Published May 4, 2017
I was barely awake when the phone rang, but the words I was about to hear changed that very quickly. “Mark, Tyler is gone.” Darrl and Nancy’s 27-year-old son Tyler became another statistic due to a heroin and fentanyl overdose. On August 22, 2015, only out of rehab for a few weeks, Tyler injected a lethal dose of a drug that took more than 100 men and women in our county that same year. Tyler was a very intelligent young man, but one bad choice while working in the natural gas industry got him addicted to opioids. For years, he kept it from his family. When they found out he was battling an addiction, they felt helpless. We supported them in prayer and encouraged them as much as possible. They were encouraged when Tyler decided he needed help and entered rehab. He left rehab stronger, but he knew something was still missing and sought out one of the men from our church.
Just days before his death he accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior and felt real hope for the first time in his life.
His death left his family feeling hollow and full of more questions than answers. As a pastor, I was supposed to have answers— words of encouragement from God’s word that were supposed to lift them out of the pit they found themselves in. It was rough, but we all found that sometimes comfort is not found in words, but in silence. We cried with them and prayed for God’s promise of peace and strength, and He answered prayers beyond our wildest imaginations. At the funeral, a number of Tyler’s friends turned to Christ, and we had a chance to minister to others who were struggling. Faced with the reality of the death of their son, they had a choice— stay focused on his death, or use the experience somehow to minister to others.
Early in 2015, months before any of us knew that Tyler was struggling with addiction, our church had discussed how we could reach out to our community and meet a genuine need. So, we decided we needed to find a way to reach out to the families and friends of drug addicts. They were often ignored when the focus was on the addicts. We knew we needed someone with passion and experience to lead this ministry.
Nine months after Tyler’s death, we launched Door of Hope. Working with our county coroner, commissioners, sheriff’s office and Foundation Christian Counseling, we hosted two Saturday seminars to discuss the increasing heroin epidemic playing havoc on our county as well as the hope those touched by addiction can have in Christ.
Since then, a support group for families and friends of those who are addicted, or have lost their lives to addiction, regularly meets at Fellowship. This unique ministry has been used to turn a number of lives around by showing them the hope they can have in God. The couple God raised up to lead this ministry? Tyler’s parents. We have a great God!
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13 (ESV)
Mark Steckiel (’81, ’09) is CSU’s Alumni Association Executive Council president and pastor of Fellowship Bible Church. He and his wife Jannis (Keller, ’09) reside in Troy, Pennsylvania.