Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Learning Journal 9 - Community Placement

Back at Lazarus house for what seems like the first time in ages. The last Thursday before the end of last term I visited an agency in Easton called Nilaari. Nilaari is a drug agency whose clients are primarily from the Black and Ethnic Minority communities. They mainly deal with crack cocaine addiction. As well as counselling they give awareness sessions at schools and youth groups.
Last week I visited the Community Action on Alcohol and Drugs (CAAAD). This agency offer various services to people with addictions to drugs or alcohol. During the afternoon I visited there was a ‘drop-in’ where people can just come and hang out and drink coffee etc. I met a couple of the clients who were in quite a bad way. One was a lady who was a recovering alcoholic. She had been sober for about 8 months. She was very upset because something in her ‘stage 4’ counselling session had opened up some past hurts. She felt a bit embarrassed but was quite open with me. Another chap was clearly having some sort of withdrawal symptoms and was suffering quite badly. Managed to chat to him a little bit though. Turns out he goes to Woodlands church. One of the surprising things I found about CAAAD is that they are quite into ‘Alternative’ therapies – acupuncture, homeopathy, reflexology, even Reiki healing. Acupuncture is apparently especially helpful to addicts with cravings. I was offered the chance to have ‘ear acupuncture’ myself. Made me realise that I need to think some more about what is behind these therapies and whether it is possible to separate the spiritual aspect from the physical benefits. Also, what is the place of the church in offering real healing and recovery to those with addictions.
Are people turning to these therapies because of a failure of the church to offer help in these areas or are they just the flavour of the month in the culture? Is there any scientifically documented evidence that these approaches work or is it just subjective and anecdotal?
Is this area a ‘no-go’ for churches? What Christian programmes are there and what are their different approaches? I am aware of the 12 steps, Teen Challenge, Betel and the stories of Jackie Pullinger’s ministry where she basically seems to rely on praying in tongues and the filling of the Spirit. It would be interesting to do some more research in these areas.
Why is it left to the Salvation Army and the Jesus Army to interact with people with these issues?

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