“Hurry Gary, we have got to get this pie over to our new neighbor.” Pie in hand mama and I went to visit our new neighbor. Upon arrival our neighbor was most gracious and laughed when she told us she already had two pies given to her by other neighbors. After a short visit Mama familiarized her with the local churches and invited her and her husband to join us on Sunday for the services. As a young boy this community was a bedrock of Godliness.
I was saddened on my recent trips to the community, that I call home, by the wide spread prevalence of mental illness. I hasten to add the definition being used for mental illness is illegal drug use, alcoholism, and suicide. It appeared everyone I came in contact with knew someone taking illegal drugs. My immediate question is “why.”
My generation were people of faith. We accepted the miraculous, we acknowledged freedom in Christ, we experienced the forgiveness of sin and believed in supernatural healing. In this small community, and others, we look around us and see people, even believers, struggling with severe mental and drug issues. “What is going on?” It makes for awkward and limited conversation. Is it possible, “we are flying by the seat of our spiritual pants when help is needed?” Is it possible Rome is burning while we gather in our “holy huddles.” Could it be our faith is no longer public but contained within the walls of the church and has slowly stopped influencing out public spheres?
The church and the church family could and should be a center of help and information for persons suffering drug and mental issues. Pastors should have training in how to deal with these common mental health issues and maintain a current list of resources available for individuals in need. There should be a consortium of churches working together within the community and every congregation should know of the churches’ resources and outreach. It is the church that should lead the way moving beyond the whispering, the silence and the stigma associated with the problem.
For the local congregation, ministry to drug users and people with other mental illnesses will not be easy, quick or fashionable. It may not even be rewarding, but is right and fitting for people called to love as Jesus loves to serve and represent His healing grace.
The sectarian lifestyle has broken down the foundation of the community and excludes God’s creation from our service. Consequently many Christians have a tendency to curl up and moan. Our most articulate need is to keep putting forth arguments offering the position of God. What is happening will not go away. The public needs to hear the counter balance, i.e. The Truth.
Disciple: “but Jesus how will they know who we are?” “They will know us by our love for one another and the fruit we bear.”
…if you are thoughtless
…about the faithless
…you will be fruitless