By Fred Koenig
My friend Mike is a former Marine, he’s from my hometown and he served with me in the National Guard several years ago. He was one of the sharpest guys in the unit. You could always count on him to get things done right. He was related to my sister’s husband, so we did some things socially. He was as meticulous in his fishing and camping as he was in his work.
Last month Mike was arrested for having a meth lab, not one of those back-seat models in a 2-liter soda bottle - this was a big one. The arrest report said he had dug out an underground storage facility (the report called it a bunker) under one of his out buildings to store several extra tanks of anhydrous ammonia. Knowing Mike, I think it’s probably a very fine bunker indeed, well supported and swept out clean. Did I mention Mike’s a hard worker?
About a year prior another acquaintance from my hometown went to prison for manufacturing meth. I can’t sing his praises quite as highly as Mike's, but I was surprised. This fellow had been a hard drinker since junior high, and always did go his own way, but back in the day he would have looked down on a “druggie” as someone beneath him. I don’t know if he got addicted to meth, but he did get addicted to the easy money he could make with it.
A few years ago I was paid a visit by an old friend from my hometown who used to live in Columbia, but had moved to the East Coast. He was happy, bright eyed and optimistic, more so than I’ve ever seen him. I’m pretty sure he was on meth. He’d just decided to come back to Missouri and visit his family on a whim, and he drove the 16 hours straight through. After saying hello to me, he went to his brother’s house an hour away, got in an argument with him, and made the drive straight through back home without stopping. I don’t know how long he was awake, but he was behind the wheel for no less than 34 hours. A few months later he took a much shorter drive, pulled over to the side of the road, walked a few feet from his car, took out a handgun and then took his own life. A couple of years later his brother and his brother’s wife were both arrested for meth possession.
There have been others that I know less well who experienced the ups and downs of meth, with an arrest leading to their secret lives being put in the news for all to see. When watching the Olympic Winter Games from Sochi, Russia, all eyes from Missouri were on speed skater Emily Scott from Springfield, MO. The sports commentator noted that Scott’s mother wasn’t there, because she is in prison (in Chillicothe) for manufacturing and selling meth.
If you’ve been to any kind of seminar or workshop lately that offered advice on how to be a better church, you probably heard that your church needs to be in ministry with the community. The church needs to be a vital part of the community – involved in the community in every way. But when the church is trying to embrace a community that is cranked up on meth, it can make for an awkward hug.
Aside from seeing the effects of meth destroying lives, I don’t know much about it. But Nick Reding does. Read the review of his book on page 30 of the issue.
There are a myriad of social ills ever present in our communities. Our churches may not be equipped to directly confront the problems of illegal drug trade and abuse, but our churches are not short on love and compassion. That’s a good place to start.