Wow!

IMG_0815When I pulled into the parking lot of my church 45 minutes before the scheduled start of yesterday’s Northeast Ohio Special Needs Ministry Conference hosted by Bay Presbyterian Church and saw the lot looked like Sunday morning, I knew we were in for a very unique day.

Well in excess of 300 people spent their Saturday brainstorming how the church might more effectively welcome individuals and families impacted by disability. The folks I met over the weekend were very enthusiastic.

Not only would it appear that God is preparing something big in Northeast Ohio, but elsewhere as well. We were filming some future training with Barb Newman in front of a intimate audience on Friday afternoon. Out of the dozen or so guests, two were from Ohio, and two thirds came from 7+ hours away. Here’s Pastor Gary Wynn from Bridgeton, NJ…

Luz Roa and Melissa Rodriguez were among five women who drove together from Manhattan to attend the conference…

Cathy Calloway came 748 miles from Lakeville, Minnesota to be with us…

Here’s what I’ll remember from the weekend…

  • IMG_0751I’m so encouraged to see so many people from throughout our home region willing to spend a day examining how we can more effectively welcome kids, families and adults impacted by disability into our churches.
  • The experience of seeing so many very talented people coming together seamlessly while using their gifts and talents for a common purpose was truly unique. We had some very good speakers this past weekend. There was no evidence of any pride or ego. The support team from the church was flawless in pulling off a respite event for fifty kids, a dinner for the parents of the kids attending respite and a conference for over 300 attendees the following day. Including snacks and lunch. All for free.
  • Everybody I encountered seemed happy. Especially the kids attending Friday night’s respite event.

IMG_0828A huge thank you to everyone involved! Emily Colson did a fabulous job as Keynote speaker. Barb Newman (as always) had wonderful, practical advice for including kids with disabilities at church. We’re very much looking forward to sharing two of her presentations from Friday through keyministry.tv in the upcoming months. Two current Board members (Carrie Lupoli and Libby Peterson) along with a former Board member (Dr. Cara Daily) are very gifted presenters in their own right. Deb Petermann from Joni and Friends Ohio, Ryan Wolfe of First Christian Church, Canton and Christine Boyle offered a well-rounded program.

Most of all, I am so proud of my church! Our Special Needs Ministry Director (Beth Golik) and our Children’s Ministry Director (Julie Hazlett) did a truly remarkable job organizing and directing dozens of volunteers as plans for a conference for fifty regional leaders mushroomed in size and scope. I’ll leave it to one of our teaching pastors (Matt Guertin) to explain what the weekend was all about…

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shutterstock_24510829Key Ministry is pleased to make available our FREE consultation service to pastors, church leaders and ministry volunteers. Got questions about launching a ministry that you can’t answer…here we are! Have a kid you’re struggling to serve? Contact us! Want to kick around a problem with someone who’s “been there and done that?” Click here to submit a request!

Posted in Advocacy, Hidden Disabilities, Inclusion, Key Ministry, Stories, Training Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Disability ministry has captivated my heart…Bekah Behnke

farm-picture-of-usGreetings, my fellow Christ followers. I am so honored to be asked to share my heart with you. My name is Bekah Behnke. I am a Missouri girl through and through. I live on a farm with my amazing husband, Kevin and our many animals.

Disability ministry has not only stolen my heart, but also captivated it. There is not a time in my life that I was not surrounded by God’s beauty shining through my friends with disabilities. In first grade I had a boy in my class with a learning disability. I remember sitting by him at lunch because he was alone. Even then, my heart wondered why these differences separated us. So, I fought for him, stood up for him and loved him. We are still friends to this day. In third grade, there was a girl in my class who was deaf. So, after asking many times, my mother bought me lots of sign language books and my classmate’s interpreter helped me learn. It was important to me to communicate with her. We became friends pretty quickly!

It was that year that I decided I was going to be a Special Education teacher. I had a plan. However, this plan was not what my life had in store and oh, am I so grateful for a God who gives us so much more! When I was in high school, my youth minister always told me he wanted ME to be a youth minister. I thought he was crazy. After all, I had a plan.

God talks to us in the craziest times, doesn’t He. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting in a stinky, old church van and was asked a question many seniors are asked. It was the famous “What are you going to do with your life?” question. Words fell out of my life. Words I had never thought of or considered before, “I am going to start a Special Needs Ministry.”

So, that’s where it began.. And though my heart for this ministry began to take shape, this did not mean that is was going to be easy. In fact, it was an uphill battle.

BibleI grew up in my church. And by grew up, I mean I have been here since I was two. My heart really felt called to start this ministry here, at my home church. But this meant that I needed to show others the wonders of this ministry. I had so much to learn. Where better to go than the Bible? To Jesus? Jesus is by far the best example of what disability ministry looks like.

Starting this ministry was no easy feat. In fact, it took me 5 years. After being told so plainly by God what I was going to do, I just started doing it. There were several students in our church that needed one-on-one help. So, that’s what I did. I heard about a sweet and sassy 5th grade girl who really needed some extra instruction and love during Sunday School and Wednesday night services. From the first time we met, we were best friends! We did church together, laughed together and had many slumber parties. She was even one of my bridesmaids. For 5 years I loved our students and brought their needs to attention. I got to know each of our students affected by special needs and their families. Through passion, persistence and lots of prayer, I watched the church grow to understand. I watched as other students welcomed these precious students in. I watched as other church volunteers did the same. Chills.

This past summer, I got a call from my church offering me a part time job to start a Special Needs Ministry. Humbled. Thrilled. Chills, again. God knew what He was doing. His timing was perfect. His plan, better than mine.

On Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, we provide a buddy system for our students. We encourage them to stay with their peers and learn along side each other. My heart is to give these students opportunities to share the Gospel, and they do! I have been blown away by the way that they teach their peers, and even their teachers.

I consider myself one of the lucky few to be immersed in this ministry. My whole heart is overjoyed knowing that this is a growing ministry. When I first heard about Global Access Conference, I knew I had to go! Being surrounded by other Christians seeking to serve God’s people the same way, mind blowing. I can’t wait to see what God has to say to us. I can’t wait to see what I can learn from each of you. I can’t wait to thank you for what you do! So, let’s get on a plane, grab coffee and chat. We have lots of catching up to do!

Bekah Behnke serves as Special Needs Ministry Facilitator at Christ’s Church of Oronogo in Webb City, Mo. Check out her blog…Behnke Farms.

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GA-Social-Media-Graphic-Elizabeth ElliotJoin me as I learn from Joni Eareckson Tada, Nick Vujicic, Shannon Dingle, Dr. G and over 50 other speakers at the Global Access Conference—this February 17-20 in Westlake Village, CA . To receive the lowest possible registration fee, use the priority code “guest” at globalaccessconference.org. Space is limited so don’t delay.  Please share this post and hope to see you there!

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Unintended consequences…Sin, mental illness and the church

shutterstock_12866266In our third installment of our series, Sin, Mental Illness and the Church, we look at a significant unintended consequence of the Biblical Counseling movement, and introduce you to several church leaders seeking to influence the way in which the church understands the struggles of those with identified mental health conditions.

Ten or so years ago while attending a scientific meeting, I was hanging out at a reception with a colleague I’d worked with on some medical education projects who was deeply involved with increasingly controversial research involving pediatric bipolar disorder. The research being done at their institution was receiving increasing degrees of scrutiny by some in the media as the prevalence of kids being treated for bipolar disorder exploded.

By the time I was considered a “thought leader” in select therapeutic areas within my specialty, I came to understand that along with the privilege came great responsibility. I had (and have) great respect for this investigator and the integrity of the research done at the institution where they serve. But it appeared to many that clinicians in the trenches were misinterpreting the research and exposing kids to unnecessary and potentially dangerous treatments because they weren’t taking into account all of the guidance derived from the research, and my colleague and I politely disagreed about whether he and his associates had a responsibility to intervene.

Last week, we looked at some of the teaching of Jay Adams, the founder of the Biblical Counseling movement in the late ’60s and early 70s. Adams held (and some might argue, continues to hold) very negative views about psychiatry and psychology. Adams also wrote about the importance of grace in the counseling process. But in the same way that some clinicians went overboard in diagnosing every kid with protracted temper tantrums as “bipolar”, lots of biblical counselors went overboard on the “sin” and “truth” components of Adams’ model and forgot about the “grace.”

Stanford_Color_HDLet’s talk about why this is a big issue. Here are some findings from a research study published seven years ago by Dr. Matthew Stanford from Baylor University titled Demon or Disorder: Attitudes About Mental Illness and the Church

▪ 30% of attendees seeking help from their church for themselves or a family member because of a mental health condition reported negative interactions counterproductive to treatment.

▪ Women are significantly more likely than men to report being told by their church that they don’t have a mental health disorder (37%), discouragement from their church about the use of medication for mental disorders (23%), and report negative interactions with their church (41%).

▪ Reports of negative interactions from church attendees fall into three categories: abandonment or lack of involvement by the church (60%), mental disorder considered the result of demonic activity (21%), and mental disorder considered the result of a lack of faith / personal sin (19%).

▪ 15% of adults who sought help from their church for a mental illness for themselves or a family member reported a weakening of faith as a result of their interaction, and for 13%, their interaction resulted in the end of their involvement with their faith.

Lifeway Research was involved with Focus on the Family in a large research project entitled the Study of Acute Mental Illness and Christian Faith, the results of which were made public last Fall.

Lifeway 1

Some findings in the Lifeway study appeared to confirm results described in the Baylor study.

  • Among individuals with mental illness who have attended church regularly as an adult, 10% changed churches as a result of a previous church’s response to their mental illness, 8% stopped attending church and 5% reported not being able to find a church.
  • In addition, 23% of pastors indicate they have personally struggled with mental illness of some kind, but only 12% of pastors surveyed were ever formally diagnosed. Pastors in the Midwest were significantly more likely to report undiagnosed mental illness.

The research appears to suggest that we have a lot of people within the church who struggle with emotional distress who have been badly hurt by their interactions with pastors, church staff, counselors and the reactions of fellow believers. Clearly, there’s an established perception among the majority outside the church that those struggling with more serious or chronic mental health concerns won’t be welcome at church…and that’s a very big problem when it comes to fulfilling Christ’s command to make disciples.

I want to share with you a comment “Kristin” left on our blog when we were discussing the perception in the church that sin causes mental illness…

Twenty years ago, I was repeatedly told by many people that I just needed to pray harder and that if my relationship with Jesus was better, my severe depression would be healed. I bought into that for a while and did everything humanly possible to pray, study the Bible go to church and so on. But my depression was not healed. I left the church for several years, but returned hoping that not all Christians thought that way. Of course, I also didn’t tell too many church friends about my mental illness.

Fast forward to the present. I now have 2 children with severe mental illness. Last year, my daughter was forced to join a Sunday School class in which she knew no other child. I tried in vain to explain that she had severe social anxiety and needed to be in a class where she had a friend. Because of that, she wasn’t happy in Sunday School and ended up quitting the children’s choir too. We hardly ever go to church any more. I write this with tears in my eyes because I want to find a church where my kids and I are accepted, and yes, even given “special” treatment from time to time…

I guess I got off topic of your blog post, but the idea of mental illness or any illness being caused by sin is still very prevalent in out churches, as is the idea that we should be able to pray it away.

There are other prominent voices within the evangelical/reformed movements with harsh things to say about our conceptualization of mental illness. John MacArthur did an entire blog series this past September on the topic. Here are links to the first and second part of a two part post that echoes the themes espoused by the Nouthetic Counseling Institute.

It is reasonable for people to seek medical help for a broken leg, dysfunctional kidney, tooth cavity, or other physical malady. It is also sensible for someone who is alcoholic, drug addicted, learning disabled, traumatized by rape, incest, or severe battering to seek some help in trying to cope with their trauma.

There may also be certain types of emotional or mental problems where root causes are identifiably organic, or where medication might be needed to stabilize an otherwise dangerous person. These are relatively rare problems, however, and should not be used as justification for the indiscriminate use of secular psychological techniques for what are usually spiritual problems. Dealing with the physical and emotional issues of life in such ways is not sanctification!

Certain techniques of human psychology can serve to lessen trauma or dependency and modify behavior in Christians or non-Christians equally. But since the secular discipline of psychology is based on godless assumptions and evolutionary foundations, it is capable of helping people only superficially with no contribution toward their spiritual growth.

It appears that a not insignificant number of people who seek help from their churches for mental health-related concerns have experiences so negative that their spiritual life is impacted and some ultimately leave the church. Clearly not the intended consequence of a movement grounded in the idea that the Bible is sufficient in providing answers to the struggles experienced by those wrestling with mental illness.

shutterstock_127567055There are ways in which the church can reach out to and include families impacted by mental illness without compromising the truth contained in God’s Word. There are groups within the church wrestling with these issues. Here’s a link to a very thoughtful discussion of the issues involved from the Biblical Counseling Coalition. Ed Welch has a very helpful article in the current issue of CCEF Now (pages 9-11 in the .pdf) on ways that persons in the church can help others with psychiatric disorders. Brad Hambrick has proposed A Christian Perspective on Mental Illness.

Next, we’ll look at how kids with identified mental health conditions have been stigmatized in the church.

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KM Logo UpdatedKey Ministry has assembled resources to help churches more effectively minister to children and adults with ADHD, anxiety disorders, Asperger’s Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, depression and trauma. Please share our resources with any pastors, church staff, volunteers or families looking to learn more about the influence these conditions can exert upon spiritual development in kids, and what churches can do to help!

Posted in Advocacy, Controversies, Families, Hidden Disabilities, Inclusion, Key Ministry, Mental Health | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

When Our “Can’t” Overwhelms Our “Can”…Mike Dobes

avatar-1.jpg.320x320pxAs a pastor, I have always been compelled to do all I could do in order to reach all I could reach with the Gospel. However, while this sounds nice, all too often reality takes center stage over faith. So many times I have been presented with an opportunity to which I responded with “I can’t” because of various reasons.

Looking back over 15+ years of full-time pastoral ministry, I wonder how often my “can’t” overwhelmed my “can”, resulting in a missed opportunity. Philippians 4:13 declares that “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” If I truly believe this, then “can’t” should not be part of my vocabulary; rather, it is actually the door to the supernatural where I am blessed to stand by and see the salvation of my Lord.

Disability ministry is still a relatively new concept within the Church and many pastors and leaders are reluctant to open their doors and fully embrace those who are marginalized by a physical, intellectual or developmental disability. Why is this? Why are the very overseers of the Church reluctant to bring the Gospel to all people, regardless of their disability? In truth, we are all disabled… some of us just hide our disabilities better than others. How do we keep missing an entire people group that is waiting to be heard, loved, accepted and embraced as they are?

My hunch is that many of our pastors, while very well-meaning and desiring to share Christ with all, become subject to “can’t” more than “can.” There is enormous pressure on pastors to be all things to all people and to have all the answers to life’s questions. Most pastors that I know are overwhelmed with preaching, budgets, staff oversight, prayer, weddings, funerals, and the many unknown aspects of church leadership. The thought of adding one more ministry to the plate, no matter how compelling and necessary, just seems like a setup for failure.

What if this is exactly where God wants us to be? What if it is in these times of overwhelming fear of failure that He is able to show His strength in our weakness? Without the storm, Peter would have never walked on water. Without the storm, the Hebrew boys would not have experienced the power of God against Nebuchadnezzar. Without the storm, Lazarus would not have risen from the grave. Without my storms, I would not know the faithfulness of God nearly to the depth I do now. God promises to be there, to faithfully lead, and to abundantly provide all that we need in order to do all that He calls us to.

Front Door CrossPastor, will you join me, and so many others, as we prayerfully seek to make the Church the most welcoming location on the planet for individuals affected by disability – an irresistible open door for their families, their caregivers, their friends, their co-workers? This is not about more money (but you might need some); this is not about more volunteers (though you certainly could use more); this is not about expanding programming (but this will happen naturally). Rather, this is about fulfilling the mandate of the Great Banquet in Luke 14. The master was snubbed and ignored by those that society exalted. In return, he reaches out to the marginalized, the outcast, and the ignored. Luke recounts this story where the servant is told to “go out quickly…and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” As we embrace this mandate and open our doors up to individuals affected by disability, His house, the Church, will be full.

Is it a nervous and even fearful venture? Absolutely! But isn’t that what faith is all about? We do not follow God and trust His calling on our lives because we have all of the answers and we see what is around the corner. It is most often in the very midst of our uncertainty, in the midst of rising waters, in the midst of “can’t” that the greatest opportunity for the “can” of God to manifest.

Mike Dobes has been in full-time ministry since 1997 as a children, youth and teaching pastor in Southern California. He is currently the Supervisor of Church Relations for Joni and Friends and is committed to seeing the Church return to the center of the community. He is happily married, keeps up with 5 children and admits to being spoiled by living minutes from the beach.

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GA-Social-Media-Graphic-NickV-5-222x222Join Mike, Shannon, Dr. G,  Joni Eareckson Tada, Nick Vujicic and over 50 other speakers at the Global Access Conference—this February 17-20 in Westlake Village, CA . To receive the lowest possible registration fee, use the priority code “guest” at globalaccessconference.org. Space is limited so don’t delay.  Please share this post and hope to see you there!

 

 

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I wonder how we miss the obvious…Jeff McNair

avatar.jpg.320x320pxLuke 10 tells the following story.

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘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.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

It is interesting that the expert in the law wanted to “test” Jesus. The implication is that he already knew what the answer to the first question was otherwise it would have been a question and not a test. But Jesus turns it around onto him and he answers correctly. End of discussion. But No! For some reason he wanted to justify himself. Or maybe he was upset because his test was turned on him. So he asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”

Now that could have been another test, but I am not sure he really knew the answer. Something caused him to want to justify himself. The dictionary gives an interesting definition of justify. It states, to give an acceptable explanation for something that other people think is unreasonable. It is definitely unreasonable to expect someone to love their neighbor as themselves. At least you might think so from the interaction, but also from the way you see each of us fail to love our neighbors and both the example and challenge put on us by those over us.

Jan_Wijnants_-_Parable_of_the_Good_SamaritanBut in response to the neighbor question, Jesus doesn’t describe an easy neighbor. He “doubles down” by describing someone who is a very difficult neighbor to love. He is someone in danger who might place you in danger. He is someone whose life is a complete mess and would cause your life to be a mess. He is someone who needs transportation and money. He is someone who might need ongoing care and attention. And, he is someone whose people have been unkind to my people. No, the heck with that, he is not the kind of neighbor I would expect God to cause me to love. But even the expert in the law gets the message.

“Who was his neighbor?” Jesus asks.

“The one who had mercy on him” he responds.

To treat someone with compassion who is under your power is how the dictionary defines having mercy on someone. The man left for dead was totally under the power of whoever happened by, to show compassion to him. This is the experience of each of us to those around us. They are all our neighbors. We have the power to show them compassion. But too often our response is to not use our power. We walk by, seemingly acting if we don’t know who our neighbor is.

But Jesus said to the expert (and to us), “Go and do likewise.” I wonder if he had any idea what Jesus meant? It is easy to criticize that law expert or the two who walked by the man beaten and left for dead for that matter. But you know, in that story the expert in the law is us, the Christian church! We are not the man beaten, we are not the Samaritan. At least it seems that most of the time we are not. We are the ones trying to test Jesus, who get our tests turned back on us, and are then challenged to do something with our power to show compassion.

“Jesus, I know the answer to the commandment question by heart, but do you really expect me to go and do likewise?”

I wonder what we will do?

McNair MemeJeff McNair is Director of the Public Policy Center of Joni and Friends’ Christian Institute on Disability. He directs the entirely online, MA program in Disability Studies at California Baptist University. Jeff and his wife (Kathi) facilitate the Light & Power Company ministry at Trinity Church. They have been in local church ministry together since 1977. Jeff presented at Inclusion Fusion 2011 on integration of persons with disabilities as a core value of the local church.

Painting: Parable of the Good Samaritan by Jan Wijnants

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Global Access Promo 640x360Join Shannon, Dr. G, Jeff McNair, Joni Eareckson Tada, Nick Vujicic and over 50 other speakers at the Global Access Conference—this February 17-20 in Westlake Village, CA. To receive the lowest possible registration fee, use the priority code “guest” at globalaccessconference.org. Space is limited so don’t delay.  Please share this post and hope to see you there!

Posted in Advocacy, Inclusion, Key Ministry, Spiritual Development, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Does love heal all wounds from childhood trauma?

Trauma blog1

By Shannon Dingle

I want the answer to be yes. Oh, how much I want that! But scientific research shows it’s not true.

Before I unpack that, though, let’s talk about trauma. I’ve written about it from an adoption and foster care perspective, but other kids experience trauma too. Repetitive hospitalizations can have traumatic effects, as can witnessing domestic abuse, being exposed to community violence, and experiencing a natural disaster. Previously, Steve has written about trauma and kids here. In one of his posts, he pointed out that a recent study of adolescent trauma reported that over 61% of U.S. teens had been exposed to at least one potentially traumatic experience (PTE). 31% had experienced multiple PTEs, and 18.6% reported experiencing three or more PTEs. While children who are or have been in foster care or who were adopted after infancy are more likely to have experienced multiple PTEs, this topic is not limited to adoptive and foster families.

In other words, church, we have a great opportunity to love those affected by trauma! The need is great. Kids are hurting. Adults are too. Families are struggling. And the first step in being able to help is understanding the need. Jesus met people where they were, and so can we.

As one review of existing research summarizes, “isolated traumatic incidents tend to produce discrete conditioned behavioral and biologic responses to reminders of the trauma, whereas chronic maltreatment or unavoidable recurring traumatization, such as exposure to repeated medical or surgical procedures, has pervasive effects on neurobiologic development.” In other words, the brain develops differently with prolonged trauma but even individual traumatic experiences can affect behavior and biological reactions (such as stress hormone levels). For example,

  • Adolescents who have experienced maltreatment as a child process fear differently. Three parts of the brain are designed to work together to respond to fear: the prefrontal cortex that guides thoughts and actions, the amygdala which is the brain’s fear and emotion center, and hippocampus which balances communication between the previous two in assessing danger. For adolescent boys and girls who have experienced childhood maltreatment, the connection between the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus is weak, and for the girls specifically, the connection with the amygdala is also weak. The result for these youth is a heightened and persistent state of anxiety, as well as higher rates of depression.
  • Toxic stress – defined by researchers at Harvard as “strong, frequent, or prolonged activation of the body’s stress management system” from adverse events “that are chronic, uncontrollable, and/or experienced without children having access to support from caring adults” – can adversely affect brain development, chemical balances, and physiological responses to stress long after that stress has ended. In their working paper, these researchers state that “in the extreme, such as in cases of severe, chronic abuse, especially during early, sensitive periods of brain development, the regions of the brain involved in fear, anxiety, and impulsive responses may overproduce neural connections while those regions dedicated to reasoning, planning, and behavioral control may produce fewer neural connections.”
  • shutterstock_185745920Furthermore, “when children experience toxic stress, their cortisol levels remain elevated for prolonged periods of time. Both animal and human studies show that long-term elevations in cortisol levels can alter the function of a number of neural systems, suppress the immune response, and even change the architecture of regions in the brain that are essential for learning and memory.” These outcomes can include impairments in learning, memory, and emotional regulation as well as mental illness and stress-induced physical illness. That said, every child is different in his or her response to trauma, so some kids might have little to no impact by major stressors while others can be significantly affected by more minor stressors.
  • According to a paper from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, early childhood exposure to trauma can result in the following outcomes: “(a) self-regulatory, attachment, anxiety, and affective disorders in infancy and childhood; (b) addictions, aggression, social helplessness and eating disorders; (c) dissociative, somataform, cardiovascular, metabolic, and immunological disorders; (d) sexual disorders in adolescence and adulthood; and (e) revictimization,” the latter often the result of difficulty identifying or responding to danger cues.
  • In a study of Romanian orphans compared to other Romanian children, white and gray brain matter was reduced among children who had ever been institutionalized, even for those who had since moved into high quality foster care (though those children did have an improvement in white brain matter development).
  • In The Connected Child (a book we highly recommend), Dr. Purvis and her colleagues share that “disturbing behaviors – tantrums, hiding, hyperactivity, or aggressiveness – are often triggered by a child’s deep, primal fear. Youngsters… can be physically safe in their new adoptive home, but past traumas encoded within their brains are easily reactivated.” (Side note: In partnership with Dr. Purvis’s work, Empowered To Connect was created to provide resources and support on this topic to families and churches involved with foster care and adoption. We highly recommend their faith- and research-based offerings.)
  • These effects don’t just go away as children age either. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, which included more than 17,000 people, compared adults with no adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) to those with 1, 2, 3, or 4+. For those adults who experienced 4 or more ACEs, researchers documented increased risks for panic reactions, depression, anxiety, hallucinations, sleep disturbances, severe obesity, substance abuse of all kinds, early sexual intercourse, promiscuity, sexual dissatisfaction, memory impairment, and anger management difficulties. (For more on this study, read Steve’s post here.)

The good news? Research shows that both behavioral and biological changes due to trauma can be improved (though not erased) by exercise, healthy nutrition, safe touches (like massages), multisensory environments, reduction in a child’s fear, allergy management, positive and rewarding experiences, and research-driven interventions like TBRI (The Connected Child, Ch. 10). Additionally, some kids are not as affected by trauma as others. While we don’t know all the reasons for that, here are some. Furthermore, neuroplasticity – that is, the brain’s ability to change – studies show that love and care can reverse some of trauma’s effects. In the same Harvard working paper I quoted from in the second and third bullets above, the news isn’t all bad: “Positive experiences after infancy in young animals, such as being exposed to an environment rich in opportunities for exploration and social play, have been shown to compensate to some degree for the negative behavioral consequences.” So, yes, love can heal. However, those researchers go on to emphasize that neuroplasticity is not unlimited and that many changes are irreversible.

Finally, we believe in a God for whom nothing is impossible. He can heal anything, so can Love – with a capital L, because God is Love – heal all past pains? Yes. And will he be faithful to do that? Certainly. But scripture and experience teach us that God doesn’t always extend that miracle on this side of heaven.

So as we live out our lives and love dear ones who have gone through things no child should, we love because God first loved us. And while we pray for healing to come and trust that it will one day, here or in heaven, we keep on loving. Because that’s what our kids need, and that’s what our Father has modeled for us as parents (and as church leaders partnering with families like mine).

10947266_10152510985251008_8732876514421862184_nShannon Dingle provides consultation, training and support to pastors, ministry staff and volunteers from churches requesting assistance from Key Ministry. In addition, Shannon regularly blogs for Key Ministry on topics related to adoption and foster care. 

Shannon and her husband (Lee) serve as coordinators of the Access Ministry, the Special Needs Ministry of Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC. Shannon with be speaking at the 2015 Global Access Conference sponsored by Joni and Friends in Westlake Village, CA. 

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NCTSDKey Ministry offers a resource page on Trauma and Kids to pastors, church staff, volunteers and families. The resource page includes links to all of the posts from our Fall 2013 blog series, links to resources from Jolene Philo, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and Empowered to Connect. Check it out today and share the resource page with others who would benefit.

Posted in Adoption, Advocacy, Foster Care, Hidden Disabilities, Key Ministry, PTSD | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Jay Adams and the foundations of a movement…

GA-Social-Media-StephenGrcevich-1 - Version 2Here’s the second installment in our current series, Sin, Mental Illness and the Church. Today, we look at the work of Jay Adams and his conceptualizations that are foundational to the development of the Biblical Counseling movement.

If Sigmund Freud had an outsized role in the growth of modern psychiatry, Jay Adams has had a similarly outsized role in the growth and influence of the Biblical Counseling movement.

It’s important for our readers to understand how central Adams has been in impacting how pastors from evangelical and reformed traditions think about mental illness and pastoral counseling. Now in his mid 80s, Adams continues to teach and to write. Other leaders of influence within Biblical or Christian counseling circles have either written in response to Adams’ foundational work or sought to build upon his work. We’ll look at this phenomena in a subsequent post in which we’ll examine the perspectives of the leaders following in Adams’ footsteps.

Jay AdamsAs a young pastor fresh out of seminary in the early ’60s, Adams felt ill-prepared to respond to the needs of those who approached him for counseling. He was critical of the practice of referring out to secular professionals who would impart “non-Christian counsel.” Ironically, Adams was to be influenced in his thinking by O. Hobart Mowrer, a prominent psychologist and behavior therapy researcher from the University of Illinois (a former President of the American Psychological Association, and a non-Christian) who was a vicious critic of the field of psychiatry and the medical model of understanding mental illness. Adams served a summer internship with Mowrer at two state-run psychiatric hospitals in Illinois in 1965…paid for by a foundation established by Eli Lilly!

In Adams’ landmark book, Competent to Counsel he established the foundation for the Biblical Counseling movement.

The thesis of this book is that qualified Christian counselors properly trained in the Scriptures are competent to counsel-more competent than psychiatrists or anyone else.

In the book, Adams lays out his construct of mental illness. In reading what he has to say, I have to remind myself that the book was written in 1970, that it’s one of approximately 100 books that he has written, and much of his subsequent writing has served to modify, expand upon or tone down criticisms (a little bit) issued in Competent to Counsel. Heath Lambert, a modern leader in the Biblical Counseling movement, wrote that “for Adams, bombast was a conscious tactic.” With that said, Adams (as the founder of the Biblical Counseling movement) rejected the modern concept of mental illness…

To put the issue simply: the Scriptures plainly speak of both organically based problems as well as those problems that stem from sinful action and behavior; but where, in all of God’s Word, is there so much as a trace of any third source of problems which might approximate the modern concept of mental illness.”

Adams was also very blunt in his assessment of persons with mental illness…

What then, is wrong with the “mentally ill”? Their problem is autogenic; it is in themselves. The fundamental bent of human nature is away from God. Man is born in sin, goes astray “from his mother’s womb speaking lies” (Psalm 58:3) and will therefore naturally (by nature) attempt various sinful dodges in an attempt to avoid facing up to his sin. He will fall into varying styles of sin according to the short-term successes and failures of the particular sinful responses he makes to life’s problems. Apart from organically generated difficulties, the mentally ill are really people with unsolved personal problems.

“I do not wish to disregard science, but rather I welcome it as a useful adjunct for the purposes of illustrating, filling in generalizations with specifics, and challenging wrong human interpretations of Scripture, thereby forcing the student to restudy the Scriptures. However, in the field of psychiatry, science largely has given way to humanistic philosophy and gross speculation.”

Sometimes, instead of speaking of mental illness, people talk about “emotional problems.” But this language is as confusing as the former. When a client is depressed or high, or anxious or hostile, there really is no problem with his emotions. His emotions are working only too well. It is true that his emotions are not pleasant, but the real problem is not emotional, it is behavioral. Solutions aimed at relieving the emotions directly (as, e.g., chemical methods like pills or alcohol), therefore, must be considered to be nothing more than relief of symptoms.

Adams was resolute in his initial insistence that sin is the cause of the problems that lead people to seek counseling…

“In nouthetic counseling, the stress falls upon the “what” as opposed to the “why” because the “why” is already known before counseling begins. The reason why is already known before counseling begins. The reason why people get into trouble in their relationships to God and others is because of their sinful natures. Men are born sinners.”

Adams’ approach is described as nouthetic counseling. Nouthesis and nouthesio are the Greek noun and verb forms of the word translated as “admonishing” in the ESV translation of Colossians 3:16…

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Adams describes nouthetic counseling as a strategy that seeks to correct sinful behavior patterns by personal confrontation and repentance. The three basic elements involve teaching by God’s Word, solving problems by verbal means through confrontation and the motivation of love and deep concern to help the counselee for their own good (an element that some may overlook in employing Adams’ techniques). Nouthetic counseling is a very directive, authoritative and confrontational approach.

He described the qualifications for nouthetic counselors…

Preeminently, a nouthetic counselor must be conversant with Scriptures. This is one reason why properly equipped ministers may make excellent counselors. A good seminary education rather than medical school or a degree in clinical psychology, is the most fitting background for a counselor.

Adams was also extremely critical of the secular professions that had commandeered the domain of counseling. From The Christian Counselor’s Manual

Biblically, there is no warrant for acknowledging the existence of a separate and distinct discipline called psychiatry. There are, in the Scriptures, only three specified sources of personal problems in living: demonic activity (principally possession), personal sin and organic illness. These three are interrelated. All options are covered under these heads, leaving no room for a fourth: non-organic mental illness. There is, therefore, no place in a biblical scheme for the psychiatrist as a separate practitioner. This self-appointed caste came into existence with the broadening of the medical umbrella to exclude inorganic illness (whatever that means). A new practitioner, part-physician (a very small part) and part secular priest (a very large part), came into being to serve the host of persons who previously were counseled by ministers but now had been snatched away from them and placed beneath the broad umbrella of “mental illness.”

If I were to summarize the essentials of Jay Adams’ teaching that remain foundational to what we know today as Biblical or Christian Counseling, they would be as follows…

  • Everything we need to be able to counsel people for emotional or behavioral problems that aren’t clearly organic in nature can be found in Scripture. The Bible is sufficient for counseling.
  • Often, the underlying cause of the problems that lead people to seek help is sin, absent a clearly identified medical condition.
  • If the underlying problem is sin, the solution is found in the person of Jesus Christ and his saving work of redemption as revealed through God’s Word. Positive change flows from the power of Christ through the transformative power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Psychiatry and psychology all too frequently dissuade people from taking responsibility for their emotional states and patterns of behavior.

41hZx-FuP8LDr. Adams is the founder of the Institute for Nouthetic Studies (INS), the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC), and the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF). INS offers training and a certificate program in Nouthetic Counseling. He maintains a current blog and has a page on the INS website featuring his answers to frequently asked questions.

Editor’s note: I presented Jay Adams’ work for the purpose of helping those within our growing movement of Christians seeking to welcome and include kids and families impacted by the full range of disabilities into the local church to understand how many leaders serving in churches most committed to evangelism and outreach gained their practical understanding of mental illness. While many of our readers will find Jay’s teaching “provocative” to say the least, you will find no criticism of his work here.

We need to keep in mind that if we’re going to change the perceptions that cause a majority of those who do not regularly attend church to disagree with the statement that those with mental health issues are welcome at church and engage church leaders from evangelical and reformed congregations to pursue intentional outreach to families impacted by mental illness, we’re going to need to find common ground with those in positions of influence within the Biblical Counseling movement and we’ll need to find a few courageous leaders in the field to take up the cause of inclusion.

Next, we’ll examine some unintended consequences of the movement Jay Adams launched.

Revised January 29, 2015.

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GA-Social-Media-StephenGrcevich-1Consider joining us this winter for Key Ministry’s online group study that will accompany our blog series…Sin, Mental Illness and the Church. This study will be a combination of Bible reading/study and supplemental readings/material to enlighten participants as we examine the following questions…

  • How has the understanding of mental illness evolved in the evangelical movement in America over the past half-century?
  • How do past and current attitudes in the church influence outreach efforts to families of children and teens impacted by mental illness?
  • What can we learn from Scripture of God’s purposes in the lives of those impacted by mental illness?
  • How can we help more kids and families impacted by mental illness to experience the love of Christ through involvement in a local church?

Anyone can join us, but a Facebook account is required. Click here to register!

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“Downtown Nate” and a school that “gets” inclusion

IMG_0706This past Sunday, I had the honor of being introduced at Martindale Christian Fellowship Church by Nate Manko, son of Martindale’s Senior Pastor, Steve Manko.

Nate’s a very busy senior at Louisville High School in Louisville, OH. Nate’s a member of the high school’s marching band as well as the pep band that plays during the winter at home basketball games. Yesterday, Nate did a great job on the drums in the praise band at the church, in addition to handling my introduction. On top of  all of his commitments at school and at church, Nate is a key performer for the Stark County Royal Knights Special Olympics basketball team. Martindale makes its’ gymnasium available to the Royal Knights (state championship contenders in recent years) as their practice facility.

Nate had a very complicated medical course as a little guy. Because of brain trauma at the time of his birth, Nate experiences some spasticity in his left arm and leg. Another consequence of his brain trauma was a vulnerability to seizures that occurred all too frequently and were poorly controlled by medication. Nate finally had to have surgery (performed by Dr. Ben Carson!) in which a section of his brain was removed to stop the seizures. Nate’s overcome all of the obstacles placed in his path, has performed very well in high school, and has become a highly valued member of the Louisville High School community.

1962819_790038637715963_6849615238371026755_nThe administration and students of Louisville High School found a spectacular way to demonstrate Nate’s value to the community this past week.

The school administration approached Nate’s parents with the idea of moving one of Nate’s basketball games to the Louisville High gym, so that Nate could have a “Senior Night”  experience comparable to other athletes at the school.  This past Wednesday, the Royal Knights faced off against their local rivals, the Stark County Red Dawgs. The school gave Nate’s team a player introduction experience worthy of an NBA team! (The introduction of the starting lineup starts at the 3:45 mark in the video).

Nate’s grandparents received a special introduction on the occasion of their 65th wedding anniversary! The pep band was there to perform, and a number of band parents volunteered to run the concession stands. Better yet, over 800 parents, family members and Louisville students were present to cheer on Nate and his team! The attendance last Wednesday for Nate and the Royal Knights exceeded the average attendance this season at home games for the Louisville varsity. Nate has developed a deadly three point shot, which was on display this past Wednesday night. Here are some of the highlights…

The Royal Knights defeated their cross-town rivals 54-41, and Nate didn’t disappoint the hometown crowd by drilling a couple of three pointers. Most impressive was the manner in which Louisville High School demonstrated the extent to which they value one of their seniors playing on a basketball team outside of school who could have easily been overlooked.

Congratulations to the administration, staff and students of Louisville High School. You guys get it!

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GA-Social-Media-StephenGrcevich-1Consider joining us this winter for Key Ministry’s online group study that will accompany our blog series…Sin, Mental Illness and the Church. This study will be a combination of Bible reading/study and supplemental readings/material to enlighten participants as we examine the following questions…

  • How has the understanding of mental illness evolved in the evangelical movement in America over the past half-century?
  • How do past and current attitudes in the church influence outreach efforts to families of children and teens impacted by mental illness?
  • What can we learn from Scripture of God’s purposes in the lives of those impacted by mental illness?
  • How can we help more kids and families impacted by mental illness to experience the love of Christ through involvement in a local church?

Anyone can join us, but a Facebook account is required. Click here to register!

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The evangelical understanding of mental illness…How Freud, Skinner, Rogers and Ellis led to Jay Adams

BibleWe’re beginning a series today on the theme Sin, Mental Illness and the Church. This study will be accompanied by a more in-depth, optional online study group (you may register here) including Bible reading/study and supplemental media to enlighten participants as we examine the following questions…

  • How has the understanding of mental illness evolved in the evangelical movement in America over the past half-century?
  • How do past and current attitudes in the church influence outreach efforts to families of children and teens impacted by mental illness?
  • What can we learn from Scripture of God’s purposes in the lives and experiences of those impacted by mental illness?
  • How can we help more kids and families impacted by mental illness to experience the love of Christ through involvement in a local church?

An important role that our ministry plays in the larger disability ministry movement is that we see ourselves as bridge builders. From this blog’s initial post nearly five years ago, our purpose has been to leverage the credibility of a number of our leaders as mature, evangelical Christians positioned by God to serve families impacted by mental illness, trauma and/or developmental disabilities in helping the church become more effective in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a significantly underserved people group present in large numbers in nearly every city and town in the U.S.

Our purpose in presenting this series is not to promote or defend any specific model of caring for persons with symptoms of what is categorized as “mental illness” by the medical community, the mental health community, the government or insurance companies. Our purpose is to promote meaningful connection between local churches and families of kids impacted by mental illness. At our core, we’re an evangelical organization. We help churches connect with families who need to experience the Gospel, and we help churches strategize how to most effectively make disciples when kids present with conditions that contribute to difficulties thriving in the environments in which we “do church.” We’re seeking to implement the Great Commission where God has positioned us.

With that said, a pastor or a counselor would be challenged to reconcile much of the theoretical foundation of modern psychology to a view of the world shaped by Scripture.

Sigmund_Freud_LIFESigmund Freud was a prominent physician who developed the theory of psychoanalysis as an approach to patients with unexplained neurologic symptoms. Freud’s theoretical framework would frame guilt as pathological as opposed to an warning from one’s conscience of the need to recognize and deal with what we as Christians would refer to as sin. In the psychodynamic psychotherapies derived from Freud’s work, behavior is attributed to instinctive urges or drives as opposed to the exercise of free will for which the individual bears personal responsibility (the Biblical view).

Behavioralism (B.F. Skinner was a key figure, later Aaron Beck with the development of Cognitive-Behavioral therapy) would seek to understood human nature through observation and the scientific method…the two foundational assumptions of behaviorism are that nature is the only reality and reality can only be measured through our senses.The obvious challenge from a Christian perspective is there’s no place for any spiritual component not quantifiable or measurable. Pure behaviorism would be antithetical to the construct of free will and the importance of the soul. If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist.

Humanistic therapies (Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers) developed as a reaction to the determinism inherent in psychoanalytic and behavioral theory. The goal of therapy is self-fulfillment and self actualization, The assumption is that the individual is responsible for his or her own happiness and accountable to no one but themselves…there’s no God to answer to. Subjective experience in emphasized as opposed to absolute truth…the “non-judgmentalism” characteristic of the Millennial generation is in part derived from this school of thought.

Albert Ellis developed Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (a hybrid) of  in the mid 1950’s. We’ll discuss Ellis at length a little later in this series because…

  • Ellis was a major intellectual force behind the advance of moral relativism.
  • He was arguably the most influential psychologist of the 1960s
  • Our modern-day understanding of mental illness in many areas of the church is grounded in the response to what was seen as a dangerous influence of contemporary  psychology inside seminaries in the 1960s.

What’s important to understand is that much of what we think of today as psychotherapy in an earlier time was done by pastors. As psychology developed as a science and psychiatry as a medical specialty in the Twentieth Century, the theoretical underpinnings of those fields were incompatible with a Biblical world view of sin, the presence of absolute truth as represented in Scripture and the teaching that all men and women are accountable to God for their thoughts and actions. Many at the time in positions of influence within the church thought it impossible for Christians to be helped by therapies and techniques grounded in an understanding of humanity incompatible with widely accepted teaching from the Bible.

adams10One pastor and professor stepped forward to challenge what was being taught to seminarians. He challenged the entire construct of mental illness as it was understood at the dawn of the 1970s and developed an comprehensive counseling framework based entirely on Scripture. He claimed his model sufficient for treating Christians with all manner of emotional and behavioral issues that and he remains highly influential in the evangelical movement today as younger colleagues modify and build from his foundational work.

In our next post, you’ll be introduced to the teaching of Jay Adams.

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KM Logo UpdatedKey Ministry has assembled resources to help churches more effectively minister to children and adults with ADHD, anxiety disorders, Asperger’s Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, depression and trauma. Please share our resources with any pastors, church staff, volunteers or families looking to learn more about the influence these conditions can exert upon spiritual development in kids, and what churches can do to help!

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Mental Illness: Too Scared to Share – why most Christians won’t talk About “IT”…Mitzi Van Cleve

10947709_612305872234627_941507695_nEditor’s note: Mitzi Van Cleve is a mother and an author with a very powerful witness of how God has provided her with grace and strength through her personal experience with OCD and Social Anxiety Disorder. She’s recently launched a new blog, The OCD Christian to offer hope and encouragement to others experiencing similar struggles. Her book, Strivings Within-The OCD Christian is available at Amazon.

I saw this post from Mitzi last night and she graciously agreed to allow me to share. Here’s Mitzi…

The “IT” in the title of this blog is in reference to the mental illness that afflicts approximately 25% of people from all walks of life. There are numerous reasons for our silence but I would say that the biggest is the fear of how people will view us and even treat us once they know we have a mental illness. We know there is stigma attached to it. We know that most people won’t have the basic knowledge in regard to the cause and the effects of our particular illness that would allow them to view it as a valid affliction. We know that there are uneducated ideas born out of assumption and presuppositions that people have accepted for most of their lives in regard to mental illnesses. So when we are struggling and suffering many of us just stay silent. I know we do because I did that for most of my life. It can be especially hard to open up in Christian circles because there still exists this false assumption that mental illness is either the result of a person sinning or having a lack of faith.

I remember sitting in my adult Sunday school class during a particularly bad flare of my Pure O -OCD. It took all the grit I could muster up just to go to church. My mind was in a continual state of terror, my body tense every waking minute. I had been unable to sleep for weeks on end, unable to eat due to the nausea that always accompanies a bad flare of my OCD. The distress had reached a debilitating level and I wanted and needed for God’s people to pray for me. I finally made the decision to lift my hand and ask for prayer. I remember how furiously my heart was pounding in my chest, how hard it was to even breathe at that moment. The hives on my skin were just raging and I could not control the trembling in my hands or the nausea that was churning in my gut, but I was desperate for my family, my brothers and sisters in Christ to pray for me and yet this is all I could manage: “I’m going through a rough time, please pray for me.”

I just couldn’t bring myself to say what I really needed to say: “I am really struggling with a horrific flare of OCD right now and the mental anguish of it all has become nearly unbearable. I would SO appreciate your prayers for me as I walk through this valley. Pray for me to persevere. Pray for me to lay hold of God’s grace and strength in and though this. And please pray that I’ll feel better soon. Thank you!”

If I had said that, would people even understand that I was asking for prayer for a valid affliction? Would they know what it meant for a person to suffer with OCD in the same way they might know what it meant for a person to suffer from things like Crohn’s disease, chronic migraines, cancer, heart disease, lupus, diabetes, etc.? I had to assume that they wouldn’t know because I had never heard a person with a mental illness lift their hand in church asking for people to pray for them in regard to their: depression, Panic disorder, OCD, Bipolar, Schizophrenia, etc., and I wasn’t about to be the first one who did.

I was terrified of what people might think of me after that. I was afraid that my illness might be viewed as an obstacle to my being able to take on any kind of role in ministry. I was afraid because I have sat in Bible studies and kept my mouth shut after hearing this statement: “They say that all mental illness is rooted in anger at God.” I have no idea who the “they” were as represented in this statement. I wondered if “they” even had a medical degree.

What I didn’t need to wonder about was how this statement made me feel, especially when every other person in the room began to nod in agreement. No one challenged it. Then on another occasion I sat completely mute and stunned when mental illness was included in a list of “sins” for which restoration through repentance were possible which went as follow: “Adultery, gambling, abusive behavior, addictions, sexual sins, pornography and mental illness.” That was a hard one to swallow and in fact, for a few moments I couldn’t swallow after hearing it because that is that is a common symptom of anxiety for me. I recall feeling so ashamed and really wanting to just crawl under the table. I wanted to challenge it. I wanted to say something like; “why on earth is mental illness included on a list of sins and how can I repent of something I haven’t chosen?” Instead I just sat there feeling those stupid hives pop out on on my face, neck and torso which stood as a very real reminder that I had an anxiety disorder, a mental illness. I had made the list. I was the person in the room who needed to figure out how to repent of it so God could forgive me.

So yeah… it’s pretty hard to talk about “IT”. But…… as I began to open up and share about my particular “IT” I was amazed at how many doors were opened for me to reach out to others who share my disorder. It’s been such a blessing to be able to encourage others just by telling my own story. Doing so has provided an opportunity for me to be be of comfort to others as they finally are able to talk to someone who knows what they’ve been going through. Suddenly they know that they are not the freakish anomaly they’d always thought themselves to be. It’s been such a blessing to be able to reach out in sincere empathy and to have an opportunity to point others in the right direction so they can finally obtain very real help for a very real and often very excruciating disorder. Finally, the privilege of sharing the lessons that my OCD has brought about in regard to the incomparable gift of embracing God’s grace, strength, provision and purpose IN and through my affliction is something that years ago I could have never imagined.

Mitzi's bookI found out that when I dared to share that God would also bless my heart by bringing the most amazing and dear people into my life who He had prepared to come alongside and encourage me because they too knew what it was like to live with OCD. I want to be that person for others. Does it still feel risky to talk so openly about my OCD? Yeah it does, but the privilege and joy of being able to encourage just one other person has made this risk seem insignificant to me. My prayer is that, in time, people will be able to share about their mental illness without any fear of stigma. I believe the tide is turning and I want to be a part of that.

My name is Mitzi VanCleve and I am a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. I have OCD and Panic Disorder and I thank the Lord for the lessons He is teaching me in regard who He is that I may have never known apart from these afflictions. I agree with Mr. John Bunyan when he proclaimed: “God doth order it for my good!!”

My Story:

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KM Logo UpdatedKey Ministry has assembled resources to help churches more effectively minister to children and adults with ADHD, anxiety disorders, Asperger’s Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, depression and trauma. Please share our resources with any pastors, church staff, volunteers or families looking to learn more about the influence these conditions can exert upon spiritual development in kids, and what churches can do to help!

Posted in Advocacy, Anxiety Disorders, Hidden Disabilities, Key Ministry, Mental Health, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments