On Sunday mornings, Marie Campbell stands at the front of the Life Church sanctuary with the worship team, hands lifted as she sings.
It’s the same Assembly of God church she walked into 32 years ago as a hometown drug dealer with an IV heroin addiction, the church where, after a week of revival services, she found God.
“I was tired of being in the life that I was in, tired of being tired, tired of getting hurt, tired of hurting those around me,” Campbell, the church’s assistant pastor recalled. “And I just called out to God, and I just remember feeling arms go around my body.”
When she woke up the next morning, she said, the needle marks on her arms were gone.
“I had no desire to do drugs ever again,” Campbell said. “From that point on, I never did drugs again.”
Today, led by two women pastors who are both in long-term recovery, Life Church is reaching out specifically to people affected by addiction. This year, the church added an outpatient treatment program to its 12-step group and healing ministry. Campbell also leads a Bible study at the nearby Maryville Addiction Treatment Center.
From her point of view, Williamstown is “riddled” with addiction. At the church’s food pantry, Campbell often greets people she grew up with.
And too many are dying, she noted, unable to access treatment because they don’t have enough money or insurance.
“An addict isn’t going to wait — they need it now,” she said.
“Half the time, they can’t get a bed. And if they do get a bed, they’re sent out with no follow-up … and they think they can get high like they used to. And that first next time they get high, they end up killing themselves because the body can’t take it, which is so sad.”
When offered a chance at an in-patient treatment program, many have told the pastors they wouldn’t take time away from work or their families, said Pastor Jamie Morgan, Life Church’s senior minister. So, the church decided to offer its own.
In January, after visiting Christian treatment centers, Campbell started the church’s own 12-month outpatient program using curriculum from Teen Challenge, a national drug and alcohol treatment program. In a small Minnesota study, surveyors found 62 percent of its graduates experienced no relapses a year after leaving the program.
“It’s the program they would get in-patient, but without the house,” Morgan said. “And everything that was in the house is available to them — every program, every study, the counseling, the instruction — (it’s) all there. But the house isn’t there.”
Participants are asked to help cover the program’s expenses, but those who can’t afford it aren’t turned away, Morgan said. Three people have enrolled in the program since its launch.
But the church serves many more.