Fighting a good fight
A talk with antidrugs campaigner Margaret McKay
Although only a small lady, Margaret McKay has packed a punch in her fight against drugs.
Tragically, her fight began when her eldest son became a chronic drug addict. His death at the age of 29, from an overdose of drugs legally provided by a medical doctor, started her public campaign. ‘I was trying to cope with the horrendous loss of my son who died all alone in a hotel room and wasn’t found for 5 days.’
‘I was so angry. You get an angry mother, and things change. That’s what happened in Sweden—mothers and grandmothers got angry about the drug problem. You get a mother angry and she will fight to the death.’
Soon after her son’s death, Margaret retired from her teaching job and she channelled her energy and anger at ‘the system’. She began campaigning against the curse of drugs. ‘I was simply a traumatized mother, wanting to make a difference, to save young people from starting down the tortured path my son went on, and to help parents cope with the anguish of having a drug-addicted child.’
She had no computer, typewriter, office, administration skills or money. She had no contacts or credibility. She knew nothing about media releases, flyers or anything to do with organizing meetings. Yet the first meeting Margaret organized, at her home town of Port Macquarie on the north coast of New South Wales, Australia, attracted 1,200 people, some coming from as far away as Melbourne, driving 14 hours to get there.
‘We weren’t organized. I just ran a meeting. People sat there for four hours pouring out their hearts. We had to bring it out that there was a problem; the system was wrong.’
Only ‘zero tolerance’ works
Margaret realized that ‘harm minimization’, popular with the State Government, had failed her son.1 In this approach, addicts are not rescued from drugs, but rather are given drugs (such as methadone) to satisfy their cravings. But Margaret found that such policies have failed wherever governments have implemented them. Only ‘zero tolerance’2 works to save the lives of drug addicts, she believes.
Margaret caused such a stir in Port Macquarie that seven politicians came, one from Victoria, and the issue reverberated in the halls of Parliament House.
Margaret’s son died in March 1997, and by 1998 she was travelling all over Australia mobilizing communities to educate themselves about the dangers of drugs. She wanted to empower parents, get help for the addicts, and teach people how to lobby their government authorities to change their policies.
‘The local communities would donate my airfare and organize an entire week for me. I spoke to thousands of schoolchildren in each town, on radio and TV and received newspaper coverage.’
As part of her passionate campaign against drugs, Margaret undertook an eight-week intensive study tour of Europe. ‘I wanted to see for myself which drug programs work. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines sponsored my flight, and people from my church arranged accommodation in each city.’
Margaret spent four weeks in Sweden and then five weeks visiting Switzerland, Holland and Austria. ‘I visited the top official at the UN in Austria. That trip taught me to go always to the very top.’ And it reinforced for her the importance of ‘zero tolerance’.
Her achievements have been widely recognized. She was nominated for the prestigious ‘Vienna Civil Society Award’ of the UN in 2002, for extraordinary efforts in fighting drugs and crime. Margaret was ranked seventh in 220 entries from around the world.
Many times she has appeared on national and international TV, as well as being interviewed for hundreds of articles in dozens of newspapers. Margaret has spoken on scores of radio stations, even a few times in Sweden.
Why take drugs?
Why do young people take drugs in the first place? Margaret sees lack of purpose and meaning in life as a major factor. ‘You go into a school and many young people wouldn’t know who or what they are. They know nothing of the Bible. Evolution has taken over, so it’s “dog eat dog”?. They think they came from slime, so why worry? You can do as you please; no morals. You don’t have to answer for anything because there’s no final judgment.’
But Margaret found that teaching on creation gives a solid foundation for purpose in life. In particular, she sees that the scientific aspect of creation gives concrete evidence that challenges people.
‘When you talk to these people, these hurting parents and these addicts, their only hope is Jesus, but they need the concrete evidence to know that it is real. They need to know that the Bible is real and not just a bunch of stories.’
When Margaret was teaching, many of her kindergarten children had drug-addicted parents. ‘Even at that age, they had pretty desperate futures mapped out.’
She helped the children by getting some creation resources. The children made a beeline for the books she put in the library. They loved D is for Dinosaur.
‘I read that book to my five-year-olds and they never got sick of it. Every day through kindergarten, I had those books on display and the kids loved them. When videos became available, I found they had more impact than the stories. The kids just soaked them up.’
When her class visited the school library, if a student picked up a book about evolution they would say, ‘Rubbish’, even in front of the librarian, who was an atheist. They would loudly state that they were created by God and didn’t come from monkeys. The librarian would put the creation books out of reach of the children, but the children would ask Margaret to get them down.
Children must know the Bible is real
Margaret used photos from a Bible-lands tour to drive home to her class the reality of the Bible. Margaret explained, ‘When telling of Joseph I would show them photos of the pyramids, with me in front, and say, “This is real. I’ve been there.”?’
This would lead into discussing other events like the Ice Age and the children were fascinated. The creation songs by AiG singer-sculptor Buddy Davis helped, too, and the youngsters would sing them all the time.
Margaret taught in state schools for twenty-six years. ‘Up until the early seventies, we taught Scripture every day. It was part of our social studies curriculum. Every child learnt about the main characters of the Bible, creation and the Flood. Even if they never went to Sunday school, they knew the basic Bible characters and moral principles.’
But things changed in the mid 1970s. ‘We had to remove and destroy all the Bible reading books. The Headmaster was upset with the directive because he was a Christian. Scripture was removed as a part of the curriculum and only Scripture teachers could come and teach from the Bible. Then it was no longer taken for granted that the Bible was true.’
In the 1960s, Margaret remembers having over forty-five kids in her classes and almost every child belonged to a Sunday school. When she retired in the 1990s, the classes were smaller but the situation had reversed—virtually none of the children attended Sunday school.
‘Often I meet people today who say that they’ll never forget those kindergarten days. One young man had his twenty-first birthday and his mother put his photo in the paper, and it said, “Thank you Mrs McKay for kindergarten.”?’ Even though the children were so young, Margaret’s Bible-based teaching profoundly influenced their lives.
Hope for addicts
Margaret has found creation videos invaluable for witnessing to neighbours and friends. Once a drug-addicted neighbour came to faith in Christ when a video awakened questions in her.
‘I’ve shown creation videos so often. I would lend them to people and would never get them back because they got excited and lent them to their friends. You would be amazed at how many young people are interested in origins.’
Another time, some drug-addicted young people visited Margaret’s home and she thought that, since she wouldn’t get another chance, she would ‘tell them a few things’. The next day one of them came back and asked if what she said was for real. She gave him a video and after he watched it, he was excited to realize that the Bible was true.
Two of her favourite videos are Thy Word is Truth (Peter Sparrow) and Mount St. Helens: Explosive Evidence for Catastrophe. ‘Videos like these knock out the evolutionary foundations that hold people back from believing in the Bible.’
‘Creation videos and literature powerfully affect people who are into drugs. Creation videos connect the Bible to the real world.’ Margaret explained, ‘You’re not floating out there on cloud nine. It’s real.’
Margaret went on to explain, ‘Addicts—they’re mixed-up, sick people. They’re like scared children. They take drugs to cover up their problems and they’re on a merry-go-round. It’s easier to stay on the merry-go-round than get off. They stay on, promising they’ll get off next time. They hear stories of addicts being instantly healed but they are “just stories”?.
‘They do want a better life. They want hope and something to believe. We know that Jesus is the answer, but “Jesus”? sounds airy-fairy. And they can’t understand what salvation is all about if they think they came from apes. It doesn’t make sense. But when you start with creation and give them the evidence, it’s a solid foundation that allows for a dramatic life change.’
Thank you, Margaret. May God continue to use you as you energetically witness to the reality of His grace in the Lord Jesus, our Creator and Saviour.
- Various government authorities around the world have pursued such ‘harm minimization’ policies whereby the fight against illegal drug use is effectively abandoned and policies aim to minimize the harm to the community (such as increased crime and deaths from drug overdoses) resulting from the availability of drugs.
- ‘Zero tolerance’ involves legislation and police and community action to try to keep people from using illegal drugs or marketing them in any way.