Gail Bartlett is a 71-year-old gray-haired woman, who might be small in stature but she is a giant when it comes to her faith in Jesus Christ.
Bartlett, widowed now for several years, has been engaged in a life-and-death struggle with her son Andrew who is battling a drug addiction.
Her tumultuous journey has a happy ending. Her son Andrew, 35, is now a resident of the Charlotte, Ark.-based John 3:16 Ministries drug addiction campus and has spent the past four-and-a-half months of sobriety after living a life of addiction.
As Gail Bartlett reflects upon the origins of Andrew's addiction, she believes his downward spiral began when her husband Ron Bartlett died, leaving her widowed with two sons.
"Andrew got heavy into drugs," Gail said. "He was doing drugs before that but we didn't know it. I didn't know anything. Anything that came out of that boy's mouth, I believed it."
Andrew's marriage crumbled in 2012 and again, he turned to drugs to ease the pain, according to his mother.
With nowhere to go, he reached out to old childhood friends. He stayed with them for a time but ultimately ended back up at his mother's home when things didn't work out.
"He had all his clothes in plastic bags," Bartlett said. "He started stealing from me and that's when things began to happen."
The craving for heroin and other substances led Andrew to break into his mother's safe and steal two of his late father's Rolex watches. He pawned them to get money for drugs.
At Gail Bartlett's urging, he attended a Celebrate Recovery program at Longview Point Baptist Church.
Andrew was still struggling, but Gail Bartlett said the CR program at Longview Point Baptist gave her hope.
"God put one of Andrew's childhood friends there that night who called out my name. That's when I realized that God was in this."
Bartlett said that friend told DeSoto County Sheriff Bill Rasco about Andrew's struggle and Rasco began to act as a mentor to the young man.
During the course of that mentorship, Andrew was jailed several times on drug and assault charges and other matters.
Finally, when Gail Bartlett had her son arrested at home following several harrowing episodes, she confesses that she "fell apart."
"I went to my bedroom and said, 'God, I can't take this anymore,'" Bartlett said. "Every step since then has been all God."
She credits a public defender, Sheriff Rasco and ultimately God's will in how Andrew wound up at John 3:16 Ministries. The program can take between four to five men a week. There is a waiting list.
One of the more recent graduates who has turned his life around due to the program is Clay Payne of Southaven.
Raised in a stable, Christian home and educated in a private school, Payne continued to experiment with drugs throughout college.
Now sober for one year and a month, Payne is gainfully employed and his life has begun to turn around.
"One thing that makes a difference with John 3:16 is that they make it all about Jesus," Payne said. "When you are on drugs, you become morally and spiritually bankrupt."
He had tried marijuana, cocaine and other substances but prescription painkillers led him down a spiraling path.
"I started eating Loritabs and went to Oxycontin," Payne said. "On drugs, it's a life of misery."
Payne had been "saved," or so he thought, at age 8.
"I walked down the aisle and said a prayer but I hadn't made Jesus Lord of my Life. God was never real to me. The whole time, I was living for myself. When I was at the end of my rope, I knew that I had to look to Him."
This past Thursday night, a panel discussion on addicts and families involving mental health and behavioral professionals was held at Longview Point Baptist Church.
The panel discussion was held in advance of John 3:16 Ministries Community Fest planned for today at the Arkansas State University Center in Jonesboro, Ark.
All proceeds will benefit the 150-client residential campus which houses and provides counseling for clients from across the country. John 3:16 Ministries was started by Bryan Tuggle more than 15 years ago.
A car giveaway, live auction and other prizes are part of the benefit.
For more information go online at www.john316thecure.com or call 1-870-799-2525.
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.