Jos, Nigeria: Superintendent Richard Dastu Ring-le, an Official of the State Intelligence Bureau of the Nigerian Police Force, Jos, Plateau State is perhaps a revolutionary cop. Though a law enforcement Officer, Dastu believes everyone into any form of crime is like a patient needing healing, not condemnation.
Drug users in particular, Dastu said need special love and care, rehabilitation and restoration from a life of “grass” to a life of “grace”. Himself a Pastor of the Church of Christ in Nations, Dastu believes most drug addicts are victims of societal rejection.
“Drug addicts are among the most vulnerable groups in the society,” he said, adding, “They are often rejected, castigated and stigmatized – often identified by their weaknesses, even by religious leaders. At home, in our religious centres, we call them names, sometimes using them as examples of a bad life in our preachings, instead of praying for them. But in reality, Doctors look for sick people and Jesus too came for the sinners not the righteous, whom today we concentrate on, dragging them from other Churches to our own, something I call sheep stealing.”
Such rejection, Officer Dastu said pushes anyone already into drugs to deepen, for escape and belongingness. “They don’t go to Church or Mosque for fear of stigmatization, so they look for their own kind – people who will not judge them but love and share with them freely and lovingly. That is why they are often in jungles,” he said.
For years, the Reverend Policeman has visited “jungles” and related drug abuse camps, sharing food, clothes and other humanitarian items with victims. Even when rejected, the process is repeated many times as possible. Those he is able to win over, the Officer adopts them to live with his private family, while undergoing rehab. When they fully recover, they are trained in trade and other revenue earning crafts, with takeoff grants given to them. Those interested in studying are sponsored through school. Without any major support, Dastu, through his Dastu Foundation has so far rehabilitated at least 150 previously addicted drug users.
One of his clients, Daniel Jesse, previously had a sour relationship with his family due to his drug addiction, but is now admired for his reformed life.
“Because of their harsh reactions to my life of drugs, I always felt rejected and antagonized that I always felt like hurting them the more. So I did it more often until I could no longer do without it. That life was painful and empty but it was the only life I had until I met this servant of God who completely changed me,” said Jesse.
The 27year-old, currently volunteers for the Dastu Foundation, helping other drug dependers to overcome the challenge, but importantly, he is working to start a gospel Ministry. Currently a student of Jos ECWA Theological Seminary (JETS), Jesse found his calling after his transformation from drugs, something he previously detested, despite once having the urge for Ministry before receding into drugs.
Another client, Maryom Sagai had already receded into depression after years of overdependence on drugs. But Dastu Foundation in partnership with some experts at the Jos University Teaching Hospital as well as local NGOs – Charis Healthcare and Community Initiative, and Community Intervention on Drugs brought him back to life and now also nurses Pastoral ambition.
Previously a school dropout, Mr. Sagai has returned to school and just sat for Senior Secondary Certificate Examination, preparatory to his planned Pastoral training. He, like others, was discovered in a jungle, adopted, rehabilitated and “discipled” to full “restoration”.
Many more people like Dastu exist out there, but for lack of funding and support, their sacrifices remain unknown. But perhaps, like the scriptures say, that whatever one does should be kept secret to get the full blessings from it, many do not want their works to be known. However, they still need the support, in any way possible.