Hello dear family,
Mary and I are living in our travel trailer in a large mobile home park in Desloge, MO., sixty miles South of St. Louis. This area is what is known as the Leadbelt, scattered amongst old abandoned lead mines and a few small ones still in operation. This whole region is also known as the methamphetamine capital of our country.
I know this is going to sound crazy but I can’t begin to express how blessed we are to be here at Church Army of the Leadbelt. Yes there are and will continue to be many challenges ahead and the Mississippi Gulf Coast has been our pre-school concerning this culture of substance abuse Mary and I now live and call home for a season. Only a supernatural God could open our hearts so quickly to these dear yet broken and hurting people. As Mary would share, “every drop of love I give them they return to me double”.
But all does not always turn out well:
Becca was found by her sister yesterday, dead of a drug overdose. The news spread through the Church Army Leadbelt community like a California wild fire. Base planter, Mark Hedrick preaches continually, ”substance abuse is a life or death issue”. This first Monday of March his mantra has wrung persistently in my ears as I reflected upon the short friendship I had with Becca and helped pastor those left behind to weep over this tragic but harsh reality of the ministry God has called Mary and me.
Like the rest of the community, I find myself in turmoil over Becca’s death. I’m not unfamiliar with death and I’ve been close to several friends who have taken their own lives which left me second guessing whether I could have intervened in some way. But Becca’s death is different. Relapse equals eviction from our program as the consequences administered in tough love. Becca had relapsed on several occasions in her working towards sobriety. This last time refusing to go back to a treatment center she opted to go live with her sister to fight her disease alone, against all advice.
I’m reminded of the Apostle Paul advising the Church of Corinth to drive one of their own out, to “deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” I Cor. 5. I can’t imagine Satan being any more present than in substance addiction. Speaking for our community, we all grieve this tragedy and I personally wonder how Paul must have felt with his advice to the Corinthians.
For some this is especially trying as one woman shared how this is the first death she has had to struggle with sober. I reminded her of the story of Lazarus’ death. How our Lord Jesus wept even though he knew first hand of Heaven and maybe even that He would raise Lazarus from the dead. These are our feeling and we have a God that not only understands them but validates them in us.
This tragedy does end in victory. Two weeks ago Becca had come forward in our evening service declaring Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. She prayed the sinners prayer with Mark and several others. She is now in glory where there is no pain, no sorrow, no sickness and no more tears. Hallelujah!
Personally, though I grieve, my only regret is that I did not take the opportunity to hug her and tell her she was loved as many of those around me did before she left. Thank you for your prayers and support.
James & Mary
PS. Mary’s stopped praying for snow. She’s had to survive being snowed in and iced in with me three different times over the last month. (James)
To make a donation to the ongoing ministry of James and Mary Giles, you may send a check or money order to: Church Army USA, PO Box 178, Leetsdale, PA 15056. ON THE MEMO LINE PLEASE WRITE: JG058