The End of One Journey and the Beginning of the Next – Wrapping Up My Time at L’Arche

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA An assistant’s last week at L’Arche is often emotional for a variety of reasons. It’s difficult to say goodbye after bonding with core members who completely depend on you. It’s hard to say goodbye to assistants from different countries not sure if your paths will ever intersect again in some cases. It’s hard to say goodbye to community life, to the magnificently beautiful property, and to the daily rhythms you’ve become accustomed to.

When I look back at my year at L’Arche it has been full of both positive life-changing experiences as well as struggles and hardship. Community life would not be beautiful any other way. I am constantly amazed at how much has taken place this year. It has been an opportunity of growth, service, and communion. Looking back at some of the difficulties we faced as a house including illness both of residents and of staff, difficult transitions, and even death, I am reminded of God’s faithfulness knowing that I never could have pulled through these challenges if it weren’t for my faith in Him. I’m also reminded of the many smiles and joyful days I’ve shared with our residents – days full of laughter, hugs, and blessings. Days in which I accompanied core members to the movies, out to eat, or even on vacations and outings. It is a blessing to be part of each one of their lives.

Whenever we get a new assistant, one of our core members always pronounces “we got a new student this week.” Thinking of these words, I am reminded of how wise they really are. Some of us may join L’Arche thinking we have something to give, something to offer. We definitely do. Each one of us is needed to make L’Arche work and happen and L’Arche could not function if it weren’t for dedicated and supportive assistants and volunteers. On the other hand, each assistant truly is a student more than they are a teacher. We are here to learn. We are here to understand.

I am constantly amazed at how many people who have never worked amongst a demographic of adults with disabilities tell me, “you must be so patient, I could never do that.” Actually, every day I realize just how impatient I really am. Just how self-centered I can be. Just how much I enjoy having my own space and doing my own thing. Every day I am challenged to put the needs of core members before my own, to be flexible, and to be willing to sacrifice for the community. I think in reality the core members (adults with disabilities) are the patient ones. They are the ones who let me come in and be part of their lives. They trust me completely, allowing me to learn their most intimate personal care routines. They are the ones who patiently teach me how to connect and communicate with them – their likes and their dislikes. They are the ones who are patient when I am having a bad day. They are truly caring people.

As I look back on this year at L’Arche I find myself asking, “have I really lived amongst adults with developmental disabilities for a year?” In some ways I feel ready to leave, but in most cases I still feel that the time was too short. There is so much more I could learn if I stayed here in this community and continued to serve amongst the least of these. There are so many lessons of service and love that I am only just now beginning to scratch the surface of. After a year and over 2,000 hours living in the community I am only beginning to feel now that I am getting a taste of what L’Arche really is all about.

Last night we had our going away blessing at the community chapel – the Dayspring. I was so humbled and so blessed by the service itself. As members of the community who felt close to me were asked to come to the front to place their hand on my shoulder I was really surprised with who went up. Some of the people who felt close to me are people I never would have imagined I connected so deeply with this year. One such person is a man named Robin. Robin is a young man who has down syndrome and lives in another house. Robin and I pass each other every day, smile, wave, exchange a few words and then move on. I have never really had a long conversation with Robin nor have I ever really extended my hand to him other than for a few pleasantries on my way to or from picking up or dropping my own residents off to their day programs. Yet, Robin came to the front, placed his hand on my shoulder, and seriously looked distraught that I was leaving the community. After the blessing he rubbed my back and said how much he was going to miss me and how thankful he was to me. Robin is the last person I would have expected this from, but it felt really nice to know that in some way my presence has been valuable to him.

We all long for mountain top experiences. For experiences where God is so real and present to us that we do not doubt His comfort for a moment. We all long for experiences where we feel we are making a difference and doing the will of God. I’ve had a few of those experiences here, but I’ve also learned that even more important that mountain top experiences is valley spirituality. It’s coming down from the mountain and being able to commune with the average people who live in the shadows. It’s doing life daily. It’s being able to say yes. Yes to L’Arche. Yes to service. And yes to taking the lessons of L’Arche with you even when you aren’t physically present there anymore.

Why Short Term Missions Trips Work Despite What You Might Have Heard

3068 Playing with orphan children, building homes, and teaching summer Bible camps are all things that many teenagers and young adults hope to accomplish. Whether it’s because of a love of traveling, due to a profound need to make a difference, or an interest in experiencing a different culture, there is something special about churches and organizations which send out teams to various geographical locations every year. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of criticism and cynicism surrounding these experiences. Career missionaries question the impact these experiences have in the long term. After all, a week working at a soup kitchen is not long enough to form a real and deep relationship. A month translating Bible texts costs the organization more in training and hosting alone than what is produced. And two months playing with orphaned children in India or Africa might make a self-absorbed teenager feel good about themselves but in two months the kids are going to be heartbroken again. I have heard again and again from friends who have committed to missionary life several of whom have been on short-term trips themselves that they simply don’t feel the resources and budgeting put into planning and executing these trips is worth it. Instead it is leaving career missionaries in the field with more work, less time to devote to actually building relationships with the town or village because they are “babysitting the Westerners” and simply “make-work projects” to fuel our ego.

I have given a lot of thought myself to this phenomenon. Having been on a few trips myself starting first in North America and from there branching out to other countries, I have often found myself wondering as I’ve gotten older and started studying missional living in school if this is the right way to go about things. However, despite an initial distrust in short-term missions, I’d like to share three reasons why I believe we shouldn’t get rid of short-term missions teams and how despite the fact that short term trips may require extra money and time to plan they are actually well worth it in the end – if only the career missionaries on the field work to partner with the teams instead of frown upon them.

For the purposes of this article I will be focusing primarily on trips lasting a minimum of one week but no more than one year and which are geared towards students (high school or university range – that is to say under 30 years old).

#1: Short-Term trips give teens a chance to look outside of themselves.

Let’s face it. North American teens in generally are interested in their own lives, their own problems, and their own interests. In general they remain this way until about their early to mid-twenties at which time they hopefully gain some maturity and begin to look outside themselves. That’s not to say that teenagers don’t care. Many of them do have space somewhere inside themselves for caring about the needs of others and try to accomplish this through worthwhile pursuits such as volunteering in the community and in the church nursery. However, many teens simply haven’t been given the opportunity where they had no other choice but to get outside their comfort zone, experience something new, and be challenged in ways they never thought they would be challenged before.

During my first out of continent trip to South America (Paraguay and Brazil) I quickly learned how much I take for granted in my own country. I was 18 at the time and it was my first experience of having to take cold showers for a month, not being able to eat the types of food I typically would enjoy, and struggling to learn a new language – after only one semester of Spanish and another semester of German. It was a great experience in showing me what it must feel like (albeit on a much smaller scale) to be an immigrant. Since both my parents come from immigrant families I began to appreciate a whole lot more the unique challenges my grandparents, aunts, and uncles must have faced when they first came to Canada.

How much did I really accomplish working at a leprosy hospital? Probably not a whole lot. I did some cleaning. The building would become dirty again. I shared my testimony – the inexperienced wisdom and inexperienced delivery of someone barely out of high school. I even spent a few days interacting with some of the patients. Beyond that, nothing. From a materialistic point of view, the amount of money I spent flying out there versus the amount of work I did was miniscule. However, something deep inside me changed. I began to view cross-cultural experiences differently. I began to question some of the prejudices I had always carried in my heart but simply was not aware of. I began to be interested in traveling again and exploring other cultures and other situations.

I may have only been 18. I probably continued to be somewhat self-absorbed for a few years following that experience. It was not some profound event that radically altered my life in the way that Jesus altered Paul of Tarsus’s life, yet it was an experience that starting the ball rolling. An experience that unraveled a bit of string that is still unraveling in my heart and soul today.

#2: Short-Term Missions Trips have a profound impact on the participant’s faith walk.

To be honest, it has always intrigued me (and perhaps in a sense bothered me) that youth who otherwise want nothing to do with the church, who deny their parent’s religion, who rebel against the formal structure, and who wouldn’t be caught dead at a Friday night youth group are always the first to put up their hands when it comes to an out of country trip. Perhaps it is out of a sense of camaraderie – my friends are going so why not? Or a realization that they will be doing a project (likely with their hands) so the amount of Bible teaching will be small, but they somehow all seem to make their way to the front at events like Urbana and TeenMania.

Nevertheless, I cannot deny the profound impact some of these trips have had on the youth. I have seen kids who cared only about themselves become more energized to serve and help the marginalized after as little as a week working with the homeless population. I have seen freshmen come to L’Arche thinking they were going to give us all of their love and service only to walk away from the experience realizing that they had received far more from the residents who have developmental disabilities. I have seen shy kids take up leadership on projects that they are truly passionate about.

Often during mission’s trips, kids accomplish far more than they ever imagined they could. For some it might be their first experience away from home for an extended amount of time. They learn independence but also dependence on the team. For strong personalities (like myself) they learn how to balance leadership with listening, solitude with service. Often I am the most humbled by individuals who have a disability themselves who still go on trips and who are able to minister powerfully by their openness and vulnerability.

During one of my first trips with Mennonite Disaster Service to New Orleans helping to restore and build homes after Hurricane Katrina I was deeply inspired by the commitment and love of the community after the devastating natural disaster. I was stirred to become a better person and to not take things for granted. I’ve had my spiritual eyes opened when in different contexts which have high poverty rates or where women may be ill-treated. I’ve left these experience and came back to Canada where I have since learned how to integrate my short-term trips with my career work as a pastor and friend.

#3: Short-Term trips provide an opportunity for kids to feel supported by the church

I have been blessed to always have been part of really loving and encouraging churches. Nevertheless, one of the most blessed things I have experienced is when the church sends out a team of young missionaries and really surrounds them by their love and support. Whether it’s helping to set up opportunities to raise funds, actually attending the fundraisers, or sitting down with a teen for coffee afterwards to discuss their experience, it is one of the few times when the church really gets to be intergenerational. Often after a trip, the church also provides an opportunity for the youth to share and this gives them the experience of being at the front and proclaiming the Gospel – something few teenagers get the opportunity to do in many cases.

One of the best things about going to Tyndale was the support the community had towards short-term trips. From men shaving their legs in support of mission’s, to the school banding together to put on Shakespearean comedies, to individual groups of students huddled in the lounge praying over the teams, I was really reminded of how when someone is sent out they are sent out individually but moreso as a body.

I know that many missionaries who come back to the field lament that they felt their church didn’t care or didn’t give enough time to them when it came to processing their experience. Some of them felt quite lonely after coming back. I don’t mean to negate that. However, I think it’s also clear that especially for kids who might never have had the opportunity otherwise, it is a great blessing when a 17 year old receives the financial support to go or when a 21 year old receives the encouragement to do something different for a summer or for a year.

Conclusion: Call me crazy, but I think short-term trips are totally worth it. They may not be the most cost-effective or productive experiences, but the intrinsic value it can have on the participants is well worth it and if we are truly seeking to become missional churches then I think for many kids the catalyst will come not by hearing their pastor talk about it from the pulpit but by living it out and experiencing it themselves.

“I Can’t Do It” – On Why Losing Weight and Bible Reading are Two of the Hardest Activities in Life

help1 At the group home that I work at, there is a young man who is very kind and considerate, however, like the rest of us sometimes expects results without putting the full amount of effort in. For example, this man (let’s call him Chris) is slightly overweight. As a result he will tell the rest of us, “I want to lose my weight”, but yet we still see him eating cookies and candies every chance he gets. When we challenge him on his choices encouraging him that he has told us he wants to lose weight and that in order to lose weight he will need to cut back on sugars and sweets he challenges back that it is no longer what he wants to do. Sometimes he will throw his hands up in resignation and say “I can’t do it!”

Chris embodies what the majority of us go through on a daily basis. Losing weight is one of the top ten New Year’s resolutions each year and while some succeed at it, many do not. There’s a sense of entitlement in our culture that we should be willing to get and achieve anything we want even without having to put hard work and effort into it.

I’ve been down this path before several times myself. I start cutting back on calories and exercising more often only to be invited out for a dinner. I tell myself I am going to cheat on the diet just this once but before you know it I have been out to McDonald’s twice that week. I eat healthy during the day but then at night am invited to a staff hangout and end up stuffing my face with chips and chocolate.

It is the same in our spiritual lives. Sometimes I expect to see great gains even without giving God a lot of time. To be honest, despite being a seminary student and a lover of all things theological, I do not always find the Bible the most interesting read available. Sure I love some of the Gospel, Epistle, and Old Testament story sections, but there are also lots of times when I am tempted to pick up a novel or something more-fast paced instead. There is a viewpoint that as Christians the Bible should be our absolute favourite book, but is it always the case? I read my Bible daily, but I often need to convince myself to read it whereas other books I just can’t seem to put down.

I think part of the problem we face is that we need to learn how to make our goals accessible to us. We need the commitment to follow through and to keep at it. When I first started trying to eat healthy I was in a competition with a friend. As long as I thought she was in the competition I kept losing weight because I am a very competitive person. However, the moment it came out she was cheating on the competition and simply didn’t care I gave up and for about a month gained all the weight back I had previously lost.

Sometimes as Christians we may have to be lone rangers. We may be asked to do something that not a lot of others will understand. When you’re in school you may be one of the few Christians in your circle of friends and may find it a real challenge to keep reading the Bible when others aren’t doing it.

At the same time, Christ has called us to live out our goals in community. Being part of a solid Bible-believing church and trying to make friends who are also Christian can help with this. As can even making the occasional non-Christian friend but someone who is deeply devouted to their religion. I’m telling you, seeing a devout Muslim or Sikh always challenges me to become a better Christian.

If you find Bible reading hard, don’t beat yourself up about it. There are plenty of resources available both in store and online which can make the Bible more easily understandable, accessible, and more lively. One tool that I have found very helpful is Bible Gateway’s website: https://www.biblegateway.com/. On this website you can access a variety of different Bible translations including ones in different languages. For a new English learner I would recommend a Bible such as the Easy To Read version or the New Century Version. For a youth group I would perhaps recommend The Message (despite my initial distrust of such a translation, the more I interact with it the more I see it not as the best scholarly authoritative truth but as a  great supplement for a young adult crowd nonetheless). For people who have long commutes or who have difficulty reading in the first place (or simply don’t like to read) I recommend an audio Bible. I recently discovered Bible Gateway’s dramatized Bibles read by a variety of different voices and often with some pretty cool sound effects: https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/audio/. For people who are always on the go and don’t have room in their purse or bag for a Bible, I would recommend using Bible Gateway’s mobile app which is easily transportable, pocket-sized and accessible through Android, iPad, iPhone, and Kindle Fire.

When it comes to losing weight or reading the Bible it is hard work and might not come easily, but before you tell yourself “I can’t do it” and give up, I encourage you to use the resources that are available to you – supportive family and friends, Bible Gateway, and perhaps a buddy who is just as serious as you are about keeping the goal. After all, when it really comes down to it, initially starting will be hard, but the pay-off will be far greater.

5 Ridiculous Things You Probably Believe About Mental Illness

The following blog is written as an extension to my work as an associate with Anabaptist Disability Network Services (ADNet) an organization that provides education, resources, and advocacy for individuals within congregations who face various forms of disabilities including struggles with mental health.

indexAs I think about Robin William’s unfortunate death I am reminded of countless individuals in our country and in our world who face severe depression, eating disorders, drug abuse, and various other forms of mental illness each day. The unfortunate reality is that for as common as mental illness is in our world, many churches and pastors are not properly equipped to care for their flock. Many seminaries do not spend near as much time as they should to teach a pastor or church leader how to properly care for, counsel, or be with someone whose scars are not physical. Recounting my own seminary experience as someone who did not major in pastoral or clinical counselling, I can attest to the fact that mental illness was not really a focus in the majority of my classes and if it was it was more surface level than anything else. Add to this the fact that many churches do not preach sermons related to mental illness and see it as something shameful or a flaw in a person’s impeccable record of faith. After all, a TRUE Christian wouldn’t feel this way. A TRUE Christian would trust God at all times and never feel anxious or depressed. A TRUE Christian would know that God would never give them something more than they could handle…. Yeah… totally not true. Below, I’d like to dispel some of the most common myths about mental illness in hopes that our churches can become more inclusive and safe places for all individuals regardless of what life circumstances might bring to them.

images2#1: I’m a Smart, Successful, Educated (fill in the blank) Person. Mental illness could never happen to me (or my family)

Mental illness affects more people than we may realize. Many studies even suggest that as many as 1 out of every 4 adults will face mental illness at one point or another in their lives and the rates increase due to certain medical conditions as well as due to natural factors such as child birth. On average, more women are diagnosed with mental illnesses every year (which could also be a result of hormonal factors), however, women are on average more willing to accept professional help for their symptoms in comparison to men. With 25% of the Canadian population facing mental illness at one time or another, it is completely possible that you, a very close friend, or a family member may be experiencing some troubling symptoms. With a quarter of the population struggling it is also A SURE FACT that a number of people in your congregation are also struggling. Many of whom are probably not where to turn for help or even sure how to ask because they don’t want to be seen as “crazy” or “disillusioned.”

Mental illness affects people from a variety of socio-economic, educational, and religious backgrounds. Having a faith in Christ DOES provide great comfort and hope but IS NOT a magic cure to end pain and suffering. Some of the most creative and bright people experience depression and anxiety.

NOT everyone who has a mental illness will end up homeless, unable to hold down a job, or unable to have a family. In fact, the percentage of people for whom this is the case is relatively small in proportion to the amount of people who are diagnosed each year. On the contrary, many people with depression, bipolar, anxiety, or OCD are able to not only finish school but to excel at their jobs and to be excellent parents. They may occasionally struggle from time to time and have to ask for an extended leave from work or extensions on their papers, but in between episodes, many of them are quite stable and have the potential to be great friends and even very supportive helpers to others who go through similar experiences.

images#2: Mental illness is a sign of weakness

Some people believe that if they ask for help when facing a mental illness that they are showing they are weak and unable to take care of themselves. Our culture thrives off of individualism and being a self-made man or woman. We have no time for people who don’t fit into that mould. In reality, this is not the way that God ever intended human life to look like. In the Garden of Eden God saw that it was not good for a man to be alone and so He created a spouse, a HELPER for Adam. He intended humans to live in community, to be vulnerable with one another, and to help each other out.

The unfortunate reality of many churches is that because they lack knowledge and understanding about mental illness that instead of seeing how to gently walk with a struggling person they right away put up this defense mechanism that it is the person’s own fault. Jesus did not come as Superman. The book of Hebrews reminds us that He was tempted in every regard as we are yet without sin.[1] Jesus understood pain and suffering. He understood grief, denial, and rejection. He even understood what it was like to not be able to feel God’s presence in His life anymore.[2]

Churches are great at quoting verses out of context thus maligning a person who experiences mental health difficulties. They may make outrageous claims such as that God will never give us more than we can bear. Many Christians mean well when they make share these statements and may even believe that they are helpful or a good reminder, however, when someone is facing severe depression and is not even able to get out of bed in the morning IT IS more than they can bear at that time. What the verse actually is saying is not that we will never feel that a situation is more than we can bear, but that we will never be TEMPTED beyond what we can bear because God provides a way out for us (through our belief in Christ).[3] God IS faithful and He does care about our lives, but quoting Scripture at someone who feels incredibly hopeless is probably not the best way to show them Christian care and compassion.

This problem is further compounded by people who out of desperation and who do not know what else to say in this moment make sharp remarks like “just snap out of it” or “you’ve been feeling this way for 3 months, it’s time to get over it” or even “you just need to stop self-pitying yourself.” Living and caring for someone with a mental illness is HARD work. It’s a commitment that doesn’t get any easier over time. HOWEVER, people who face severe depression, anxiety, or OCD are not able to “just snap out of it.” This phrase makes it sound like it was their choice in the first place to feel this way. When in reality, the majority of people who have mental illness DO NOT “pretend” to feel bad in order to get your attention and sympathy. In fact, many of them feel terrible that they think this way and feel like they aren’t being a good friend or being helpful because of their struggles.

Rather than churches making it sound like a person can choose or not choose to be depressed at will, churches need to surround these individuals with love, support, and care. Providing them with help when they are unable to help themselves. Showing them the love of Christ rather than displaying their own ignorance or frustration.

Devil2#3: Mental illness (especially schizophrenia and bipolar) are sinful and a sign of demonic oppression/possession

Yes, this claim is outrageous, but you would not believe the amount of people who have asked my opinion on this question since I recently took a spiritual warfare course. Depression is not a sin. It is a combination of hormonal and chemical imbalances as well as life situations and possibly unresolved childhood issues. Depression may result from sin in the general sense because after sin entered the world pain and suffering ensued, however, just like #2 suggests it is not a sign of weakness or a sign that someone is not truly following Christ. In fact, it is thought that many famous and very influential Christians have faced depression or other mental illnesses. Mother Theresa often had bouts of depression, St. John of the Cross (who wrote an entire book on the Dark Night of the Soul) likely also suffered from depression. In fact, in a recent Self-Care and Ministry class that I took at McMaster Divinity College I did some research and learned in class that as many as 60% of pastors (or even more) will face depression. This is due in large part to the nature of their work, the demands placed on them, and having a lack of understanding on proper self-care techniques. Christian counsellors and chaplains as well as nurses, doctors, and social workers may also face high rates of burn-out and possibly even mental illness due to the nature of their work and the issues that others are bringing to them daily.

Even the most charismatic of people who are big into Spiritual Warfare would generally admit that even if a person was delivered (from a demon) they should still continue to take their medications and that deliverance does not necessarily equal complete healing.

In fact, it is very hurtful and even dangerous for churches to make outrageous claims such as that because a person is bipolar they are demonized or that people who have depression should just stop taking their medications and believe that God will heal them. They need to have such faith. This is completely bogus! How many Christians do you know would tell someone with diabetes they should stop taking their insulin or someone with asthma to stop using a puffer because God is going to heal them if they only had faith? Not many churches would do this and many of them would think it was sheer foolishness to suggest this… but for some reason when it comes to mental illness we have a different standard all together?

Rather than making outrageous claims that are based more on fairy tales and fanciful myths than on the truth of the Gospel, we should focus on what Christ actually said. That He did not come to condemn, but to save.4 That He came in order that we may have life and have it to the fullest.5 That He is the giver of joy.

pastor-3#4: People who have mental illness should not be allowed to become pastors or church leaders because they are too unstable and could affect the workings of the church

It is an unfortunate thing when churches deny someone who otherwise has an excellent aptitude and possess great skills from serving in the ministry because they struggle with a mental illness. We are all flawed and sinful people. We all have the ability to use the church for God’s edification or else to use it to exclude and shut out people who aren’t exactly like us. Whether or not you have a mental illness you have this potential. Churches which not only employ pastors who have mental illness but have resources available and make an effort to make self-care more of a priority actually have the potential to really help the congregants. If a congregant knows that the pastor has experienced something similar and won’t judge them they might be more willing to open up. If a congregant knows the pastor is taking medication they may feel less stigmatized. No one should be excluded from a church office on the basis of depression or anxiety. Instead, they should be seen as allies and friends. A potential great asset to the church.

pills#5: Everyone who is diagnosed with a mental illness at one point in their life will struggle with mental illness for the rest of their lives. They definitely need to be on medication at all times.

While it is true that certain individuals will continue to struggle with mental health issues throughout the duration of their lives, many others may experience bouts or seasons of depression or anxiety with little or no symptoms in-between. The reason for this is because not all depression is caused by chemical imbalances. Teenagers (especially women) may be more prone to depression not only because of the stresses of high school but because of the rapid growth that is taking place in them not to mention that many women’s hormones have not settled into a regular cycle yet. People may also face depression due to circumstances and life situations including loss of employment, financial difficulty, trauma, or abuse. Depression can also take place in women after the birth of a child (post-partum depression/baby blues) or as a result of a physical health problem (in which case seeing a family doctor might be in order to rule out any physical possibilities first). In these instances, often by learning how to rethink about things medication may be only needed for a very short time or not at all. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is another common illness which often has long-term negative effects on an individual but not necessarily so. PTSD affects far more than just soldiers coming back from military duty, it can also affect victims of traumatic assaults or even people who have suffered traumatic losses, accidents, or illnesses.

Another factor to consider is people who have recently been diagnosed with a long-term physical ailment especially one that is terminal. In these instances individuals may feel very hopeless and alone, but with the right support of the church and of a godly pastor and counselor they may be able to find hope and healing once again as they learn to process their grief. It does not matter when the person was diagnosed or how old they were at the time, the affects can still be utterly traumatic on the person.

Medication has proven to be helpful for many individuals facing mental illness but at the same time it is important to weigh out the side-effects with the results. Some people are very sensitive to medication and may even find the meds make them feel worse (this is especially true of people under the age of 25). If you take medication and find that you are feeling more hopeless and alone it is important to talk with your doctor about whether you should continue or whether there are other options. Other individuals may find it more helpful to do group or individual therapy and may not require the medications in order to function at a reasonable level. In any case, it is very important to understand that the most effective form of treatment is a COMBINATION of medication AND counseling. Medication alone rarely works, it is not a magic formula. But being part of a supportive network including a loving church will increase an individual’s chance for success.

indexbinBONUS: #6: The psychiatric ward in the hospital is the “Looney bin”. All the rooms are padded and people walk around like zombies rubbing their hands together constantly and shouting obscenities. As a pastor, this is a place I should avoid. After all, I may be attacked verbally, physically, or worse.

Contrary to what you might see on TV or in movies, psychiatric wards are generally kept well-clean and with a variety of activities to keep individuals busy throughout the day. The days of institutions are over, but the mentality still sometimes lingers. This only adds shame and guilt to an individual who is already experiencing a tremendous weight in their lives. Rather than buying into these myths, I encourage pastors to get to know local doctors and counsellors and to be able to make informed decisions and referrals in the best interests of their congregants.

[1] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Hebrews+4:15

[2] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+27%3A46&version=NLT

[3] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Corinthians%2010:13

[4]https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+3%3A17&version=NLT, 

[5] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+15%3A11&version=NLT

 

Another link you might want to check out.  Excellent description of mental illness and the effects it has on the church: http://pastors.com/robin-williams-shows-sermon-think/?utm_content=bufferd1cc1&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Book Review – Undiluted By: Benjamin Corey

book-front-for-patheos This article is part of a blog tour for the new book by fellow MennoNerd, Benjamin Corey, entitled Undiluted.  You can find all the articles in this blog tour by going to http://mennonerds.com/undiluted-mennonerds.  The book was received free of charge from the publisher under no obligation for a favorable review.

When did you become a Mennonite? When did you start embracing Anabaptist ideals? These are two questions that I still struggle with today. On one hand, I could argue that I became a Mennonite at 16. That’s how old I was when I stood before the church, had my witnesses vouch for me, and decided that I would be part of this specific denomination. I had finished my discipleship classes, had been regularly attending a Mennonite church by that time for about a year and a half, and was almost entering into my junior (grade 11) year of high school at the Mennonite school literally across the street. However, the truth is, my quest to Anabaptism actually was a lot longer than that and nowhere near as cut and dry. It involved lots of twists, turns, and the occasional bump. The truth is, I really became an Anabaptist once I started attending Tyndale. To this day, I don’t think Tyndale – a largely evangelical and somewhat charismatic school – has any idea how much they shaped me to embrace not only a true view of Christ but also a true view of Anabaptism.

This is part of the reason why Benjamin Corey’s book Undiluted really stood out to me. Corey is a fellow Mennonerd blogger and an author with a deep passion to see the North American church relive its true identity – becoming counter-cultural rather than laizze-faire. Using a simple, yet delightful approach, this book presents its readers with challenging queries and honest searches to finding out who the God of the Bible really is.

For too long, outsiders have looked in on the Christian church and found it to be lacking. Accusations come from all sides that the church is too rigid, too formal, and too full of themselves. Individuals on the margins are finding the church to be exclusive, inaccessible, and boring. The culture is deeming the church to be gay-bashing, women-hating, and Islamophobic. But what did Christ actually intend for the church to become? He intended it to be built upon tradition but not enslaved to it. To be a community of believers with Christ at the center who out pour their lives in love and service to one another and to those who don’t believe. He anticipated an active, messy faith, not a placid, easy one.

Corey is a brilliant and accessible author in that he is able to combine personal experience with practical theology and to make it accessible for all levels of readership. His book is fast-paced, hard to put down, and yet bears the marks of one not ashamed to be real about the questions the church has left them with. It is an enmeshment of popular theology with old school ethic; the evangelical rootedness of Christ being at the center, the only true Lord, but the Anabaptist ideals of service and mission rather than simply evangelization.

There is something in this book that everyone can relate to. Whether you are finding your small group to be too surface-level and dream of deeper connections, you are a seminarian who is moving out of your denominational bubble and into a more transdenominal/ecumenical setting and it scares the daylights out of you, or you are someone who has left the church because they cannot accept where you are right now in your stage of life – this book is for you.

This book is written for the doubters as much as for the seekers. For the discontented as much (if not more so) than for the complacent. It is a challenge, a warning, and a signal to the contemporary church that if we want to thrive and burn long-term we are going to have to readjust our vision, our praxis, and our spiritual climate. It is a book that has the potential to be somewhat unpopular in a day and age which wants to do away with true Christianity and instead to embrace spiritualism. It is also a book that begs to be taken seriously.

It is easy for us as Christians to hear these sermons repeated over and over again at church – in one ear and out the other Sunday to Sunday. Corey’s book does not allow space or time for this. Instead, he challenges his readers that just like Christ humbled Himself, so, we too are also called to a life of service and action. There is no other way. Either you’re in or you’re out and if you’re going to be in then you’ve got to be in all the way.

Thought-provoking, straight-forward, and practical I give this book 4.5 stars out of 5 and would recommend it to anyone studying ministry, currently involved in ministry, or a dissatisfied pew sitter on Sunday morning. I hope you will all go out and buy yourself a copy, but more importantly, I hope you will take the lessons and warning provided by Corey to heart as we strive to build up the Kingdom of God here on this earth.