ELYRIA — The Epidemic of Hope Conference kicked off Thursday evening at Beyond the Walls Church in Elyria.
The conference is in response to Ohio’s current opioid and drug crisis and was organized by Strawberry Ministries, Harvest Recovery Ministries and the Ohio Attorney General’s Drug Outreach Team.
The initiative is a way to bring spiritual healing into the recovery process.
“God changes you from the inside out,” said the Rev. Paul Grodell, founder of Beyond the Walls Church. “We are spirit beings, and when God gets involved with the healing process, there’s a true change.”
Grodell, who beat addiction, said addiction is just a reflection of the brokenness that’s going on inside and that it is generational. He said he has counseled many people who said their first time shooting heroin was with a parent.
“My mother and grandmother were addicts,” he said. “Since I gave my life to Christ, that generation of addicts was broken.”
The collaboration of churches to aid in recovery was the idea of the Rev. Jerry O’Brien with Harvest Recovery Ministries in Wooster. Darryl Strawberry, former major league baseball player and minister of Strawberry Ministries, said O’Brien reached out to him about the addiction crisis in Ohio.
“There is nothing wrong with the political people, but there’s time for the Church to step up and bring a spiritual aspect to recovery,” he said. “It’s a team — not about individuals — people coming together to beat the addiction problem.”
Strawberry had struggled with drug addiction during and after his time in the major leagues, which led to several stints in drug treatment centers and 18 months in prison.
He said Ohio ranks No. 1 for addiction and addiction-related deaths, so it’s too important to push the problem aside.
His wife, Tracy, also a minister, said once everything came together, many pastors were contacted to come on board and work collectively.
“Here you have two amazing pastors, Paul and Cindy (Grodell) who said yes with their boots on because it’s ground zero and they are right here in the midst of this town,” she said. “They responded to the call.”
The Epidemic of Hope Conference has introduced a new app, called the HRM Resource App, for those seeking a Christian recovery program. It can be downloaded from www.addictionresourceapp.com. The conference will travel to Circleville on Feb. 26 and Xenia on March 4 and 6.