back to old friends and old ways. I got a call one evening that she was in ICU after an overdose; she was unresponsive. Days later, she was taken off life-support. Her funeral was the next week. I am still in disbelief.
I do believe Beverly was sincere when she gave her heart to Jesus. While in a (mostly) protected environment she thrived, like a baby in an incubator. But her old life beckoned. The draw of 27 years of drug addiction was too great. She was pulled back in.
During the visitation and funeral, my grief was heavy. I was overwhelmed with the reality of the drug epidemic in our area. I felt so burdened it seemed like someone was standing on my shoulders. With many tears, I wondered if we were making a difference at all at the jail. I pondered what more I could have done personally.
Days before, Paul Chitwood, president of the IMB, had shared in Kentucky Today how we could pray for international missionaries. He mentioned that they sometimes suffer from “compassion fatigue” because of the “continuous exposure to horrific pain and loss.” Though here at home, I could now somewhat relate. The staggering numbers of those under the influence of drugs are continuous and growing. This day, they seemed insurmountable.
After a good cry, I remembered missionaries in hard places with people suffering from starvation and disease. I thought of Mother Teresa who served lepers in Calcutta. And, of course, I thought of Harriet Tubman-a favorite overcomer-leading slaves to freedom in Canada. Acts 26:17-18 reminds me: “I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins…”
I picked up my phone and texted some of the ladies on our jail ministry team: “We will pray. We will go. And we WILL NOT give up!”
Dawn Reed is a newspaper columnist and pastor's wife in Prestonsburg. Reach her at email@example.com