On the third Wednesday of every month, members of the youth group and leaders visit residents of a local group home run by Indwell -- bringing snacks, playing games, and just visiting. Most of the residents face mental health challenges, and some have significant physical barriers as well. This is our fifth year and we have formed relationships, though some residents have moved away and some of our youth have graduated as well.
I remember being somewhat terrified and nervous on our first visit wondering what we were getting our young people, and ourselves, into: one resident was all hunched over looking only at the ground, one woman who I will Cathy was in a wheelchair, wore a bike helmet and spoke extremely slowly. I will be honest: I felt very uncomfortable. Over time, I have come to know some of the residents and see them differently. Cathy in the wheelchair, for example, she is very bright. On one visit, I saw her struggle with seizures, falling out of her chair. Now I know why she wears a bike helmet all the time. She is a fierce competitor in various games such as SORRY. Last week, she showed no mercy against Margaret Wilding, beating her three games in a row.
In her book Jesus Freak, author Sara Miles writes that Jesus “shows us how to enter into a way of life in which the broken and sick pieces are held in love, and given meaning. In which strangers literally touch each other, and in doing so make a community spacious enough for everyone.”
I see God in the love that our youth and leaders show the residents. More than that though, I see it in the love and care that the residents display for each other, modeling what they themselves experience from the amazing Indwell staff. Behind what would otherwise be closed doors, I have witnessed full lives being lived in this space, openness and love. I am so grateful to have had this experience which was made possible through St Johns. I am grateful that our youth have been able to glimpse these lives as well, and to grow and to see beyond stigma associated with mental illness and poverty, to the humans that are our brothers and sisters in God's creation.