Felipe Diez III | June 15, 2019
In 2016, a government agency cited by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [F1] recorded that around 64,000 Americans had died from drug overdoses. 46,000 of those deaths involved opiates. The Gazette, a local newspaper, reported that 4,600 of those Americans who died were Pennsylvanians. Some of them were from the city of Pittsburgh, where this writer resides. Those startling statistics most likely have not improved. Yet the reality of the grim landscape that plagues our cities today is a deeply personal one. Those same people who left this world formed an integral part of our communities. They were our neighbors. Local addicts today, many who approach the grave, are currently enslaved by their chemical dependence. A significant number suffer from unaddressed mental health issues. Many who have sought help are located in chemical detoxification and inpatient / outpatient recovery centers. To reiterate this personal dimension here explored, all of the individuals mentioned above were brothers, sister, aunts, uncles, mothers, and fathers. They were friendly mail carriers, prompt deliverers of our goods, competent customer service providers, and familiar faces at middle school events our children would attend. Those still alive sit beside us at church on Sundays and also lead youth and specialty groups. Many are Christian believers or will be as a result of evangelistic activity. Mental health and addiction matters affect local churches and the communities they are part of in a multitude of ways. Therefore, those of us who attend these churches are called to care for people afflicted by besetting mental health and addiction cycles, whether these individuals are presently engaged in the body of Christ or somewhere else in the neighborhood, maybe without God; without hope. In order to best meet the spiritual and material needs of people suffering from these life-dominating ailments, the believer is called to invest in their particular situations. To succeed here, we ought to consider the task at hand as if it were a life or death situation. It certainly is in light of what we now understand.
[F1]: Scott W. Brady, This is Ground Zero for the Opioid Crisis, 2016)
The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) has been used by practical theologians to formulate a Christian life praxis aimed at providing detailed plans of action designed to provide actionable aid to crisis sufferers. The hope is that these practical labors would directly obey Jesus’s response to the teacher of the law’s question to Him: “And who is my neighbor?” Christians, informed by this parable, aim to figure out for themselves who is a “neighbor” in their own unique settings so as to quickly and effectively care for persons and groups experiencing all sorts of emergencies and traumatic events. After a crisis, ongoing care is ordinarily necessary to aid in the healing process. Church leadership and laypersons are therefore called to help as they are equipped to (and they must be reminded to have confidence in their usefulness!) for the sake of Christ’s radical command unto service, and the welfare of whichever neighbor is in great pain. This essay will examine Luke 10:25-37 as a foundation and springboard to inform, motivate, and empower every member of the local church to participate in direct care action. Because trauma and crisis constitute regular parts of a church’s life, the essay will focus on mental health and addiction conditions that demand special attention. Since the mission of the church is to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19), it must do so at a personal and situational level. Those in distress require spiritual teaching, discipleship, and the meeting of every-day material needs. The focus here, however, is on spiritually relevant material needs in the lives of our neighbors affected by mental health and addiction conditions while upholding the Word-centered approach we must present in their daily lives. As a former direct care worker for “the least of these,” (Matt 25:40) who require the meeting of needs and services, I will include case observations and ideas as a result of lessons learned in this growing health-care field. One reason we must humbly “walk” alongside those individuals with brain disorders and chemical dependence patterns is ultimately because Christ “likewise did” a perfect life and died a perfect death for us while we were dead in our spiritual crisis. To our disordered neighbors who live with pain, anguish, and hurt, He tells us: “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37).
Examination of the Parable
“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (10:25). This teacher of the Law was unconcerned with humbly learning from Jesus regarding the possession of eternal life and performance of good works. His mission was to prove to our Lord that He was entangled in a theological inconsistency. This teacher desired to demonstrate to the Savior that He was speaking incorrectly about topics covering the Law during the whole discussion that led to the presentation of the parable. The question “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” is a central question within the Judeo-Christian worldviews. It is a profound human inquiry. After the teacher posed the challenge, Jesus did not then discourse on material now contained in the book of Romans pertaining to Justification by faith (as essential as this would have been to the conversation). Rather, He wisely responded to the expert using a unique illustration that vividly drove home the point of the matter. “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” (26). Jesus appealed to the Mosaic Law already in view; the same standard that governed the character of this learned man. The teacher replied truthfully: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (27). Jesus accepted the teacher’s answer and replied “Do this and you will live.” (28). To do the Law’s greatest commandment is not to seek to be justified by the deeds of the law (clearly in opposition to Romans 3:20) as this teacher probably believed as he asked “what must I do to live?” No, doing the command of life gives life because ultimately, Jesus is the Author of life (Acts 3:15). Messiah is the “End of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:5). “Doing this” is evidence that a person has life. Therefore, doing right is part of communing with this Living God. Jesus came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17), and “those who do it [the Law] and teach it will be called great in the Kingdom of God” (5:19b). Since Christ is “The Life” (John 14:6), being in union with Him brings righteousness that the “End of the law” provides for us. The Parable continues: “But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” He dismissed Jesus’s answer about what brings eternal life, supposing he was on his way there. The question “who is my neighbor?” came from a man who had, in fact, done much. In his heart, he considered that the neighbors he had loved all his life, the Jews, secured for him an excellent path to life.” Jesus, knowing the contents of the teacher’s heart, instructed the people: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.” (Luke 10:31,32). The 17-mile road from Jerusalem to Jericho was generally unsafe to travel through due to the fact that it was lined with rocky hideouts where thieves could encamp to then do violence to vulnerable travelers. Kraig S. Keener notes how Josephus, in his Jewish Wars, noted that “some took weapons to protect themselves as they traveled this road and others like it.” [F2]. The man in the parable was left naked and without possessions. He was badly injured and clearly in crisis. The Jewish priest, a learned minister, took notice of the battered man and chose to evade the whole crime scene. Arriving near it, he decided to distance himself. This priest, who was supposed to “do this and live,” did nothing good for the man and instead cowardly neglected the traumatized “half-breed gentile.” By doing evil, he contradicted the crux of the Law, whose every point he taught on the Sabbath. This elder of the land, who should have speedily responded, decided that eternal life was not an important proposition that day. The second man was a Levite, another religious educator. He did just as the priest had, and for the same reasons. Two Jews considered “greatest in Israel” had failed the poor man, and therefore, The Lord. They did not observe what the Law demanded of them. “But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’” (33-35). The Samaritan practiced a somewhat different faith, arrived from a “stained” heritage, and worshipped “what they did not know” and “on this mountain” [Gerazim]” (John 4) instead of in Jerusalem. Ironically, he did what was required of him by the Law. The Samaritans were cast away by the Jews and would have represented what is lawless.
[F2] Keener, Kraig S, The IVP Bible Background Commentary; New Testament, (Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2014), p.254
The Good Samaritan did the following:
1). Took pity on him: The Samaritan did not act out of pure procedural obligation. He felt empathy and compassion; a sense of urgency. We take action as believers because we possess a godly burden for those who suffer ailments and dangers. Unlike those who go to the other side of the road, the compassionate believer “goes to others,” feeling a need to become involved in a person’s world of crisis and recovery.
2). Bandaged his wounds with oil and wine: The Samaritan, well prepared, had packed some resources and was equipped to perform first aid on the injured man. He had oil, wine, and most likely other items used as bandages. Those liquids were used in the ancient world as antiseptics. They could also help to heal cuts. They were precious, so using them to clean wounds resulted in less provisions available for consumption. Employing even the most valuable personal resources to “bandage the wounds” of people in crisis equates to loving the Law, and therefore, the Lord. These assets could be readily accessible in our church storages (first aid kits, hygiene products, food items in pantries, etc.) [F3], personal bags, or vehicles.
[F3] Some mental health and addiction professionals have suggested keeping Narcan shots available (even in the possession of addicts themselves) to attempt to quickly treat a person if an opiate overdose occurs. Narcan (Naloxone) prevents opiates from binding to receptors in the body and can “contradict” overdoses. There is an ongoing controversy with this subject. To suggest keeping such a chemical in a church closet, and possibly training whoever desires to learn to use these or other life-saving chemicals may be met with immediate disapproval. However, churches need to take risks even if these risks carry potentially troubling consequences (investigations from authorities). If a person overdoses in a church bathroom, the preservation of this person’s life is far more important than the fear of possible legal consequences if chemicals are used to try to save a person. These same authorities may ask even tougher questions if the person dies without an attempt by onlookers to provide emergency services. Good Samaritan laws protect people who perform first aid. My father, a medical doctor, has always carried a bag inside his vehicle with morphine, epinephrine, and other injectable chemicals for emergency use. He has performed this kind of first aid and saved the lives of two people (his neighbors) that day. Medical professionals regularly attending church should consider this matter even though my father’s approach is not commonly addressed or advised in the broader medical community. They argue that this is the work of EMTs and other first responders. However, a person may die during the 15 to 20 minutes it takes an ambulance to arrive at an urban or suburban emergency scene. Church leaders and laypersons could be encouraged to take CPR / First aid / fire safety courses, and information on these trainings could be placed on bulletin boards in your local church.
3). Put the man on his own donkey: The Samaritan, like many who traveled the 17-mile way, rode on a beast of burden. A few days walk would prove arduous and tiring. Sandals in those times had a shorter life span than today’s New Balance sneakers. The injured man, not being able to get up on his own, was fastened on the animal like one would place a person in an ambulance today. The Samaritan, then, chose to walk the road, guiding the beast with bridle and rein. The direct care work continued for as long as was needed to get to the inn.
4). Brought him to an inn and took care of him: Since a room with a bed is an appropriate place to care for an injured person, they went to the inn (equivalent to a Motel 6 on the side of a highway). The Samaritan didn’t just drop him off where others would “take it from there,” although doing so would still have been reasonable. Direct care continued throughout the restless night.
5). Paid for another to take care of him until he returns: The Samaritan had business to conduct elsewhere, as today’s pastors and laypersons naturally do, so he paid another man the modern equivalent of around 30 dollars for the night. This is not a low sum and it would add up. The innkeeper was paid to take care of the man in the interim, and when the Samaritan returned after an unspecified amount of time, the innkeeper was compensated for everything that needed to be done to help the injured man recover. The trauma informed care was clearly ongoing. Throughout this continuum, the center of attention was not fully scheduled around the Samaritan’s agenda but on the traumatized man’s best interests. The Samaritan still did what he needed to do, as any person would in another instance. Some have speculated that during the Samaritan’s physical absence, he made sure to obtain extra money to pay the innkeeper when he returned. It is evident that great care was taken to make sure that the man not only escaped with his life, but fully recuperated. Imagine the joy felt by both men when they saw each other again after the Samaritan returned to the inn; the injured one having convalesced, and with thankfulness in his spirit.
After the illustration involving the good work of the Samaritan, Jesus asked the teacher of the law “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (36,37). The teacher of the law recognized the merciful act of the Samaritan, and again, answered Jesus correctly. Our Lord, then, directed the main idea of whole parable to the teacher and commanded him to do just as the Samaritan had done. One act like that by the teacher would prove a monumental turn from his hard-hearted behavior patterns. However, said act of true obedience, though mightily virtuous, would not suffice. Jesus was calling the teacher to live a life of methodical costly service to his neighbor to “do” the Law of God and live.
Why Mental Health and Addiction Recovery?
Mental health and addiction topics at the applied level have always fascinated me. They are pertinent subjects present in Christian circles more than ever before. I have been immersed in and captivated by this prevalent and painful dimension of human experience. I work in this field. [F4]. There are also some intimate personal reasons that have given me a desire to provide Christian service to others in this area. It is my belief that the Christian church should continue to be nourished and further edified in order to more firmly grasp the societal trends emerging from the unique experiences of those who grapple with mental health complications. Since the Lord has chosen people from all life backgrounds, those with challenging and compounded life circumstances require our daily love and attention. These neighbors fellowship with us at church and community groups. They are here to stay with us, and hopefully us with them. They may compose an integral part of your family or network of friends. You yourself may live with daily mental health [F5] and addiction symptoms. If this is the case, you are our neighbor.
[F4] I served in the health care industry, providing direct services to individuals in residential settings. My professional specializations have included outpatient mental health and addiction recovery care, crisis and respite support, intellectual and developmental disability services, and independent personal needs assistance. I have also helped to manage staff concerns and client cases in conjunction with their families and community providers.
[F5] The word “mental” is being used to denote a dysfunction of the brain as an organ. The immaterial part of the mind is also affected by spiritual fallenness. Both influence each other. We reject the behaviorist, positivistic notion that the mind only constitutes the physical brain. We also reject the opinion that no problematic chemical fluctuation or structural damage exists in a portion of the human population which can cause ongoing mental health symptoms such as anxiety, depression, visual / auditory hallucinations, and intrusive thoughts.
Case-specific Christian involvement in the lives of individuals is a major part of helping sufferers. [F6]. There is a long and arduous process; a continuum of care, that must be traversed by people whose lives are afflicted by these aforementioned problems. There are many steps in this voyage, and our neighbors may be assisted by us during any of them.
[F6] In this essay, “sufferers” refers specifically to those who suffer from mental health and addiction symptoms.
The Church; the foundation for human service, is the predominant institution called to aid these sufferers. It contains the Bible; the basis upon which good works of mercy are defined, articulated, and promoted. This essay will explain how this continuum works at the crisis and residential level so that the pastor or layperson may be encouraged and empowered to better relate to sufferers in their own congregations. Since everyone is to be equipped to perform good works [F7] through personal and material support (Eph. 4:12), a holistic approach guiding our assessment of crisis and recovery will be taken. Included in the section are some ways that independent organizations and providers participate in the process. These agencies are common segments of the total services that sufferers come into contact with.
[F7] Concerning good works, “These good works, done in obedience to God's commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the Gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God. (Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XVI, Section II, Of Good works).
Basic Needs of Individuals in Program Settings
A person who suffers from mental health and addiction patterns has a complex set of needs; some that must be met immediately and others that could be later addressed. In many cases, at least one basic need (proper nutrition, clothing, and shelter) is missing from a sufferer’s daily journey. Unstable living arrangements, unkempt appearances, poor hygiene habits, lack of active health insurance policies, and drug-related nutrition deficiencies are common to sufferers who find themselves in the midst of a crisis. These neighbors may be sitting next to you during Sunday service. They could benefit from crisis & respite centers resembling the conveniently located Inn that the injured man in Luke’s parable was brought to. Emergency respite centers shelter individuals in all sorts of urgent conditions. They could then be placed in long-term residential housing. At crisis centers, individuals are provided with basic care if possible.
[F8] It is a difficult matter to decide whether or not a person should be taken to one of these centers, to a homeless shelter, a relative’s house, etc. Parishioners may ask a person in crisis whether or not they would like to be transported to a helpful location or if they are already plan to stay somewhere for the short term. In many cases, one cannot simply drop off a person at a center. There are some basic procedures to be followed so that they may be accepted into an emergency program. A person at your church could be given options, including the “right” to stay homeless. Some good Samaritans have taken these individuals into their homes. While this act of radical love definitely mirrors that of costly Christian action, it could also prove risky. A person must discern what they are capable of doing for a person, and are not obliged to commit to something that may constitute an unhealthy burden for all involved.
Church-sponsored centers or at least those loosely associated with faith-based institutions benefit from relationships with these Christian establishments. When possible, parishioners belonging to a sponsor church or community association could be notified when residents enter a crisis home for the purpose of keeping them in prayer anonymously. These new neighbors could even receive visitations! Community and confidential social media groups are adequate places to raise awareness of opportunities that Christians could take to become part of a work. If a center contains a food / clothing / hygiene product pantry, local churches in contact with the residence may deliver donations. House necessities could be advertised in appropriate locations so that congregants could learn and realize the need to volunteer time or treasure to this organization. [F9]
[F9] In some centers, it is against HIPAA privacy laws for persons not associated with a house to inquire into the whereabouts of or services distributed to anyone receiving care. The place of respite may also be held responsible if its workers divulge the names of persons in care to anyone not directly involved with the operation of the center. It is essential for everyone involved to be aware of relevant policies in place. This is important, especially if volunteers would like to work in areas of mercy. That way, the mission may be carried out lawfully and prudently.
Many faith-based crisis & respite centers are open for interns or volunteers to serve as custodians, direct care workers, companions, mentors, cooks, teachers, etc. Paid positions are also available and could be listed at your local church or Christian organization (such as a seminary).
Modeled after the actions of the Good Samaritan, Christians have the opportunity to serve in all sorts of human services settings. The advantage of faith-based organizations, other than the fact that the Gospel message is central to them, is that they have stronger ties to local churches. Because of these links, it is more common to witness pastors, elders, and laypersons come to these Christian organizations to perform works of mercy. If a person arrives from a homeless shelter to a respite house with a bed, parishioners from a church known to the home may call to arrange a visit to welcome the new person to the area and also greet other residents. The house may ask that they present personal identification and sign some paperwork. The visitor may start conversations with others present there. They could eat with and offer to pray for others in this kind of environment. Persons may share painful stories and events that brought them where they are at the moment. House staff may not always have the time or desire to give extra attention to individuals with many pressing needs of this nature, so equipped visitors would offer an excellent service here.
Medical Care and the Role of Medication in Treatment
Medical care is a necessity for suffers located in community programs. Whether a home is a non-profit, for profit, or private charity, there are federal and state laws governing the day to day operations of a care center. For example, the Department of Human Services in numerous U.S states mandates that facilities housing individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities must provide these clients with a primary care physician, a psychiatrist (if they have been prescribed psychotropic medications), a vision specialist, and a dentist. Visits to these and other providers, depending on individual needs, are recorded and placed in client binders located in house storages themselves. These charts contain all pertinent information about the individual. Other centers are met with different requirements set by the state and county where they are located. Your neighbors at your local church who live in programs will have their own client charts. Some binders contain a list of people approved by program directors to visit the house and take a client for an outing. If you are called to serve an individual regularly, your name could be placed in a company chart as evidence that you are a trusted and beneficial person for their client to relate to. It is a good witness to any organization when they realize that you, as a believer, have been responsible for the personal growth of a client under their care as. Sufferers, like any other person who requires long-term care, will need comprehensive, all-encompassing medical treatment. This dynamic continuum may include Intensive and Residential placements:
Intensive Care: After a person is discharged from a chemical detoxification center or if they are on medication trials for mental health reasons, they may require partial or total supervision by qualified direct care staff. These professionals are employed at respite, residential, or independent housing. At the independent status, nurses and counselors would arrive at a person’s apartment periodically to provide services. At the crisis level, psychotropic and withdrawal-assistance medications will be used to minimize the suffering of individuals while their bodies become accustomed to operating without a drug they have abused or even used as directed. For those who are only being placed on psychiatric medications for a particular diagnosis, an inpatient facility is usually not necessary unless they are currently interned in a psychiatric hospital. Medication trial side-effects and withdrawal symptoms are uncomfortable. These are trying, painful times for people. They suffer these discomforts in addition to the already existing troubles as a result of their mental health symptoms. The injured man in the Lucan parable was in the midst of emotional trauma even as oil and wine were being poured on his wounds. The Samaritan was well aware of this obvious internal plight stemming from the man’s beating at the hands of thieves. Likewise, Christians ought to be equally sensitive to the wide range of painful emotions felt by those treated with psychotropic medications for symptoms possibly stemming from brain dysfunctions. As an example, suppose a pastor performs a home-visit to a deacon who has been put on the opiate-replacement medication Methadone. Nevertheless, he still experiences some opiate withdrawal symptoms. He also reports having debilitating muscle cramps from the side effects of Risperdal (anti-psychotic drug). This minister must not trivialize the man’s suffering because a portion of it stems from the deacon’s chemical abuse. Now, he was definitely at fault for the drug abuse which led to his inclusion in the methadone program. But given that he had been plagued routinely by life-long psychotic episodes of short duration, a segment of his suffering is not caused by personal sin. A spiritual leader must resist the temptation to minimize the pain of sufferers because the circumstances leading to their predicament are partly or even totally a result of person sin.
The application of psychotropic, anxiolytic, hypnotic, and narcotic mediations has not always been well-received by Christians. Suboxone and Methadone have been used for decades to treat opioid addiction. One ingredient in these medications (buprenorphine) blocks opiate receptors in the body in order to reduce a person’s urges to use street-purchased oxycontin (for example). Methadone clinics are places where addicts in treatment go daily to receive this medication if they qualify for the program. These drugs, however, are addictive, and must be weaned off of once the body no longer needs the illegal drug whose withdrawal symptoms the methadone was used to alleviate. Dependence developed to these opiate replacement medications poses less of a biological and social threat than does a full-scale addiction to a street opiate. Risky and illegal activities associated with addiction are usually reduced or eliminated by a person committing themselves to a methadone program. [F10] The spiritual needs of people undergoing this specific treatment are integral parts of their journey.
[F10] Some Christians have reacted unfavorably to this treatment. I once read a short article by a popular ministry that criticized methadone programs for simply “substituting one drug for another.” But even though there are risks involved with methadone, the programs do enjoy a success rate of 60 to 90% in helping to curb opiate abuse. When an addict commits to a methadone program, the community health risks of disease caused by dirty needles and the dangers of purchasing and selling drugs are minimized. Also, the horrendous experience of heroin withdrawal is greatly diminished if assistive drugs are present to help properly wean off of the opiate.
For the believer, compassionate and holistic biblical counseling alongside regular fellowship with the church are vital aspects of a person’s physical, emotional, and spiritual healing process. [F11].
[F11] If a believer is present at a non-Christian program, she may not always have the option to see the Christian counselor of her choice if that counselor is not licensed by the state or carries their insurance. This essay’s focus is not on the general role of biblical counseling in mental health and addiction. However, the paper presupposes that this counseling (whether at the integrative or nouthetic level) to Christians by Christians is necessary for the most beneficial recovery of sufferers. Secular organizations now recognize that religion is essential to the lives of the individuals under their care. Many of those are willing to accept Christian therapy as sufficient to fulfill the state requirement that some individuals possess if they are placed in an organization.
Individuals arriving at intensive care units (for example, a long- time bipolar disorder sufferer and member of a local congregation placed at a detox facility due to methamphetamine abuse) would be seen by an in-house medical doctor who prescribes medications for various ailments, taking into account those that the person has been using prior to their admittance into the inpatient facility. After emergency services and an intake are performed, a comprehensive physical examination is necessary at this point to determine the unique treatment that an individual will require during and after their stay at the unit. After this initial exam, more peripheral health care needs (vision, dental, dermatological, etc.) would be addressed once a person is in a stable condition. Since people with severe mental health and addiction problems have a tendency to neglect their physical health, one of the most important services to these individuals is to first make sure that as many immediate health needs as necessary are properly documented in the crisis program client charts. Plans to investigate further needs as they arrive should also be discussed and put down in writing. After a methamphetamine detoxification is performed, our neighbor in the above example would receive a physical examination at the center itself or at a local family practitioner. The exam reveals that the man’s kidney functions and glucose levels are both unstable. He has had diabetes since childhood and recently began complaining of pains on both feet (due to either ill-treated diabetes or having to walk miles because of homelessness). These complications require immediate treatment. An electrocardiogram is also performed, revealing an irregular heartbeat. The sufferer has never received this test, so further investigations must be conducted to assess whether this cardiovascular irregularity is the result of drug use or a genetic disorder. After major withdrawals have ceased to plague the sufferer, a medication regimen is then prescribed to treat his many health needs responsibly. The prescribing psychiatrist and primary care physician would both agree with and abide by the medication treatment, and staff at the program would administer these medications. The man’s multi-provider charts would then be updated with newly diagnosed conditions as well as a plan for outpatient care and placement in a residential home. Throughout the process, staff or family would have taken him to all these appointments. Since this person is a member of a local church, and if / when appropriate, his brothers in Christ could drive or at least accompany the man to his appointments in order to offer him support during this time of tribulation and confusion. When he is afforded more independence later in recovery, these same believers may take the man to the pharmacy to obtain medications and also to counseling sessions.
In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the righteous helper must have spent some time assessing the injured man’s situation before taking direct care action. He may have attempted to speak to the man to see if there was any intelligible response. While carefully examining the man’s condition, he carefully located open wounds that were soon after covered with oil and wine, and later wrapped. It must have taken some time (and risk!) to load him up on the donkey in such a way as to have him fastened, safe, and comfortable. The wounds would have been checked every few hours by the Samaritan and later the Inn-keeper, making sure to communicate with the injured fellow, as far as this was possible.
Residential Placement: After an individual has been stabilized at a 24-hour chemical detoxification facility and / or psychiatric hospital, they will hopefully be ready to transition into a residential facility. Some places house “at-risk” individuals while other homes or apartments are inhabited by those still traveling the rocky road of recovery. Depending on various factors, many of them do not have to be monitored as closely by staff. The final step of the continuum, and what sufferers and their families desire the most, is for the individual to have the opportunity to live an independent life. This would happen either at a company apartment or in a personal home not affiliated with any organization. There, the person in this advanced stage would be responsible for scheduling and attending their own appointments, self-administering medications, attending church and community groups without staff involvement, and operating as autonomously as they are able to. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the injured man’s wounds would have healed to the point where he was able to sit up, walk, bathe, and replace bandages on his own. He would be able to speak fluidly and fend for himself so that he could eventually leave the Inn safely and return to his former dwelling place. This final state is difficult to attain and requires dedication, external support, and the ability for one’s physical health to improve.
Monetary Funding and Resources
One essential feature encompassing every aspect of the continuum of care, especially in the residential placement step, is the realm of finances. The question: “Who handles my money?” has been hotly debated since the rapid growth of public welfare and the diminishing role of the church in the human services sector. In our largely secular society, public welfare has been a major funder for the comprehensive assistance of people who suffer all kinds of diseases and maladies. Additionally, once the discussion of insurance enters into the mix, the matter become more complex, multilayered, and unnecessarily confusing. This reality complicates the essential health care of individuals who need it the most. [F12]
[F12] A treatment on the specifics of public welfare, insurance, and the church’s role in the meeting of societal needs is beyond the scope of this essay. Its mention is solely to inform the reader of its prevalence and importance in the human services field.
In Luke’s parable, there were several expenses used to treat the injured man. The oil and wine used by the Samaritan were most likely purchased at a market or may also have been bartered for another good or service performed. Labor and sacrifice were the guiding factors in the Samaritan’s possession of these two liquids. The parable does not include information on how much oil and wine were poured on the man. A reasonable guess is that since the man was “half-dead,” that his injuries were very serious, and there had been at least a moderate loss of blood. It is difficult to guess how much time had elapsed before the Samaritan arrived at the scene after the attack. A considerable amount of antiseptic was used to treat the wounds. These healing agents (oil and wine) originated from the direct care worker’s own funds resulting from past transactions. His beast of burden, like all others, had a “shelf-life.” Working animals expend energy and need extra food and rest for recovery purposes if heavier loads are placed on them. The Samaritan, having put the man on his own donkey, was using it as a resource for the purpose of human services work. The extra nutrients that the animal would have needed to survive (much like a car needing gasoline) were gathered from the Samaritan’s own supplies. The coins given to the Inn-keeper, along with the promise of extra ones based on this keeper’s care work and time spent doing this task, were a more financially explicit instance of the Samaritan’s willingness to take upon himself the literal cost of all these responsibilities. The full scale of attention that sufferers receive must be funded by someone. In many cases, an individual’s family will pay for some or all a of person’s treatment. This is unusual, but it ensures that the individual will have access to certain comforts that would otherwise not be available if a person arrives at a crisis and respite facility penniless. This family may practically or even legally have access to the individual’s personal account. The parents or guardians, then, would constitute representative payees. It is necessary to note that in welfare and human services terminology, a “rep payee” is an independent person or organization that handles an individual’s Social Security benefits in the form of money because the individual is physically or mentally unable to receive, deposit, and spend the funds they receive from the U.S government. These benefits are collected as a result of a person possessing a documented physical and / or mental disability that impairs their functioning. If a person is diagnosed with a serious mental health disease, including one that is believed to contribute to addiction, and if the person is taking steps to recovery, a government body will send the representative payee a check or wire transfer for a specific monthly amount. The rep payee, then, will use those funds to pay for an individual’s specific needs. Some rep payees or organizations can legally handle a person’s labor income. These may be family members who do not trust that an individual in recovery would spend responsibly.
David, a person nearing the end of the spectrum of recovery, lives alone in a studio apartment belonging to a non-profit company and is receiving minimal care from his organization. His medications are contained in a safely locked box that only a nurse may access. The nurse arrives once per day to administer David’s medications. He recently completed a methadone program and has weaned off of that medication. He is free to go into the community unsupervised in order to attend recovery groups, shop at stores, attend church, exercise, and entertain himself. However, he must speak to a licensed clinical social worker weekly to monitor his progress in the program. David has a part time job as a custodian making $400.00 per month after taxes and also collects $500.00 in disability payments; his income not being sufficient for the government to eliminate those benefits. His father, after a legal process, secured the right to receive David’s benefits. At the same time, the non-profit organization who oversees David’s care receives his labor income check. David’s $400.00 rent is paid using his benefit money. His father sends the $500.00 check to the non-profit company to pay for rent. $100.00 from that check is left to pay utilities. The company, having ownership of David’s $400.00 labor income, withholds some of it to pay for health needs not covered by his insurance. He is also given the option to place some his earnings in a savings account. He does receive some discretionary money for his personal purchases with the condition that he would not use it for illegal purposes. This is an example of a complex system of handling monies that exists in the human services field. However, this need not be the case with every person, especially if the Church chooses to become involved in the process. There are and should be many cases where a less intricate financial system is employed throughout the continuum of care, much like the simple approach that the Samaritan utilized in helping the injured man. As stated before, a major portion of the funding for a person’s care to pay for room and board (whether someone has been admitted to a psychiatric hospital, detox facility, intensive 24 hours program, or a more independent setting) comes from federal or local government waivers. These waiver payments are granted to human services organizations, enabling them to house individuals. These waivers also pay for the salaries of direct care and management staff who assist these people. Other sources of money to perform all these transactions originate from the goodwill actions of philanthropists and fundraisers that give to companies to further develop their programs or improve already existing infrastructure.
Let’s suppose that the good Samaritan, later in life, amassed a fortune. He remembered the Inn where the once-injured man was kept and the kindness exhibited by the inn-keeper for taking care of the man, trusting that the Samaritan would repay him when he returned to the inn. The Samaritan then met with the inn-keeper or whoever managed the place years later. The Samaritan proposed improving the infrastructure of the inn and having the location provide certain resources for people with various ailments who would be kept at the inn for any kind of treatment if they needed it. The Samaritan would fund the establishment. The inn-keeper purchased new beds and furniture, renovated the building, and hired qualified staff to meet the now revamped needs of the business which catered as much to human services as it did the operations of a regular motel. If we equate this same example to the actions taken by a church or denomination to sponsor a care center, we may now raise a multitude of modern “good Samaritans,” all performing a function to help raise and operate this new Christian organization. To help with the finances, parishioners from Christian groups could raise funds using all kinds of inventive and unique charitable means, contacting philanthropists and others interested in making an investment to support the home. This may include using some tithe and offering money [so long as congregants are aware that their (God’s) money is being used responsibly in this endeavor] to give to the program for its day to day needs. The center could be listed as a non-profit or it may also seek to make money. A Christian investor may desire to capitalize from this human services activity to then give back to the organization. Let’s suppose that the good Samaritan passes away, and the inn continues to serve the area’s needy people. For its growth and flourishing, the Samaritan and (hopefully) Jewish communities, would provide voluntary aid to fund the ancient Inn’s revamped program and mission much like Christian faith communities today would get together to sponsor or assist a service home. This kind of ‘Good Samaritan’ model of the reshaped inn seems better suited for mercy service than a government-controlled system which supplies waivers to companies partly as a result of having taxed the populace. Which model more appropriately reflects the spirit of the Parable of the Good Samaritan? At any rate, so long as the money collected by an organization arrives to them legally, the sacrificial work of mercy involved in caring for individuals with mental health and addiction problems remains a noble enterprise that Christians can become involved in. They are encouraged to do so practically and consistently at whichever type of establishment they are employed.
Practical Christian Involvement in Mental Health and Addiction
The topics of practical pastoral and layperson participation in the care of those who experience mental health and addiction problems have been avoided and evaded, but they must be addressed comprehensively and honestly. Every Sunday, there are neighbors currently undergoing medication trials and suffering the agony of withdrawals. Others may have just inserted a needle to get high just before worship or who may be in the throes of psychosis. It is common to assume that these occurrences are so rare in our local worship services and activities that we should not assign much importance to them. It is possible and may also be factual that entire sessions or groups of ecclesiastical leaders are ill-equipped to understand the needs of sufferers or are oblivious to the existence of drug sub-cultures whose members also attend their church. Thankfully, there has been a recent shift in ministry education and practice. This academic and pastoral trend has incorporated a plethora of approaches to mental health and addiction treatment available in diverse learning formats (Counseling center role play classes, videos and lectures available to download, etc.). These program topics on mental health and addiction, stemming from research and the emergence of societal tendencies, have been implemented in Seminaries and other training venues designed to enrich servants of the church. The average person is now aware of the existence of different mental health diagnoses, the rise and prevalence of psychotropic medication use (and abuse), and addiction recovery resources centered around the Christian worldview. Seminaries have offered degree programs and concentrations in counseling. [F13] Pastoral / practical theology courses have begun to include sections on the aforementioned themes. Christian counseling certificates at the undergraduate, masters and doctoral levels exist to equip professionals and laypersons to serve in various ministry positions.
[F13] It is true that we must approach every situation through the lens of the Scriptures. Sometimes the Bible is silent on a matter, and we are unsure how to immediately proceed. It is here that the whole counsel of God must inform our interpretation of the methods employed, arising from natural revelation, to address the pain of sufferers. In other words, we understand that a person’s anxiety may be due in part to their mistrust of God’s providence. But our investigation must not simply end there. Our whole bodies are receptacles of fallenness, and a nervous system dysfunction can influence the manner in which we process external stimuli present during stressful situations.
We, as the Church of Jesus Christ, have made some steady progress into biblically, conceptually, and in many cases, practically understanding the following questions: 1). How do we Scripturally navigate the concepts of mental health and addiction? [F14] 2). What are some common misconceptions held concerning these issues and which propositions are able to be accepted as truths given our commitment to the Christian worldview? [F15] 3). What are some basic treatments that sufferers seek in order to minimize the pain and suffering they experience daily? [F16] However, much work needs to be done to lovingly and respectfully continue to inform and empower our churches to embrace specific ways to care for sufferers.
[F14] Christians counselors, ministers, and professors (Jay Adams, Ed Welch, David A. Powlison, Lou Priolo, James Dobson, etc.) have written extensively on mental health and addiction from a plurality of perspectives. Many of their tasks included not only responding to secular views regarding these topics, but offering a Christian response. To further strengthen the church and make inroads into specialized disciplines within the broad and complex world of mental health, new research and publishing is being conducted by all sorts of believers. These Christians have produced works, sometimes highlighting their personal suffering. Many have overcome health dilemmas.
[F15] Misconceptions held and even taught by some Christians have included the following: 1). The assertion that all mental health and addiction issues are only the result of direct sin in a believer’s life and therefore must be treated by purely spiritual means. 2). That these issues are satanic in nature and demons must be cast out of a person in order to cure them from the aforementioned maladies. If these problems are not cured immediately, this “lack of curative success” is then due to a fault in the person’s faith. 3). That the Church should never, under any circumstance, attempt to examine what have commonly been regarded as “secular” means to help sufferers (the use of psychotropic and opiate replacement medications or the implementation of certain helpful therapeutic techniques which do not conflict with the contents of the Christian worldview).
[F16] It is now widely recognized that Psychiatrists, therapists, direct care staff, and other mental health professionals come into contact with Christians. These workers are not so far removed from the daily lives of believers so as to make their presence a rarity or novelty. Psychotropic medications are more commonly used by Christians (for good or for ill), whether they are commencing trials, have been using them for years, or are slowly weaning off of them as directed. The social stigma and shame resulting from the negative perceptions of some Christians toward their neighbors in treatment lessened its grip on the Church because people began to affirm the benefits of their mental health care more openly. Churches are also understanding that some of their attendees and members belong to mental health and addiction residential programs, which are becoming more available and apparent.
Jesus Christ understood the difficulties involved in traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, which is why His response to the teacher’s question: “Who is my neighbor?” is fitting. Traveling the road was risky, even after the injured man was rescued by the Samaritan. There, the man’s recovery began. The inclusion of the Samaritan into the story, a man prepared in heart and resources, was also very appropriate for its ancient context and for ours. The parable calls us to difficult and time-consuming acts of service motivated by love. To best answer the question: “Who is my neighbor?” in our day, the following section will supply more examples as to how we can support those sufferers living in residential apartments who desire to worship and have fellowship with us. The injured man in the parable was in need of help, and so are these neighbors. It is not difficult to recognize when a person undergoing a mental health crisis enters a church. They exhibit severe symptoms. They may seem “out of place,” and if currently experiencing a type of psychosis (losing some touch with reality), their behaviors will be readily apparent. Conversely, a person may seem depressed (or elated), but nonetheless outwardly stable. Maybe they have decided in their minds that they will attempt suicide at some point that day. We may have greeted them while they were coherent enough to speak with before their symptoms peaked, or we may have caught up with them during their consistently functional periods. If these tendencies are known to church leadership or laypersons, do we let them sit through the sermon or usher them to a safe place for assessment when any type of crisis happens? Is this person a regularly attending member of the church or have they arrived recently? Do they have family in the area? In any case, the sufferer is ethically under our care. Since they are our neighbors, we must not do what the priest and the Levite did and “pass on the other side.” They may need to be taken to a psychiatric hospital or emergency room. Authorities may need to be called depending on the particulars of the situation. [F17]
[F17] At times, it will be known to the leadership of the church that a person suffers from mental health and addiction problems, but the person’s symptom patterns may be new to others. An elder or trusted layperson may take them to the hospital in their vehicles in the same way that the Samaritan used his own donkey to take the injured man to the Inn. Emergency personnel may need to be called in order to better assist the sufferer. A time of group prayer should be organized, if possible, during and after the emergency.
A healthy church (especially one that has dealt with emergencies like these in the past) would have a plan of action while potentially disturbing events take place. These may happen on Sunday mornings. If a person is safe to drive with, they can be taken to an emergency room or psychiatric ward. For the purpose of support (as in the parable), it would be a great service for the elder or trusted layperson to sit and advocate for them at the hospital. They may need help answering questions asked by hospital staff and filling out paperwork. Hospitals are appreciative when representative figures accompany persons in crisis. If the supporter is a minister, staff may be more comfortable having him enter the psychiatric ward. As a direct care specialist, I encountered no difficulties entering wards to visit my clients. Patient rights have favored the participation of visitors. Hopefully, this support individual from the congregation would stay with the sufferer as long as is needed or warranted. This person could return to visit or appoint a volunteer to do so when the sufferer is in a more stable place. There, more focused attention could be given such as prayer, Scriptural reading (Psalm 23, Heb. 11, Matt.5), and encouragement. [F18] [F18] Personal criticism should not be leveled at the sufferer by the elder or layperson who is by their bedside at the hospital. If the person has overdosed on a drug knowingly, to rebuke them at this moment goes against the spirit of the Parable. Those kinds of rebukes are usually only done for the purpose of selfish personal venting. Churches deal with crisis situations regularly, some more than others. Yet the quality of a Church’s love toward those experiencing trauma is not measured by the expertise of those involved and the amount of resources marshalled to invest in specific instances. Christian love is “measured” with the willingness that today’s Samaritans possess in being present during painful and frightening times, using whichever resources are available to them. Oil and wine may not have been the most sophisticated first-aid items used by ancient world “first responders,” but they were sufficient for the task. [F19]
[F19] “Crisis” is much more than simply an emergency situation lasting for a short time. It constitutes an initial event along with a daily pattern of ups and downs where a person may be “in and out of crisis” for many months or years. Certain facets of it may differ from person to person. Crisis and trauma are dynamic. The word “crisis” is derived from the Greek krinein, meaning “to decide.” It is synonymous with turning point, climax, juncture, point of change, judgment.” (Francis J. Braceland and Dana L. Farnsworth: Psychiatry, the Clergy, and Pastoral Counseling: The St. John’s Story (Minnesota: St. John’s University Press, 1969), p. 59. There are initial and subsequent junctures and decisions that sufferers are faced with daily as they struggle with their experiences of deep pain due to the aftermath of a traumatic occurrence.
The following case example will outline a person with a set of situations reflecting what some individuals in our churches truly experience, and how assistance to that person could be offered by a church [F20].
[F20] Crisis and trauma are both real and perceived. Pastoral and other professional forms of counseling are usually necessary to treat both aspects. Albert Ellis states: “Our perceptions of events affect our behavior more than the events themselves. In fact, our feelings aren’t products of the event; they’re products of what we tell ourselves about the event.” (Berkley, James D., Called into Crisis: The 9 Greatest Challenges of Pastoral Care, Vol .18 The Leadership Library (Dallas, Word Publishing, 1989), p.24. I believe that both real and perceived emotions are a result of the effects of trauma. Because the Parable of the Good Samaritan does not go into any detail on this subject, this essay attempts to focus on immediate, obvious, and visible trauma.
Case Study: Brian, a 32-year old single man with mild intellectual disability who has abused alcohol in his past has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and anxiety. He has spent months at your worship center, Green Meadow Reformed Church. Brian lives at Quality Care Services, a medium-sized human services company. Brian was homeless for 2 years prior to having arrived at Quality, and spent 3 months at an alcohol detox and crisis / respite facility. He later transitioned into a 24 and then 12-hour supervision program after some successful strides in his personal care. He has a good relationship with his adoptive mother and brother, but not his adoptive father, and does not know his biological siblings or parents. Brian sometimes takes the bus to church but has not been showing up recently. He is allowed “down-time” without supervision but must return to his home from 9 pm to 9 am. Staff assist him with cooking meals, prompting him to complete activities of daily living, and medication administration / packing (He may self-administer at determined times). They are responsible for taking him to his appointments. However, workers are not always available to take him to church on Sundays. Brian’s travel time by bus to church is 40 minutes. Part of the company policy is that he must see a Psychiatrist and therapist. He must also attend Alcoholics Anonymous at least twice per week. He works as a dish-washer at a local restaurant. He has professed belief in Christ and is actively reading his Bible, frequently asking questions to elders and other men in the congregation about the Word of God. Brian has expressed interest in attending a 6 pm community group near his apartment. He is talkative but outwardly socially awkward. [F21]. Knowing these facts about Brian, how can Green Meadow Reformed Church support him materially and spiritually? The idea is for him to have the best chance to thrive at Green Meadow. Brian has met with the assistant pastor for coffee, and let this minister know the details of his situation. He gave the pastor his phone number and e-mail, and they prayed together. One important point that must be stated is that legally, different rules have applied to diverse programs regarding those consumers with a high level of independence yet who still carry a diagnosis of Intellectual Disability. In virtually all U.S states, people who have been diagnosed with an intellectual disability (mild, moderate, severe, or profound), are protected by law to great extents. In Pennsylvania, chapter 6400 of the code of Public Welfare includes what is called the Principle of Integration, a human rights maxim universally agreed upon by human service agencies. It states:
“the principle of integration [includes] the right of the individual with an intellectual disability to live a life that is as close as possible in all aspects to the life which any member of the community might choose. For the individual with an intellectual disability who requires a residential service, the design of the service shall be made with the individual’s unique needs in mind so that the service will facilitate the person’s ongoing growth and development.” [F22]
[F21] Most people, at one time or another, avoid others with whom they have little in common. Because of a human tendency to desire to form a regular group of people with which to commune, cliques tend to form in churches whether we would like to acknowledge it or not. Discerning the interpersonal dynamics of our church is important. The Parable of the Good Samaritan should motivate us to engage those who may have trouble navigating group situations. A wise leadership will want to foster an environment that challenges all people, in their appropriate relationships, to open up to others regardless of perceived differences.
[F22] 6400.1 Introduction: The provisions of this § 6400.1 amended under Articles IX and X of the Human Services Code (62 P.S. § § 901—922 and 1001—1088).
It is important that Brian’s pastor and others who will want to become a part of his life understand some basic regulations that govern his group home care, as some are more restrictive than others. Given the principle of integration and Brian’s right to develop relationships, it is absolutely appropriate for him make the friends and acquaintances of is choosing, so long as these are legal relationships. Usually, a Program Director or other social worker is aware of the types of social activities that a group home client engages in, and if Brian is to receive visitors, they may have to be approved beforehand by the director. Staff would most likely need to be called to arrange a meeting at Brian’s place or to take him out, depending on the situation and event. Brian’s pastor may contact a group home manager to touch base and ask the director questions pertaining to visitations and outing regulations. The benefits of an ordained minister making acquaintance with Brian is that human services companies view this relationship as a positive one that would present growth opportunities for him given that activities having to do with churches have generally been thought of as ones that lead to spiritual and emotional progress for sufferers. It is also important for Green Meadow’s leadership to understand basic HIPAA privacy laws and how these may affect interactions with Brian. Since he is talkative to a fault, he will share intimate details of his life and care with almost everyone at Green Meadow. He may speak of the medications that he takes, the doctors he sees, and his relationship with his housemate residing at the group home. The good news is that no legal privacy violations would occur if Brian divulges the particulars of his life to anyone in the congregation. What would probably present an unethical situation involving the violation of privacy laws is if a person were to ask Brian about specific information relating to his care (Which therapist / Dr. are you seeing? Which medications are you taking? What is your disability? Who is your housemate?). These laws, however, are not always painted in black and white, so the church should not become overly concerned with the possibility of making mistakes in this area. Brian’s involvement in the congregation is essential to him. Green Meadow leadership may want to ask Brian if he needs a ride to church since he has been skipping some Sundays. An option is to ask him if he has enough money to fill his bus card or if there is something else causing him to miss church. Brian discloses that he has had trouble falling asleep due to the effects of a new medication he has been taking, and he finds it difficult to wake up early in the morning. Even if he is going to be a bit late, the thought of a 40-minute bus ride dissuades him from making the exhausting trip to church. It is important for the leadership to not only find a volunteer to pick him up from the group home to take him to church (and if possible, take him back when he needs to return), but also to make sure that his difficulties are validated. Brian’s life has been filled with rejection, and opening up to him emotionally can result in the beginning of a trust-building processes. Sometimes, when he is upset, Brian sends text messages to others confessing difficulties. Responding to him promptly (and to anyone, for that matter), is important. How we communicate [F23] with suffering people could be vital to their spiritual success, so we need to be sensitive to their personal needs and character traits as we get to know them personally. Brian gladly accepted the ride and stated that he would like to take the bus back in the afternoon after worship since he wants to participate in after-church activities and then go home when he desires. During the ride to church in the morning, the person driving may pray for Brian’s needs if appropriate. As time passes, and Brian learns how to relate to the people in the congregation, He will observe how parishioners relate to each other. He may then open up about other difficulties that would reveal areas where he could be encouraged or counseled. For example, after Sunday local community group, Brian would have the option of stating a prayer request and would witness others speaking of their own troubles and praises. He would not only learn to pray, but understand that needs being met in community are group efforts; concepts he may not have grown up with. Eventually, he shares that he forgot to administer his own afternoon medications. These had to be destroyed by staff when the mistake was revealed. Brian’s request is that the group pray for him to remember to take his medications so that he is able to maintain his current level of independence in the organization he belongs to. The community group leader, aware of HIPAA privacy laws, remembers not to delve into the situation but offers to contact Brian by text every so often to ask how he has been doing with his medication self-administration. [F24]
[F23] People with intellectual disabilities may experience discomfort if they perceive that a written form of communication is formal or lengthy. They are better able to process informal e-mails or text messages. If we suspect or learn that Brian does not know how to properly read or write (which is not the case in our example), calling him or speaking to him in person would be more appropriate.
[F24] The community group leader would want limit his involvement. It would prove excessive for the leader to commit to texting Brian daily, as it is house staff’s responsibility to remind him to administer his medications. The leader might decide to touch base with Brian every so often regarding his progress with medication administration.
As Brian becomes a regular attendee at Green Meadow, others will want to contribute to his life in diverse ways. It is great to contemplate how a congregation would come alongside him. They could take him out to eat, invite him to homes for dessert, catechize him, and converse with him. As noble as these works are, the hope is that no occasion arises for Brian to become dependent on the congregation to meet all of his needs. Ongoing help is beneficial in its appropriate context. Yet he, just like many others, is on the road to recovery and greater independence. Unreasonable amounts of aid could deter a person’s well-being.
Peter Speck, desiring to instruct others caring for injured persons, writes: “Being a person is bound up with the ability to ‘stand on one’s own feet’ or ‘to know what one wants’. If someone has suffered an accident which has left them with a disability, friends may tend to help too much. They may feel that it is easier if they perform a task, ‘to save you the trouble’, rather than wait while the injured person tries to do it for themselves. Although the motive is to be helpful, it can have the effect of subtly eroding the nature of the person.” [F25]
[F25] Peter Speck, Being There: Pastoral Care in Time of Illness, (London, Peter W. Speck, 1988), 129
A Christian Congregation is God-focused. Because this is so, it must also be neighbor-focused. Balancing out the implications of these assertions in real life is difficult because if one neglects Brian’s needs so that he may “learn to trust God,” the teaching of the parable of the Good Samaritan would suffer in practice. However, if one congregant’s needs are over-emphasized, the emotional and material resources of the church and those of other people may not be used as wisely and equitably. Great care, then, must be had to regard Brian’s needs as immediately important and sizeable at first, and afterward, situationally-based as he becomes established at Green Meadow. With time, Brian could be invited to volunteer at community group, set up and take down tables and chairs, or brew morning / afternoon coffee. Working and volunteering are two major aspects of personal independence and self-determination in the human services point of view and from that of any reasonable source considering everyone’s need to produce. Therefore, Meadow would be doing Brian a great service by encouraging him to help out around the church. A loftier yet attainable goal would be for Brian to prayerfully consider membership in that local church as led by the Lord and the eldership. This is the regular case for other congregants, and so it can be a plan for him. Lastly, being “wanted” and “needed” are two essential human desires. They form part of the comprehensive enrichment of all sufferers. For those whose lives have been marked by drugs, alcohol, and troubled pasts, these legitimate needs are met fully by the Living God and essentially during the gathering of worshippers at church or in any other venue.
The hope and power of the Gospel message to convert the true children of Abraham located in residential group homes is even more emphasized in the Scriptures than any theological reality that identifies their past and present tribulations. I have presented a foundation from the Word of God for Christian direct involvement in human services activities I consulted the Parable of the Good Samaritan in order to explain how believers may enter into the lives of mental health and addiction sufferers. A couple of possible real-world scenarios were given as instances of how pastors and laypersons may respond to the needs of persons in transitional facilities. The continuum of care model was presented so that churches could better locate a sufferer who has walked through their doors in search of God. The Parable gives us an adequate framework to mercifully react during burdensome and demanding situations that require significant assistance toward people who others may not desire to care for. Likewise, it is also our hope that people with the life dominating problems would open up to us as they sail through their sanctification and strive to live fulfilling Christian lives. We know that this is not, nor will be the case with every one of them due to the enslaving nature of the weight of sin that some refuse to throw off (Heb.12:1). But the command for all to “go and do likewise” includes caring for individuals with serious mental health needs. A plethora of opportunities are present locally for Christians to find employment in or volunteer at to further the Kingdom of Heaven. We must pray that the Lord would give us patience, direction, and strength as we enter into the pits of pain where the afflicted can be found. Will you love these neighbors for the sake Christ?
Bibliography of Sources
Berkeley, James D., Called into Crisis, (Illinois: Word Publishing, 1989).
Carter, Patricia, I. HIPPA Compliance Handbook 2012 1st Edition, (New York: Aspen Publishers, 2012).
Farnsworth, Dana L. and Braceland, Francis J., Psychiatry, the Clergy, and Pastoral Counseling: The St. John’s Story, (Minnesota: Institute for Mental Health, 1969).
Hugen, Beryl and Scales, Laine T., Christianity and Social Work – Readings on the Integration of Christian Faith and Social Work Practice 3rd Edition, (New York: National Association of Christians in Social Work, 2002).
Keener, Kraig S, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, (Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2014).
Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, Licensing Inspection Instrument for Community Homes for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities Regulations CHAPTER 6400 (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, (Department of Public Welfare, Last Modified July 12, 2011).
Speck, Peter, Being There: Pastoral Care in Time of Illness, (London: Peter W. SPCK, 1989).
Stone, Howard W., Crisis Counseling, Creative Pastoral Care and Counseling Series, (Minnesota: Fortress Press, 1976).
Welch, Edward T. and Shogren Gary Steven, Addictive Behavior, (Michigan: Baker Books, 1995)
Westminster Assembly, The Westminster Confession of Faith: With Proof Texts, (Horsham, Pa.: Great Commission Publications, 1992).