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Jesus is stronger than meth

Christians call for a faith-based response to an addiction plaguing communities in rural America.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Across rural America, “Breaking Bad” is a reality show that can’t be canceled. 

The subject of the TV crime drama, crystallized methamphetamine, or meth, fills small-town jails and rehabilitation centers from California to Maine. Cooked in kitchens using fertilizer and cold medicine, the drug is instantly addictive. 

It rots teeth and ruins lives.

“It ages people. They look worn and haggard,” said Jim Weaver, a member of the Oakcrest Church of Christ in Oklahoma City. The drug creates “tension, paranoia. It really is slavery.”

WeaverJimmy Kimberlin stole from his family — without a second thought — to finance his meth addiction. 

“I have been in and out of jail, on probation, did drug court twice,” Kimberlin told students at Oklahoma Christian University during a recent town hall on addiction and faith. “When I got put in jail and my family left me there to sober up, that’s when I just felt God calling to me.” 

He’s been clean for 21 months.

Weaver sees the ravages of meth addiction in his work with Rural America Ministries, or RAM, a nonprofit he founded to help rural churches reach and revitalize their communities through the Gospel. RAM organized the town hall with the university’s Student Government Association. 

At least 569,000 Americans use meth regularly, according to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. As police shut down meth labs in rural communities, Mexican cartels rush to fill new demand, Weaver said. He wants church leaders “to hear about some of these darkest places Satan gets into” and formulate a Kingdom response.

In addition to recovering addicts, the town hall panel included Annette Herron, who serves in the prison ministry of the 4th and College Church of Christ in Cordell, Okla. She met Michelle Chandler through the ministry and studied the Bible with her. Chandler was baptized and has been clean and sober for three years.

“When I was addicted, I felt hated by God, and I didn’t understand why,” said Chandler, a recovering alcoholic who began drinking at age 8. Her addiction cost her custody of her five children. In prison, at rock bottom, “I realized I was killing myself (and that God) didn’t hate me,” she said. “He was there, waiting for me to go to him and finally seek out help.”

Though their struggles continue, the recovering addicts displayed a serenity that students including Rett Parker didn’t expect to see.

“I expected them to be more broken,” said Parker, a sophomore from Broken Arrow, Okla. “I understand how bad meth and alcoholism can be … but what I saw was people who were full of life and vibrant, and you can tell by their testimonies that God has done so much in their lives.” The town hall convinced him that nothing is “too broken for God to fix.”

As Kacy Jo Nash listened to the testimonies, “I was having to continually convince myself to stay,” said the freshman from Wichita, Kan. Her brother, Kyle, died from an overdose of a legal drug less than two years ago. Despite his struggles, “he never lost faith in God,” she said. “He never stopped being courageous.”

During the town hall, the grown daughter of one of the recovering addicts shared her own testimony. As a teenager, “the church always told us that bad people went to jail, but both of my parents were in jail,” she said. “Does that make them bad people?” 

“My heart broke for her,” Nash said. “I think that when someone comes out as an addict of whatever — alcohol, drugs, porn — some of the people of the church brand them with a label, and then the label is all they see. They are so worried to come near anyone with a label for fear of getting dirty. 

“But Jesus never just reached down to people. He went down to their level and they rose together.”

Weaver hopes that the shared stories will spur the students “to get their hands dirty as they bring the liberating power of the Kingdom into the darkest places of bondage.”

Keith Hubbard, one of the panelists, now serves as an elder of the 4th and College Church of Christ.

“The truth is, we’re all addicts — addicts to sin,” he told the students. 

“The greatest truth is this: Through Christ, there is redemption for all of us.”

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