Taking steps to help others in his community has been a lifetime goal of Harlan resident Kyle Burnette. Pastoring since the age of 19, Burnette, now 58 years of age, is taking classes to obtain his master’s degree in psychology, with an emphasis on chemical dependency, to enable him to help those in need throughout Harlan County.
“A year ago, I decided to go back to school at Union College, in Barbourville,” said Burnette. “I was visiting there one day and I heard them talking about a course on drug dependency counseling. It sounded interesting to me and I thought I want to do that. I got to looking at drug abuse in our county and problems that are running rampant and I couldn’t help but ask myself the question, ‘why are these folks doing this?’ Folks just don’t wake up one day and say I think I’ll ruin my life with drugs today. So, I enrolled in that class simply with the intention of taking the chemical dependency certification class and be done with it. I got interested in this and decided to complete my master’s degree in psychology. This has opened a whole new realm for me, allowing me to possibly even do counseling, particularly in drug dependency.”
As a community-minded person, Burnette offers this insight to others in regard to those who are drug dependent, “Be very careful about judging what you think that person should be. Look at them for who they are and ultimately, as a pastor, who God wants them to be. Try to understand, as best you can, because you can’t always understand, what got those who are drug dependant to that point and try to find a way to help them get beyond that point. With the drug situation in our county, I daresay there’s not a family in our county that hasn’t been touched by this in someway. It may not be directly but might be indirectly. If we spent less time judging one another and more time helping one another, I think we could accomplish a lot more. This is something I am very passionate about. I’ve never been one to judge someone else — don’t want to be a judge. I just want to help someone who needs to be helped.”
Pastor of both Harlan and Baxter United Methodist Church, Burnette said in the Methodist tradition pastors are members of circuits, which allows pastors to travel and be responsible for more than one church. He is also an advertising consultant for WHLN Radio in Harlan. He is a member of the Harlan Lions Club and serves as a member on the Christian Outreach for Appalachian People (COAP) board.
Burnette graduated from Murray State, having been raised in Lee County, Va. He met and married his wife Shelia, who was a Middlesboro native, and they moved to Harlan County approximately 26 years ago. They have three sons and five grandchildren. They are also expecting their sixth grandchild very soon.
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