By SARA ARTHURS
Harvest Time International Ministries is the kind of church whose members don’t like to stay “within the four walls” of the church, but instead want to emphasize community outreach, said the church’s pastor, the Rev. Alfred De La Cruz Jr.
On Aug. 16, the church will host a community social event to celebrate the start of the school year. And that’s just the beginning. De La Cruz envisions Harvest Time International Ministries working with churches across northwestern Ohio to help those struggling with addiction.
The Aug. 16 “social awareness crusade” takes place from 1:30 to 5 p.m. at Bernard Park, 1105 Bernard Ave. It’s designed to provide outreach and a chance to socialize. There will be fun activities like music, face painting and games for kids and De La Cruz hopes to have haircuts available for those in need. There will also be professionals from nonprofit organizations there to talk about serious issues like addiction, bullying, harassment and suicide.
Food will be available for a donation.
“Whatever they want to give, that’s fine,” De La Cruz said.
The event will include a talent show De La Cruz is calling “Findlay Got Talent.”
About a dozen incoming University of Findlay freshmen are going to help with set up and with activities like face painting.
De La Cruz envisions this as an annual event although in future years he might hold it in other parts of town and collaborate with people in those neighborhoods.
He is looking for other churches and community groups that might want to participate in the back-to-school event, including volunteers to cut hair. Anyone interested in sponsoring or donating to the event can reach the church at http://harvesttimeinternationalministries.org/ or can call De La Cruz at 419-306-3532.
The theme of the back-to-school event is “Not Just Involved But Committed.” De La Cruz said this represents the church’s approach to social issues. It means being committed to improving the community, and a big part of that, he believes, is tackling the opiate epidemic.
“The need is huge,” De La Cruz said.
Abuse of alcohol, heroin and other drugs is “rampant” in Findlay and destroys families, De La Cruz said. He has known people affected and said “this has been a mission for me” for 20 years.
De La Cruz, a lifetime resident of Findlay who has been the pastor of Harvest Time International Ministries for two and a half years, holds a degree in social work and volunteers regularly at Choices Behavioral Healthcare, which offers treatment for drug addiction.
“I would sit down and just talk to (recovering addicts) about Jesus or have prayer with them,” he said. He has known many recovering addicts and is able to gain their trust.
He believes churches play an important role in the struggle against addiction.
“There’s a spiritual side to this,” he said.
He would like to bring many denominations together to work on the problem, “a unity of churches working together for the same cause,” he said, but it is a task that will involve continuous commitment.
Kinsy Lee, office administrator at Choices Behavioral Healthcare, said De La Cruz offers patients in recovery a chance to talk about spiritual matters but also is willing to listen if “they’re just having a hard time.”
Choices is a faith-based program and offers Bible studies, as well as groups that talk about spirituality and a higher power, Lee said.
Lee said he too would like to see more churches coming together to address the addiction epidemic.
“We see it as a very important role,” she said.
As people recover from addiction and develop a spiritual life “they find new meaning, they find new purpose, new goals,” Lee said.
De La Cruz has seen people turn their lives around, including one man who after becoming a Christian went from having been a drug abuser to now being a volunteer that helps others, “a real inspiration” to other addicts struggling to recover.
De La Cruz said it’s an ongoing process.
“It’s not, ‘Get ‘em saved and see you later. … That’s just the beginning,” he said.
Harvest Time International Ministries and Choices Behavioral Healthcare are working to create a new nonprofit organization they are calling Mosaic Missions. Its goal is to use a Christian approach to help those in need, allowing others to “help mentor and mend a broken life into a beautiful mosaic and be healed through faith, hope and love” according to a Mosaic Missions flyer.
De La Cruz installed a neon red cross at the front of the Harvest Time International Ministries, located at 237 George St. To him, it symbolizes that the church is a place of healing.
“To me this is not just a church,” he said. “It’s a hospital for the hurting.”
Online: http://harvesttimeinternationalministries.org/ Arthurs: 419-427-8494 Send an E-mail to Sara Arthurs
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