Brookside Community Church is partnering with Marion County Health Department (MCHD) in their new Safe Syringe Exchange program. It launches this Friday, April 19th in our parking lot. Many people have questioned why we would partner with a program that provides clean needles for drug users in our neighborhood. It seems counter intuitive to give clean syringes to active drug users. I want to answer this question in two ways—first from a medical perspective, and second from a spiritual perspective.

From a Medical Perspective

Safe Syringe Exchange programs have been implemented throughout the United States since 2011. They have shown evidence-based results. They reduce the growing number of hepatitis C infections and prevent HIV outbreaks within at-risk communities like Brookside. The state pays $50,000 to treat one case of hepatitis C. Brookside has 3 times the normal rate of new diagnosed hepatitis C cases each year. Safe Syringe Programs around the country reduced these infectious diseases by promoting the overall health and safety of injection drug users and their families. Each participant of the Safe Syringe Exchange program will be supported by HIV and hepatitis C rapid screening, safe drug user practices, referral for substance use disorder and mental health treatment, wound care, immunizations, and access to health insurance coverage. Programs across the country have not only seen infectious diseases drop in at-risk neighborhoods like ours. Drug users also are five times more likely to get help with their addiction because of these services.

From a Spiritual Perspective

The Gospel is about relationships. There is no significant change that happens in anyone’s life without a significant relationship. John 13:34-35 says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Many broken individuals in our neighborhood need to experience love in relationships because of Jesus. Jesus first loved us and sent His Son to die so that we could restore a relationship with the God who created us. When people experience that kind of love, in their deeply broken lives, something changes. Brookside is on the front lines of hell itself. And when faced with a living hell, the only answer is loving relationships. If this Safe Syringe Exchange program brings one person to a saving knowledge of the power of God through a gospel-centered friendship, we will have fulfilled our purposes with this program.

David Brooks, a New York Times columnist wrote an article “Five Lies Our Culture Tells”. The lie American culture conveys—I can make myself happy—he writes, “This is the lie of self-sufficiency. This is the lie that happiness is an individual accomplishment. If I can have just one more victory, lose 15 pounds or get better meditation, then I will be happy. But people looking back on their lives from their deathbeds tell us that happiness is found amid thick and loving relationships. It is found by defeating self-sufficiency for a state of mutual dependence. It is found in the giving and receiving of care.” David Brooks is not quoting Scripture but understands the Gospel more than many Christians might. May we seek to love those, who are often unlovely, to show them the greater love of Christ in all its glory.

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