On Sunday afternoon April 2, the Southside Drug & Gang Task Force in association with the Concord Baptist Association presented a “Drug & Gang Awareness Program.” Bethany Baptist Church provided the location and snack foods for the program.
The program was led by Ronnie Campbell. Ronnie is the State Police Agent in charge of the Task Force and he is also the Pastor of Bethany Baptist Church. The program was opened by Bethany Baptist Students who led the attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag, read from Scripture and led the attendees in “The Lord’s Prayer.”
Various members of the Southside Drug & Gang Task Force spoke to the attendees. The Task Force members include State Police Agents, County Deputies and Town Police officers.
- An overview of Heroin: Information about the drug was given, but more importantly the presenting agents explained how this drug is impacting our Southside community. The use of Heroin in our area and across the nation is shocking! This quote from the Oct 11, 2015 Richmond Times Dispatch was given; “Deaths in Virginia from heroin and opioid use outnumbered highway fatalities for the first time last year.” Simply put, more people die in the state of Virginia due to heroin and opioid overdose than from vehicle related deaths.
- A general presentation of providing information on gangs was given and again, more importantly information on the growth of gangs in our community was discussed. Gang membership is on the rise and a startling fact was that gangs of today often evolve around purpose rather than race, ethnicity or ideology (though these types of gangs certainly still exist). Gang recruitment often begins with children as young as 7 to 9 years old! These children will be asked to do simple tasks in return for a small amount of money. From these simple beginnings gang ideology and membership is developed. The agents discussed various ways that gang members can be spotted and provided information to help parents spot potential gang involvement in their children. Attached is a copy of a handout provided on this topic entitled, “Parents’ Guide to Gangs”.
- Mecklenburg County Sheriff, R.W. Hawkins, Jr., Task Force Leader Ronnie Campbell and each presenting agent stressed the need for community involvement in the fight against drug and gang crimes. The community can be the eyes and ears the Task Force needs. Information can be given to them through any local law enforcement office or through “Crime Solvers” at 1-877-676-8477.
- Ronnie Campbell encouraged the Christian community to be involved in this community problem. As Christians, we are to be “salt and light” to our community. Sheriff Hawkins, in answer to a question from an attendee, indicated that one of the greatest needs is for foster parents. He indicated the number of children being removed from their parents has risen over the past few years. Good homes where these children can be cared for and loved are direly needed.
As members of the Concord Baptist Association -- as Christians -- I ask each person and for each church to make this growing problem a matter of prayer. As Christians, we are called to aid in the suffering of the people around us. Yes, people often make bad choices that put them in bad situations, but they need help--their children need help! The Apostle Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” Romans 1:16 (ESV). Good deeds provided to those in need coupled with the sharing of the good news of Jesus Christ can change lives!
Rev. Joe McDowell
Director of Missions
Concord Baptist Association