Church's Judgment House focuses on drug overdose issue

by Mark Maynard/Kentucky Today, posted Friday, July 14, 2017 (12 days ago)

Gary Hensley, in the role of the judge in Judgement House at Unity Baptist Church in Ashland, Kentucky, welcomes a soul into heaven. The angel is Bonnie Prince. The Judgement House walk-thru drama deals with drug overdoses as a theme. The small northeastern Kentucky town has been hit hard with overdoses in recent weeks.
Photo courtesy of Kentucky Today/Mark Maynard
ASHLAND, Ky. (BP) -- For Pastor Jeremy Couture, focusing on the consequences of a drug overdose was an obvious theme for Unity Baptist Church's latest Judgment House presentation.

The choice of a drug overdose was taken "from the daily headlines in the news," he said.

Drug abuse in northeastern Kentucky is at an epidemic level with Boyd County being the No. 3 county in the state -- behind much larger Jefferson and Fayette -- in number of overdose deaths in 2016.

Less than two weeks ago there were 14 overdoses and one death in a single night in Boyd County.

"It's more serious or visible here, but the drug problem is in every community," Couture said. "That's why I preached it, too (last Sunday). The theme is powerful."

Unity Baptist Church, Ashland, Ky., has been putting on Judgment House presentations for the past 15 years with a variety of themes. It takes about 100 volunteers to put on each drama.
Photo courtesy of Kentucky Today/Mark Maynard
Judgment House is a walk-through drama that takes guests through a series of different scenes following a storyline featuring poor choices and drug abuse, causing those involved to face the consequences of their decisions.

Unity Baptist, which is located in Ashland, has been putting on the drama presentation for the past 15 years with a variety of themes. It takes about 100 volunteers to put on each drama. Between 1,200 and 1,500 guests are expected over the four days, Couture said.

"It brings the church members together," he said. "They serve in a lot of behind-the-scene ways."

Couture said the night when 14 people reportedly overdosed and one died confirmed to him that the theme for Judgment House was the correct one. "We want the Judgment House theme to be relevant," he said.

Throughout the many years of Judgment House, Couture said the church has been able to witness the impact on lives.

"It reminds us we need to reach beyond ourselves," he said. "It's a labor of evangelistic love to confront people with the truth of the Gospel. We want to hold out the message of hope in Jesus Christ. It applies to any problem that someone may face."

According to the latest report by the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, fatal overdoses statewide totaled 1,404 in 2016, a 7.4 percent increase from the previous year. Of those cases, toxicology data were available for 1,330 deaths, according to the report.

There were more than 40 deaths in Boyd, Greenup and Carter counties in 2016 from overdoses of illicit and/or prescription drugs inflicted intentionally or unintentionally, according to a report released recently.

In 2016, Boyd County led with 30 deaths reported as overdoses, many from fentanyl or heroin laced with fentanyl, which contributed to nearly half of all fatalities during the year. It was a factor in 623 lethal overdoses across the state, up from 459 in 2015. Heroin was involved in 456 deaths.

"It's a growing problem," Couture said of the drug culture. "As Christians and churches we need to get our hands around it and pray about it. I'm sure every family in our community has been impacted."

Mark Maynard writes for Kentucky Today, www.kentuckytoday.com, where this article first appeared. Kentucky Today is a news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
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