Many do not know how to respond to those who struggle with disabilities and mental health disorders. The message from a Disability Awareness service in rural Minnesota was, “with love and compassion as the body of Christ.”
Approximately 300 people representing six Christian Reformed congregations (First Prinsburg, Unity, Bunde, Raymond, Emden, and Rock of Life) attended the service on September 25, held at Rock of Life CRC.
Organizer Helene Dykstra said, “People who are suffering need to feel comfortable in sharing their pain. We can start by a phone call, visit to acknowledge their needs, and share with them the source of our hope. The people who come to the [services] have been blessed by them.”
Members of the Friendship Bible Ministries of Rock of Life CRC, a ministry that helps churches share God’s love with people with cognitive disabilities, helped lead praise songs in the worship service along with their mentors. “I did not want the attitude of ‘them and us.’ So I make a point of our mentors joining in to stress we are all in this together, all part of the body of Christ,” explained Dykstra.
Rev. John Bothof of Raymond CRC talked about mental health disorders he has experienced in his own family. “This year we focused on mental health issues . . . that are not easily seen and get ignored because of the stigma, ignorance, and fear we imply with them,” said Dykstra. “So here enters the church family, the body of Christ. When one member suffers, we all suffer.”
The six area churches have been hosting a Disability Awareness service every September for the past 13 years.