By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
WEBER CITY, Va. — Johnny Morelock makes it very clear. He is a recovering drug addict and alcoholic.
As a result he is able to relate to both groups and that has opened numerous doors for him to share how God rescued him from the grips of alcohol and drugs.
“I can talk to an addict. They respond to like-minded people,” Morelock noted. “They won’t listen to people who haven’t been there themselves,” he added.
Morelock, who still lives in his hometown of Fall Branch, Tenn., is now an active member of First Baptist Church, Weber City, Va., where his brother, Lester Morelock is pastor. First Baptist affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention last year.
Johnny Morelock has led “Joy in Recovery” classes at First Baptist Church for about two years. “We have seen multiple people saved and many of them are still coming to the church,” he observed.
His brother agreed. “They have become an integral part of our church,” Lester Morelock observed. The church family has embraced and accepted them, the pastor observed.
Johnny Morelock makes one message clear to everyone who attends the classes he leads at the church and in other locations. “There is no recovery without the Lord.”
Morelock became a Christian in 1987 but acknowledged that he “backslid” and fell into a life that became dominated by alcohol and drugs. He reached the point where he had lost his job, his family, and basically everything but his house.
Morelock hit “bottom” in November of 2006 and his brother Lester took him to a treatment center in Knoxville. “That was hard for me but even harder for him,” Morelock reflected.
But it was in that treatment center that God “put people in my life to help me realize where I needed to be and what I needed to be doing.”
One of those men was a black man named Tony Carpenter, a recovering addict who was a counselor at the center. “We connected,” Morelock recalled.
“God showed me there was no difference in skin color,” he added. He (Carpenter) loved the Lord and he’s in heaven today,” Morelock said of his mentor and friend.
Morelock recalled that Carpenter was blunt and to the point about Morelock’s addictions. “You can’t sugarcoat it.”
He said Carpenter asked him directly, “Have you looked at yourself in the mirror?”
“I had not done it in years,” More-lock admitted. After he did so, he realized, “I was down and had hit bottom.”
Carpenter helped Morelock to understand that the most important thing he could have was a relationship with the Lord. “I try to share that same story everywhere I can,” Morelock said.
“The only way to recovery is to turn it over to the Lord. There is no other way.”
After Morelock was released from the treatment center he began attending meetings for recovering addicts. He has had two sponsors since then (Ben Humphreys, now deceased, and Herb Riley). He credits both of those men for helping him to recover and begin to live a drug and alcohol free life. “They have helped keep me from going back to active addiction,” he readily admitted.
Morelock recalled a statement that Humphreys made to him after he had been “clean” for two years: “The only way to stay clean is to start meetings and help others find God.”
Morelock started his first meeting at an episcopal church in Kings-port and led it for several years before turning over the reins to someone else.
He has started other meetings since including one last year in Duffield, Va.
As he starts new meetings using curriculum from Narcotics Anonymous, Morelock begins training and equipping others to become leaders.
Drug and alcohol addicts deny they have problems because they are “trying to hide from reality,” he observed.
Once an addict admits they are powerless and have hit the bottom, that’s “when we can teach the goodness of God,” he observed.
Morelock clearly tells those who attend his meetings that “God is number one. Nothing else.”
Over the years he has helped people to understand that “until you get God in your life you will never have peace and joy.
“You have to be drug and alcohol free to live for God. Any other way won’t work,” Morelock attested.
Steve Holt, TBC church services director, is familiar with Morelock’s ministry.
Holt said he witnessed the impact of Johnny’s ministry at a recent revival at the church with Bobby Welch, associate executive director, TBC. “A middle-aged man whose life had been ravaged by drug abuse and who had started to attend one of the recovery groups gave his life to the Lord. During the same service, a young boy was saved whose uncle (a recovery group member) had brought him to church that night.
“Johnny’s ministry is making an impact even beyond the lives that have been touched by the recovery groups,” Holt said, noting that what Morelock does with his recovery classes is very similar to the TBC’s 1-5-1 Harvest Plants initiative of starting groups to reach people with the gospel.
In the years he has been “clean” Morelock has regained what he previously lost including his wife Vickie, “who came back when she saw I was reaching out for help,” and his daughters. He also now has the “best job I’ve ever had.”
Morelock credits God for returning what he had lost “after lots of prayer on my knees,” he said.
Morelock is eager to share his story with those who need to hear of God’s grace and mercy.
“I want people to know there is somebody, somewhere willing to help them.” He can be contacted at email@example.com or 423-429-5418.