Joe Hanblen knows all too well the struggle to overcome addiction.
And he shared those humble beginnings and how he uses them to help others find faith to get them through the difficulties of dependance.
“You couldn’t tell 10 years ago that I was a heroin junkie,” Hanblen said. “You couldn’t tell 10 years ago that I was a drunkard.”
Hamblen, executive director of Loving Hands Ministries, now ministers to inmates in the drug recovery pod at the Manatee County jail to help them find the strength they need to fight their addictions and get their lives on the right path.
Dozens gathered in front of the historic Manatee County Courthouse in downtown Bradenton on New Year’s Eve to pray for the city and the United States.
Hamblen, who believes that the overdose epidemic, homelessness and crime define darkness that has descended upon Manatee County, shared how he saw the Holy Spirit stirring inside many of those he ministers at the jail.
One day, he said, he asked the group of about 30 men to close their eyes and raise their hands if they felt the Holy Spirit stirring inside of them. When he looked around, about 90 percent of their hands were raised.
“I see lives changing,” Hamblen said. “When we go into 2017, we need to be ready.”
The prayer vigil was organized by Pastor Nelson Ferrer of Alive Church, and those gathered listened as Ferrer and several other local ministers lead them in prayer.
Ferrer thanked all those who attended, stressing how important it was they prayed for their city.
“In the United States, we see shootings and we see horrific acts and we see all these things,” Ferrer said. “But you know the best thing we can do for our city is what we are doing right now, right now.”
He asked them to put their hearts together for a city that “desperately needed” to see Jesus and the love of Jesus.