October 4, 2016

Our Mental Health (and Faith) Crisis

Post by Brittany Tedesco

Train traveling along Sri Lankan countryside.
The Buddhist nation of Sri Lanka is an island off the coast of India

I heard weird things. . . things that make you go hmmm. When I worked in Christian Aid Mission's Africa Division, I'd hear from native missionaries about the demonic manifestations they encountered. A witchdoctor who could turn himself into a cobra. A man whose bed would literally shake all night long from the evil forces in his home.

So I didn't scoff when I read a report from a ministry leader we support in Sri Lanka, the teardrop-shaped island off the coast of India. He told us that a 40-year-old Buddhist woman was possessed by an evil spirit for the past 10 months. Not only that, but she didn't—and couldn't—eat for those 10 months. Yet, somehow, she survived.

Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka.
One of Sri Lanka's many Buddhist temples

Understandably shaken, the woman's husband took her to a doctor. After running some tests, the doctor told him that his wife had no illness. How could this be? It only confirmed what the man had suspected. This was no physical ailment; his wife was possessed by evil spirit. But what to do now? The couple began visiting temple after temple in that Buddhist nation—49 places total—to seek relief from the evil spirit. At last, someone took them to a church where the Body of Christ gathered around her to pray. Wrote the ministry leader: "After three hours of powerful prayer, the evil spirit went away from her body."

In last week's post, I lamented that the Church has the answers to all of the problems plaguing mankind in the person of Jesus Christ, and yet we persist in looking to the government (and other sources) for solutions.

I mean, we can't just be doing crazy things like praying in faith over and for people and situations in our lives, can we? That wouldn't be very logical, would it?

Man holding his head in anguish.

You've probably heard about the "mental health crisis" in America. I've heard the phrase thrown around after a mentally disturbed person goes on a shooting rampage or commits some other type of heinous, murderous crime. Slowly, news trickles out about that person's history of weird behavior or dark thoughts, the journals they'd filled with their evil intentions or even the dark manifestos they'd written.

"Why wasn't anything done?" we wonder. . . and then think, "What could have been done?"

Decades ago, the U.S. used to institutionalize people like that. Not a great solution. They may have kept a mentally disturbed person from going on a killing spree, but those institutions were notoriously inhumane. And not every person who was institutionalized was a danger to society. Sometimes, husbands and fathers would have their headstrong wives or daughters committed!

Under John F. Kennedy's presidency, the U.S. passed the Community Mental Health Act of 1963, which released mental health patients from state mental wards. It worked in theory. New psychiatric drugs and community health centers were supposed to make it possible for the mentally ill to live with their own families—or at least in their own communities.

In reality, jails and prisons have become the de facto warehouses for the mentally disturbed. Either that or the streets.

Man and children putting blankets in car.

I'm not one to categorize all mental illness as demonic possession—I understand that there are legitimate chemical imbalances in some people's brains—but I find it suspicious that we have no category for it in our mainstream healthcare system. Then again, demonic possession sounds so primitive. We're more sophisticated than that. We can solve all of our problems without God. I mean, we try ever so hard. We're just failing at it.

As I was writing this year's Christmas catalog for Christian Aid Mission, it dawned on me that every item pertained to freedom. Whether you choose to give a gift toward food, blankets, an income-generating project, or rescuing a child from human trafficking—you are freeing someone from something. Hunger. Cold. Poverty. Slavery.

While on earth, Jesus Christ made it clear that He came to set the captives free (Luke 4:18-19). And, as His Body, you and I are called to do the same thing.

All over this world, people are oppressed by something. In countries like India, where the worship of demons (in the form of various Hindu gods and goddesses) is so blatant and prevalent, demonic possession is commonplace.

Native missionaries there may not be as "sophisticated" as we are in the U.S., but they know the solution to this problem isn't found in doctors, medication, or institutionalization. It's found in Jesus Christ.

A native missionary serving with a Christian Aid Mission-assisted ministry in India sent us this first-hand report from a woman released from demonic oppression after he prayed for her:

Indian archway with religious images.
India is rife with the worship of Hindu gods and goddesses

"I am from the Bhuiya people group, considered to be a Maha Dalit (most backward caste). I lived a worldly life and worshipped local gods and goddesses. I was possessed with evil spirits and as a result I was mentally affected and wandered around in the jungles. I suffered a lot both mentally and physically. I was in this condition for more than four years. My family was very worried but could not help me in any way.

"In December 2015, a native missionary visited our village to preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. As I was wandering in the jungles, my family brought me from the jungle for prayers. The missionary shared the gospel with our family members and asked them to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Savior and Deliverer. After their willingness to accept the Lord, he prayed for me and instantly the Lord delivered me from the grip of the evil spirits and healed me from my insane condition. Now I am absolutely normal and have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and Lord. Now my entire family belongs to the family of God. Praise the Lord!"

In Romans 10:14-15, we read: "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?"

I can't stress this enough: your gifts are sending people like this native missionary to set the captives free.

Native family.

Francisco, a native missionary in Argentina, and his gospel co-workers reached a remote mountain village populated by 7,000 Wichi tribal people. Going from hut to hut, they delivered Bibles and invited people to gather and listen to the gospel message.

"At one point, several hundred people gathered to hear the gospel," the ministry leader wrote. "While Francisco preached, a 65-year-old man approached the group. He was the village witchdoctor, who started cursing and calling evil spirits. He forbade them to speak about Jesus Christ. But as he approached Francisco, he fell and hit his head against a rock. Immediately, worms came out of his eyes and he died on the spot."

Whoa! That's weird! Can this be real?

Emphatically, yes. Jesus Christ performs miracles today. The only place He doesn't perform them? Where there's no faith (Matthew 13:58). . . where people run after the world's solutions to the world's problems. But darkness cannot cast out darkness.

After the witchdoctor died, Francisco and his team preached the gospel for three more days and nearly 1,000 people made decisions to follow Christ.

Because you give to people who are willing to rely upon the liberating power of Christ to heal mankind's problems, a whole village was set free from demonic oppression.

I don't care what the problem is, He is the answer.

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Harriet - posted October 20, 2016
So good, Brittany. I have long thought this way about mental illness. Praise the LORD! MAY HE BE LIFTED UP AND DRAW ALL MEN TO HIMSELF!
Doug - posted October 6, 2016
Brittany, you are right Jesus Christ is the only answer to mental health and all the issues that plague mankind. Great article thanks for sharing.

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