More Than a Meal, Doing Life Together With People Who Struggle

PREFACE

Welcome to the Journal. Our intention is to write short, yet informative, pieces about serious mental illness that will educate and inspire compassion. We know that there are numerous websites you can visit for general information about illnesses like Schizophrenia, for example. Instead of a generic list of symptoms, we're going to share about the real life situations behind the labels and diagnosis. Names and circumstances may be slightly altered, but we believe there are some exceptional individuals you should meet. People who live right in your own backyard (so to speak). So sit back, grab a cup of coffee and spend a few brief moments with our Journal.

Mary's Story

"We were deeply involved with our church & many ministries. We even moved to be a mile away from the campus. We hosted a care group, I was in children's ministry, and our kids were students in the school. Things began to change when we started pastoral counseling because of the impact our son's behavior was having on our family. When we faced our oldest not being able to live with us due to his sudden abusive behavior, we were no longer able to participate on the level we had been because of the amount of time we were spending in therapies, hearings, meetings, etc. No meals, no cards, & phone calls except for the usual request: "if you could just come to care group...." No one offered to come to the heart wrenching hearings or meetings with me. No one offered to minister to the siblings through simple practical things like inviting them over, including them in other families activities, even when people asked how they could help and I would tell them practical ways, there was no follow through. At that point my husband was commuting 2 hrs. to DC for work & another hour added on after work to take the oldest to therapy. We still had 3 kids to help through all of this. We felt abandoned & judged for what was happening. Those scars have taken a very long time to begin to heal. I had been involved with that church since I was a teenager & had family there since it's inception.

We haven't lost faith & we're trying to use our experience as a family to help other families. God is a BIG God who does bring healing & the opportunity to learn the depths of His character in such times (I do not have the words to explain His faithfulness & care of us)! I look at the many people that have come across our path & know they were placed there for a reason, not haphazardly or by chance." ~ Mary

IS IT REALLY All ABOUT THE MEAL?

Full disclosure, I do not like to cook anymore. I raised 4 carnivorous boys and I am no longer a fan of the kitchen. So please hear me on this: I am not trying to guilt anyone into bringing meals to people in your church! That is definitely not the point of this post. If we zone in on the story above, after the list of visible signs of a lack of support like meals, cards, phone calls, what is it that actually left Mary's family with scars? 

We felt abandoned & judged for what was happening.

Families like Mary's in our own churches

Let's look at this from a different angle, in Michael S. Beates' book, "Disability and the Gospel," he asked disability ministry leaders about challenges they faced in their faith groups:

"Not surprisingly, with respect to the biggest challenges faced by disability ministry proponents, leaders named fear and stigma most often. And interestingly, the fear goes both ways. According to one leader, not only are the able-bodied fearful of the unknown, of saying or doing something inappropriate, the person with disabilities is often just as fearful of rejection, disappointment, further frustration of not being understood, or being patronized or pitied. Though we must give the benefit of the doubt that any stigma is unintentional on the part of churches, still, in the experiences of families with disabilities, too many churches leave too many barriers-physical, social, and sometimes spiritual-making it not worth trying to attend." 

For families and individuals struggling with serious mental illness, the fear and stigma is only compounded as I addressed in an earlier post. Beates goes on to write, "When asked specifically why disabled people don't attend church, the most common answer was accessibility-sometimes physical but more often social and spiritual. Life is difficult enough on a daily basis for such families. They don't have the energy to struggle for acceptance and care at a church. They report being asked to leave due to disruptive noises or activity. In some cases, churches worry about liability if "something happens." For families with disability, fear of not being accepted, fear of being singled out in inappropriate ways, or even fear of seeing people afraid of them-all these keep disabled adults and parents with disabled children away from churches."

CRISIS CARE TEAMS

One step we are taking to address the need is to seek to educate our faith community and others about the on-ramps to resources in our state at this free event, "Accessing Adult Behavioral Health Services in Arizona." As a member of the East Valley Behavioral Health Coalition, we've had the exciting opportunity to assist in creating this event for our community. Please join us Saturday, April 22 from 8:30 am - 12:00 pm in Gilbert, Arizona to hear from Mayor Jenn Daniels, Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care, Crisis Response Network, Police, Fire and many others. You can RSVP here with Eventbrite.

Next week we'll discuss other, very real, challenges churches face in addressing the needs of families and people at risk. We believe Crisis Care Team training (Fall 2017) is a another good step in the right direction. Look for more on this soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deborah Geesling