SANDY RIDGE – “I saw people pass by a man who was dying,” said Pastor Randy Cook of True Light Baptist Church.
Last January, at a local business “just down the street”, he met a man who had overdosed in his car in the presence of a terrified friend. Cook went into emergency mode, trying to do what he could to save the man’s life until medics arrived.
When it was determined the man would survive, Cook recalls how grateful his friend was for the pastor’s timely intervention. The car was heading towards the building as the driver lost consciousness. Although Cook witnessed an event that could have been fatal, what bothered him the most was the apathetic attitude of passers-by.
“People are desensitized. I don’t want to be that kind of person.
The drug addiction crisis in Stokes County is hitting close to home for Cook, who had a drinking problem at age 15. Bad influences in his life, such as a childhood neighbor who offered him marijuana at age 13, led to a destructive spiral that lasted about a decade.
“Because of the things that happened to me in life, I had an attitude. I actually got kicked out of school and went to an alternative school in Mount Airy for a while. I couldn’t afford gas to get up there, so I gave up.
Prospects brightened at age 16 when Cook met the woman who is now his wife. “She didn’t like drugs. After a while I quit, but I still had a drinking problem. We got married when I was 18.
Cook’s drinking problem suddenly ended when his wife became pregnant. During a regular checkup for her, she was informed that she was pregnant. At that moment, Cook knew he had to give up.
“Recovery wasn’t difficult for me at all… I didn’t touch anything until my son was about a year old. We were at the beach with some of my friends, and they had a case of beer, and I drank half a can. [My son] I used to have a Dr. Pepper in my hand, so he walked over and took my Budweiser. That was it.”
Cook’s self-proclaimed “willpower” and lack of struggles on his journey to sobriety are rare. Many do not know this ease or never recover from it. Cook recounts his memory of his alcoholic uncle, whom he saw die on his grandmother’s kitchen floor as family members tried to resuscitate him.
It has been several years since Cook’s drug and alcohol problems ceased. The pastor, now 43, believes he, along with brother Jamie Doss, is able to counsel others in similar situations through the word of God.
Cook was saved at 28 after some skepticism and apprehensions about Christianity. “The Lord put me on my heart to preach and began to open doors.”
Cook and Doss met through Rock of Ages, a program that helps pastors preach in prisons. The two traveled together to Florida, Ohio and everywhere in between, becoming friends without knowing they lived 10 minutes apart.
A tent meeting Cook held five years ago gave him some inspiration for his goals. The Shining Light Baptist Church had set up a tent “in the middle of a field” to counsel others on drug issues, expecting about 150 attendees; 820 showed up in one day.
“We saw people coming to this tent meeting and getting help. Many people are afraid of a church. You pitch a tent in the middle of a field, people will come,” Cook said.
The ideas behind the tent meeting, Cook’s background, and current circumstances regarding Stokes’ drug crisis led Cook and Doss to launch a man-rescue mission. Although they are still in the planning stages of the True Light Rescue mission, they emphasize that it will provide men with substance abuse issues with a place to stay, food and counselling.
Doss will be the manager, as Cook says he is the perfect person with “14 years of experience helping people”.
Both men are aware of the myriad of factors leading to substance abuse issues and are taking steps to formulate an empathetic agenda for them. Yet something unique about this upcoming offering from Shining Light is the understanding environment.
“We don’t have a large congregation, but many of them have been touched by [substance abuse]”, says Cook. The program will also aim to show those affected that they can have autonomy and independence. Those affected will be helped, and those around them will be too. “We would like to see a well-balanced program who helps the family.”
The two are also convinced that prejudice has exacerbated this local crisis. “Then again, that’s what I would call the crowd that was not affected by it. They don’t believe there is hope for these people. It’s the lack of compassion that people have for others. I believe there is hope for everyone.
Their “vision and mission”, as stated inside their brochure, is to “show men how God can change their lives by the grace of God and for his glory”. Eighteen heartbreaking statistics are listed in the “Why Us” section, further documenting the extent of the nationwide opioid crisis.
These two men come from very different backgrounds: Cook, whose mother predicted he would be dead at 18, and Doss, who “never did drugs or drank alcohol.” Either way, their strong friendship and passion for this issue bonded them and drove them to create this program.
The mission will offer both of these perspectives to help those in need without judgment. “We are not here to beat up anyone; we all have problems. We’re just here to show there’s something better out there,” Doss says.
“A lot of people are hurting tonight.”
If you are looking for help or are interested in volunteering with the True Light Rescue Mission, contact Randy Cook at 336-407-3295 or Jamie Doss at 276-229-5898.