Life isn’t easy in War. War, West Virginia that is. Wind blows through broken window panes in the crumbling brick buildings lining Main Street. A sagging, tattered American flag hangs limp throwing a lazy shadow over foot-high weeds in the cracked pavement. Decades ago, after the coal companies had pulled all the black gold from the surrounding hillside they pulled out of town, leaving residents with no employers, no resources and no hope. Hours pass between cars driving through town…they’re always driving through town though. They never stop.
Except for today. A used, extended-size gold Ford Econoline van parks. Crossroads Community Church’s Appalachia ministry volunteer Jen Cassell bought the van from the Hershey-founded Milton School. The used van may not have had any value to the chocolate conglomerate’s school but it’s been a sweet blessing for the Appalachia ministry. Crossroads volunteers pile out along with friends from the church’s ministry partners Men of Standard and New Life for Girls recovery houses. The loud, laughing group walks around the corner to the newly-painted storefront with bright white window frames. A sign above welcomes guests to “A New Beginning Recovery Ministry.” Ministry co-founders Rick and Mary Smith come out from the back to welcome their friends back to the daytime drop-in center.
Nearly 85% of people living in War are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Rick and Mary’s ministry is one of the few bright spots in this dark, forgotten town. As local residents shuffle through the doors for Celebrate Recovery meetings or a meal they are greeted with a warm, knowing smile from the Crossroads’ team. Men from the Men of Standard residential recovery ministry which Crossroads launched in Union Bridge talk with War residents about how they’ve found freedom from addiction through the power of Christ. Jen smiles as she watches her New Life for Girls friends share their stories of moving from death to life after finding Christ through the New Life program.
All around the room people are talking in small groups, holding hands in prayer, holding back tears as they nod knowingly. Men of Standard and New Life Girls can relate to the local residents’ pain. But now they can also offer hope.
You see, when that gold van pulls back on to Main Street this time it’s got 3 more passengers. Addicts looking to leave behind their old way of life in War to find healing in Westminster, Maryland.
They’re coming to Carroll County because new friends from Crossroads invited them to grab a seat.
In the gold van.