We needed help! Like any family affected by mental health issues, a myriad of needs continually circles our lives. These may include:
- Responding appropriately to random and confusing behaviors provoked by unknown voices.
- Living meaningfully with the erratic effects of a chemical imbalance in the brain.
- Making life-changing decisions regarding mental health medications.
- Managing/improving crucial daily living skills.
- Voicing our fears of mental illness.
- Our longing need for supportive relationships.
Jim's son Ben
Our personal support group and our pastor encouraged us to share our story about mental illness to the larger Pleasant View Mennonite Church (PVMC) congregation and invite members to form a CARE network. The concept for a CARE network was based on the Supportive Care model outlined in the booklet, Supportive Care in the Congregation (available from ADN).
We shared our story about dealing with mental illness to PVMC Sunday School classes and during a Sunday evening program. As a result, fellow PVMC members and friends formed a CARE Network that blesses our family and provides a model for helping other families in the congregation.
CARE Network Qualities
Early in Mark's gospel, Jesus blessed the efforts of a CARE network of compassionate persons from the lakeside town of Capernaum (Mark 2:1-12). These people acted in faith to help a man who was paralyzed. Their network resolved to overcome the barriers confronting their friend with disabilities. Their ministry led to an experience of restoration, wholeness, and spontaneous praise for the grace of God. Jesus’ blessing and healing power transformed a disabled body and amazed others in the crowd.
The first-century CARE network demonstrated four caring qualities found in the community of faith.
- Action to serve
- Resolve to overcome barriers.
- Encouragement of others by God's grace.
CARE Network Resources
How can we help others deal with limitations or conditions that are physical, cognitive, developmental, and emotional? We can:
- Affirm the need for an intentional congregational caring ministry that includes persons with disabilities of all types: physical, cognitive, developmental, and emotional.
- Appoint a Congregational Disabilities Advocate to be alert for disabilities in the congregation and to connect persons and families with ADN and local resources.
- Assess congregational facilities and programs for barriers to accessibility and inclusion of persons with disabilities. This can be accomplished through the tools of the Congregational Accessibility Network or other assessment tools.
- Assist others by contributing financially to ADN's ministry of supporting families and providing resources to congregations as they work to include persons with all types of disabilities.
CARE Network Blessings
Jesus blessed the efforts of a CARE network in Capernaum. Our family has been blessed by our congregation’s CARE network in Goshen that has come alongside us to share burdens, overcome barriers, and continually encourage our family in encounters with mental health issues. I invite you to experience this blessing as well. Contact ADN for assistance in starting a Supportive Care Network that fits your situation.
May the testimony around us multiply as it did in Capernaum: "This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!" (Mark 2:12).
Jim Smith, ADN’s Board President, encourages other congregations to form similar Supportive Care Networks.