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Chester County Press

Addiction conference to offer help, hope and healing

10/14/2019 12:49PM ● By J. Chambless

Pastor Dan Nicewonger of First Baptist Church of Kennett Square, together with Andy Rumford and Luis Tovar of Kacies' Cause, are sponsoring “Help for today...hope for tomorrow,” a three-day conference on Oct. 18-20, that will explore the role that faith, hope and love play in recovery from chemical dependency.

By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

Several months ago, Pastor Dan Nicewonger of First Baptist Church of Kennett Square had lunch at La Verona with Andy Rumford, the founder of Kacie's Cause and Luis Tovar, the organization's president.

Also seated at the table was Rev. Donald Coombs Jr., the Director of Program Development for the Salvation Army, who had come to talk about the concept of a conference in Kennett Square that would attempt to erase all of the stereotypes of drug addiction, and reach individuals and families who are struggling with guilt, shame, hopelessness and failure. Coombs asked his lunch colleagues to join him in the effort.

On Oct. 18, 19 and 20, First Baptist Church of Kennett Square will host “Help for today...hope for tomorrow,” a three-day conference that will look at the role that faith, hope and love can play in recovery from chemical dependency. The event will be facilitated by Rev. Coombs, an experienced educator and counselor who specializes in addictions and associated disorders. An ordained elder with the Church of the Nazarene, he is a former youth and senior pastor and currently provides supervision and consultation for a Christian rehabilitation program.

“A week after we met with Don, Luis, Andy and I decided that we can do this and to offer it to the community,” Nicewonger said. “It actually started long before that in the building of the partnership between the church and Kacie's Cause, so when the opportunity presented itself to be a part of the conference, we felt that we needed to do this, that it would be good for our community.”

On the opening night of the conference, Coombs will present “The Holistic Model of Addiction,” which will provide an overview of how the disease develops from a convergence of several challenges, and explain the “unhealthy attachment” aspect of what lures individuals into addiction.

On Saturday, the conference will present three breakout sessions: “Addictive Substances of Abuse,” “Developing Discernment” and “Hope and Help,” as well as two shorter sessions – “Bearing Witness to the Journey of Recovery” and “Finding Help for the Journey.”

On Sunday, Rev. Coombs will present a session entitled “How to be non-judgmental while offering the hope of the Gospel,” that will provide the tools individuals and families to consider through the journey of addiction and recovery: how to cope with anger; how to be assertive; how to give feedback; and how to be a safe person.

The conference will conclude with a sermon entitled “When God Calls You Child.”

The timing of the conference arrives at a time when raw statistics have catapulted drug addiction from what was once a mere problem to a widespread epidemic. Over the last four years, more than 450 people have died from drug overdoses in Chester County, and in Pennsylvania, more than 5,000 people lost their lives to drug overdoses in 2017, alone.

“Years ago, when we held town hall meetings, we would ask 'Who here has been touched by the disease of addiction?'” said Rumford, whose daughter Kacie lost her struggle with addiction in 2013. “We would rarely see a hand go up. Now, you ask that same question and there is barely a hand that stays down. It's affecting everyone in society, and whether they want to admit it or not, they know someone – a family member or a friend of the family – who is suffering from the disease.

“Having the conference here right now is useful for this entire area. The community needs to come together, and what better place than here to have this event?”

Throughout the conference's literature, the word “Faith” appears frequently. It's a word that when put into action can partner with other available resources to play a major role in one's recovery from addiction, Nicewonger said.

“In the past, you would go into rehab, and be introduced to all of the best of the world's knowledge to help you in your recovery,” Nicewonger said. “Similarly, you would go into spiritual places and be told that all you need is God, and that He will bring about healing and recovery. The truth is that we need to bring both of those principles together.

“At the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus said 'I have come to set captives free.' What thing in our culture today holds people captive more than the disease of addiction? We're talking about using all of the resources that are at our disposal to help set captives free.”

The key takeaway for families and individuals who attend the conference, Tovar said, will be the freedom to share their story with professional and spiritual counselors – as well as other parents and families -- in a non-judgmental environment.

“There is so much that is being learned about this disease that it is imperative that people withhold judgment, because this can happen to everyone,” said Tovar, whose family had been affected by addiction several years ago. “We were told early on to listen to the professionals, and we guided our children through the process. Luckily, we got surrounded by the right group of people who helped us through that process, and we ended up in a good place.

“We can't bank on the belief that our journey is over,” he added. “There are triggers that surface, and we just have to keep taking our medicine, and our medicine is continue to embrace everyone going through the same journey, and tell them that they're okay. Talking is a big part of the healing.”

The cost to attend “Help for today...hope for tomorrow” is $10, and will include lunch and refreshments on Saturday. To learn more and to register, call 610-444-5320, or visit or First Baptist Church of Kennett Square is located at 415 W. State Street, in Kennett Square.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].