Sunday, June 09, 2002

Summit teaches love for users

By Susan Vela,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MONTGOMERY — Johnathann Byrd, a home-schooled Walnut Hills teen, sees the ravages of drug addiction daily .

        At 17, he's already seen peers turn their backs on church so they can wake up late and live in the streets.

        Meanwhile, he likes basketball but has turned his own back on courts where players sink hook shots while smoking marijuana joints.

        These experiences made Johnathann listen up Saturday morning when he attended the Second annual Addictions Summit at Montgomery Assembly of God Church. He wants to share everything he learned about drug prevention with his fellow youth group members at Faith Christian Center in Forest Park.

        Teens can get so caught up in “how good” drugs feel that they forget how substance abuse — and even loose living — can wreck their futures, he said.

        “It's not just adults. It's teens, too,” Johnathann said. “I hope to plant a seed for those pressed to be into (drugs). I want to help those caught up in the mess and the blindness of (drug use).”

        About 200 attended the event hosted by the Faith Community Alliance of Greater Cincinnati. Almost half were like Johnathann — teen-agers eager to share what they learned at Saturday's summit, where the theme was “Setting the Captives Free.”

        “I'm here to challenge each one of you individually. The truth is how and when will you set the captives free. It's called the power of influence,” said keynote speaker the Rev. Teresa Langford of New Beginning Covenant Church in Walnut Hills.

        Helping addicts turn their lives around means accepting and loving them even when they are lying or cheating because of their addictions, she said.

        Churches also must allow these ex-addicts to forget their former lives by trusting them, for example, to join church boards, she said.

        “We're going to love them to life,” she said to a crowd that rose to its feet as the she became more impassioned. “This is our challenge and we accept it today. We're going to set them free.”

        Courtis Fuller, a former Cincinnati mayoral candidate and host of his own radio show, served as master of ceremonies and panel facilitator.

        Some participating inthe event represented non-faith-based service organizations.

        Amy Weber, prevention direction at NorthKey Community Care in Florence, said church groups can be tremendous at helping addicts because they already are organized.

        They “can help with understanding the nature of addiction and understanding what new drugs are out there,” Ms. Weber said.


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