There’s nothing worse than feeling helpless in the face of a friend or loved one suffering with addiction.
Help now may be as close as a nearby church.
The GOAL — Global Outreach for Addition Leadership and Learning — Project recently held a two-day workshop to equip teams of lay members of nine area churches to offer help to people with any addiction —drug, alcohol, food, pornography, gambling, hoarding, even kids on cellphones.
“We go to faith communities and help them with addiction recovery, to develop a ministry, a team of lay leaders,” said Paige Harker, executive director of GOAL, with offices at 313 W. Liberty St., Suite 260.
The workshop, part of a new GOAL program that uses the acronym F.A.I.T.H. Initiatives — Face Addiction with Interventions and Training for Healing — met last Friday and Saturday at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 31 St. Thomas Road. Teams from Highland Presbyterian, Historic St. Mary’s Catholic, Holy Trinity Lutheran, Lampeter United Methodist, St. James Episcopal, St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran and St. Thomas churches, in Lancaster County; and Grace Fellowship Church and the Mason-Dixon
Ministerium, in York County, attended.
The workshops were the second in a three-part series offering ongoing education and support. The third one, on advanced skills and sustainability, will meet at St. Thomas on Saturday, June 1.
Creating a framework
Drew Brooks, executive director of Faith Partners, in Minnesota, leads the series. He has been leading workshops since
1999 and has worked with about 700 congregations in 28 states in 22 faith traditions, mostly Christian — Protestant
and Catholic, mainline and evangelical — along with Muslim, Jewish and Toltec (from Mexico).
“This ministry fits small and large congregations and offers prevention, early intervention, referral assistance, recovery support and advocacy,” Brooks said. “All come with their own theology, and we create the framework where they can see if their theology is an effective response to addiction.”
Harker said GOAL partnered with Brooks because he already had a program.
“We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel,” she said. “Ultimately, we’re looking to reduce addiction in the community, to offer help for addicts and their families. It’s a family disease.”
The goal is a healthy community. “We want to bring down barriers that keep people from finding help,” she said. “The church can be a big help.” GOAL seeks to educate the leaders about what addiction is and is not. Its focus is prevention, to help faith communities find the resources to help.
Teaching pastors to help
“Often pastors don’t know what to do,” Harker said. “Education is an important part of serving the congregation and the community.”
Harker said the church is an important part of the healing process because healing has a spiritual component.
“The central message of the GOAL Project is that we levieve there is a hole inthe soul.”
GOAL addresses addiction through three components: emotional, physical and spiritual, and recovery is not possible without the spiritual component.
“It’s the ‘why’ of addiction,” she said. “It’s why we reach out to faith communities.”
GOAL is a Christian nonprofit that works with all faiths, along with the Lancaster County Drug and Alcohol Commission and Compass Mark, a skill-building, leadership training, management development and youth services provider in Lancaster.
Compass Mark’s purpose is “to reduce the incidence, prevalence and consequences of the harmful use of, and addiction to, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.”
Mary Theresa Webb, a GOAL board member, founded GOAL to help African women affected by HIV/AIDS.
In a 2012 LNP news article, Webb, a retired Pittsburgh addictions counselor who lives in Willow Valley Communities, said since 2004 she had traveled to Africa so often she’s lost track of the number of times.
In 2011 or 2012, she said, the board members decided they wanted to focus locally. They held their first workshop at Willow Street Mennonite Church.
“We started doing training in 2016, but we found there was no follow-through. Most churches were not doing anything with the one-day training,” she said.
“Then we found Faith Partners, where it was working. We decided to do it here,” Webb said.
“This is the beginning. We’re hoping it will snowball and a lot of churches will come on board.”