Our pastor stopped his explanation of the interaction between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. There had been increasing disruption from the back of the church, and though I couldn’t distinguish the words it was distracting enough that it could not be ignored. “Auntie ,” he addressed an older lady in the back, “please speak to Bharti.” Auntie stood to go to the young woman sitting near the aisle. Bharti (not her real name) was rocking back and forth, clothes unkempt, hair unusually tangled and matted. Everyone watched in silence while Auntie and two others tried to quiet her and comfort her. Bharti loudly protested their attempt to lead her outside. The sermon already interrupted, the pastor explained that Bharti had many problems and was mentally unwell, then he lead us in prayer for her. With somebody beside her Bharti eventually quieted down and the pastor continued the sermon.
Bharti began coming to church several months ago with her toddler and small baby, talking about her problems to whoever would listen. People have done what they can, counseling, praying, and taking care of practical needs. But after she disrupted the morning service I wondered, how equipped are we to really help her?
In this country there are about 40 million who suffer from some kind of mental illness. Some, like Bharti, are probably in need of medical care. But medicine is not the full answer. It is vital to address the spiritual dimension and to have a caring community. The church can play a key role in helping address mental illness by being that caring community, especially if it is equipped to understand what kind of support is needed.
In response to this huge need, one of our partners, Biblical Counseling Trust of India (BCTI), a local counseling ministry, recently hosted a training to help churches better understand and respond to mental illness. The organizer wrote: “By learning more about mental health issues, acquiring basic knowledge and skills in caring, we can make a difference.” I think of Bharti and I think, “May it be so!
For the right medical help for Bharti. Thankfully she lives in a city where there are services available (not the case in the vast majority of rural areas).
Is God asking you to serve in India? Find out more about how you could respond to need in India here.