Ministry in rural areas, particularly poor ones, is becoming increasingly challenging due to the growing plague of crystal methamphetamine. Its production and use is destroying persons and families.

It breaks the hearts of pastors, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, family members and others to see what this substance does to a person and to his relationships. Anger boils up in our hearts toward those who produce and distribute this drug.

Recently, a physician spoke in our town to a very large crowd and explained what meth is, how it works and its consequences. Since it killed her younger brother a few years ago, she has devoted herself to getting the story out–both scientifically and spiritually. It was a powerful message.

Dr. Mary Holley is from Arab, Ala. She has a website at She is a graduate of Baylor University Medical School. She has given up her practice and now is focused on Mothers Against Methamphetamine.

Crystal meth is cooked with ingredients including over-the-counter cold medicine, battery acid and lye. So, it is highly toxic. It causes severe brain damage.

Initially, one takes it in pill form. It causes the natural substance called dopamine to be released in the brain with a resultant “high” that last for hours. The user feels unusually powerful, intelligent, confident, and in control. He or she can “party” all night.

Early on the resultant depression as the drug wears off is relatively mild. But after additional usages the depressions become much more intense. The addict sleeps for two or three days at a time. He or she hurts all over. The answer, to their minds is to get some more of the stuff.

As things progress the pill form is replaced by a pipe to smoke it. Later the meth is “mainlined,” often with cocaine.

Our speaker projected pictures of brain scans which compared the brain of a user with a non-user’s. It was very plain to us that the meth destroys the brain.

Finally, Dr. Holley offered a ray of hope. If an addict can stay off of meth for a year or two, the brain will partially repair itself. But few are able to do this. She declared that trusting in Jesus as Savior and Lord and having the help of the Holy Spirit can help make this possible.

She laid down a challenge to Christian folk. We have a difficult task to do.

First, we must get the word out about this and other addictions. We have been about this for generations. Over the past 75 years, or so, we have lost more of the battles than we have won. Substance abuse has been increasingly common and accepted by the general public. We are called names. We are portrayed as being against fun and excitement.

Second, we must continue to protect our children and others who are vulnerable to the lies of those who profit from the addictions to drugs–the producers, the providers and the advertisers. We need to model sobriety. We need to demonstrate that we experience real joy in our lives.

Third, we need to support efforts to craft public policy and laws that will discourage the use of addictive drugs.

Fourth, we need to support efforts that will provide treatment for addicts.

Fifth, we need to support those who are called to provide ministry to the addicts.

Sixth, we need to minister to family members whose lives are impacted by the addition of parents, spouses, or children.

This last point came home to several us at our regular gathering for prayer support this week. After we had discussed the impact of the speaker whose message I have summarized here, one of our pastor friends asked us to pray for his son. The son, a man in his 40s, had been arrested a couple of days earlier and was in jail in a neighboring county. He is addicted to meth. He is destroying his life.

We did. We will. And we will seek ways to minister to the circle that is impacted by his addiction. That is what Christians do for one another.

Gary Farley is partner in the Center for Rural Church leadership, Carrollton, Ala.

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