Community gathers to share testimonies of drug abuse

BECKLEY — Tim Craft was a drug addict for 12 years. Every day he would wake up and shoot up heroin.

He remembers not even being able to function without heroin.

Craft has since been sober and now uses his story of addiction for good, which is what led him Oct. 19 to Beckley’s first-ever I Am Ingathering at Linda K. Epling Stadium.

The event, hosted by Destiny Ministries, brought together speakers from all over the country to talk about tackling the opioid epidemic that continues to remain a dark cloud over the southern West Virginia region.

Craft, of High on Hope Ministries in Parkersburg, told the crowd a common misconception when one is struggling is people believing they need to live according to their struggle.

“We can’t afford to think things of ourselves that God doesn’t think of us,” Craft said. “We need to think like eagles.”

Craft said an eagle uses a storm to lift itself.

When struggling, especially with addiction, one needs to work to find like-minded people working toward the same goal, because if eagles flap their wings too much, they die of exhaustion, he said.

“If you try too hard to make things happen in your life that God doesn’t intend to happen, you get exhausted,” Craft said. “You can’t forcefully make something happen, and you can’t do it on your own. You have to begin to live your life in a way you never have before.

“What’s the answer to defeating a drug problem in a state?” Craft asked. “We release that answer in every place we go to. Jesus is the answer to this problem. This is the mindset we have to have to tackle the drug epidemic.”

The whole goal of the event is to stress the importance that faith in God can play in breaking free of the addiction.

Tim and Diane Epling, of Destiny Ministries, told The Register-Herald the idea for the event came when Tim was at a men’s conference in Tennessee. Present at that conference was former New York Mets all-star Darryl Strawberry, who dedicates much of his life to going into the school system to discuss drug issues and how life’s issues are a common connection with drug abuse.

“We told him we were from West Virginia, and he had been wanting a connection to West Virginia to come and speak, and we knew we’d be able to set that up,” Tim said.

Although Strawberry wasn’t able to attend the I Am Ingathering, he’s scheduled to speak at the next one May 1-2, 2020.

“We thought today’s event would be a good pre-celebration to what’s to come at the next one, and bring all these communities together in a special way,” Tim Epling added.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports there were 833 opioid deaths in West Virginia in 2017, more than any in the nation.

Diane Epling said the event brings the business, government, education, arts and entertainment, media, family and church communities together, all in one place, to fight the opioid epidemic.

“We know it’s going to take more than one person to put a stop to this,” she said. “It takes all of us working together, because there’s not one person out there that has the answer. If there was, we wouldn’t be in this crisis right now.”

In addition to Craft, several others shared their testimonies, including Dallas resident Austin Cole, who developed an infection called Ludwig angina after having his wisdom teeth removed this past summer.

During an emergency surgery, Cole said he experienced Heaven for the first time.

Other speakers included Bishop Fred T. Simms from Heart of God Ministries, musicians Kaylee and Erica Tuttle, and their mother, Judy Jacobs.

“The I Am Ingathering is a movement,” Tim and Diane Epling explained. “God has created this movement, and people are going to be set free.”

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Funerals for Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Abner, James - 1 p.m., Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

Black, Thomas - 11 a.m., Hafer Funeral Home, Elkview.

Bowcott, Doris - 1 p.m., Mt. Union Church, Pliny.

Dolin, Clayton - 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Harper, Brandon - 1 p.m., Cunningham-Parker-Johnson Funeral Home, Charleston.

Hively, Thomas - 1 p.m., Leonard Johnson Funeral Home, Marmet.

Kirk, William - 8 p.m., Hafer Funeral Home, Elkview.

McDonald, Jeremy - 11 a.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Rollins, Melvin - 1 p.m., Casto Funeral Home, Evans.

Short, Elizabeth - 1:30 p.m., Fidler & Frame Funeral Home, Belle.

Simpkins, Anthony - 1 p.m., McGhee-Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Stone Jr., Darrell - 2 p.m., Smith Cemetery, Leon.

Thorne, Thomas - 1 p.m., Tyree Funeral Home, Mount Hope.