WILMINGTON — Hundreds packed the parking lot of Clinton County Job and Family Services Friday and Saturday nights to spread one message – Hope over Heroin.
That message was delivered loudest by Laurence Bishop II, a pastor at Solid Rock Church in Lebanon, who performed and evangelized on stage.
“If you’re an addict here tonight, you haven’t been coming to church,” he said. “So guess what? We brought the church to you.”
Bishop’s message of hope was also a dauting one, saying religion is needed to save an entire generation.
“Change your life: It is a church and a pastor, or it is a body bag,” he said.
At the event, Douglas Tilton, a Wilmington resident, said he enjoyed the music and the event, despite describing himself as not very religious.
“I think it’s good for the community,” Tilton said. “We need more stuff like this. It shows me I’m not alone. I’m one of many. It’s a great way to get support.”
Tilton said he attends intensive outpatient treatment for alcohol issues at Talbert House.
“It’s kind of the light in the darkness,” he said of the event. “It’s great to see a community that gives second chances.”
Estimates of attendance ranged from 800 to more than 1,000 Friday night and more than 1,000 on Saturday. Friday alone, more than 200 volunteers were registered.
First Church of God pastor Larry Speelman said he anticipated that kind of turnout.
“There’s a desperate need in our community to address this issue,” he said. “I’ve had a lot more contact with people and families that are struggling. It breaks your heart.”
Speelman said the only “real, lasting solution” is to have a relationship with Jesus.
Dale McCamish, pastor of Wilmington Church of Christ, said, “We really feel like God had prepared our churches [a group of several churches helped organize the event] for something big, but this is just the beginning.”
McCamish said the event has to have follow up. Pastors needed to call those who registered after the event, and he said volunteers, at the event, would pray with those who needed help and then connect them to counselors, recovery houses and specialists and religious groups, among others, located nearby.
Throughout the event, several volunteers could be seen huddled with others. McCamish said they were praying.
“We’re number six in (accidental) overdose deaths and that’s going up,” McCamish said, who added that people turn to drugs to make them feel better in the face of poverty and homelessness.
“There is something better and more valuable and will make you feel even better than heroin,” McCamish said. “We want to be the churches that fill those needs.”
As the event wound down, there were several prayers led by religious officials, including Bishop.
People responded in kind, raising their arms, praying in unison, praising Jesus and crying.
Several later were baptized in the parking lot.
One of those, a man who refused to describe himself in any way other than “JC,” said, “Eight and a half months ago, I decided drugs weren’t for me anymore. I wanted to be saved.”
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.