By Jessica Brodie
Two topics close to my heart grace the front page of the Advocate this month: mental health and mass incarceration. Both impact a huge number of Christians, and both are areas where the church desperately needs to grow when it comes to advocacy, relationship and resourcing.
I’ve written a number of times about the importance of shining light into the issue of mental health, and particularly into depression, anxiety and suicide. The Centers for Disease Control reports suicide rates are growing in nearly every state in the nation, and that number is seeing a spike among children ages 10-14. My four children and stepchildren happen to fall in that age range, and my heart breaks for children like them—children who don’t all have access to mental health counselors in their schools or other trusted adults at home or in church who can steer them to the help they need.
But the problem of mass incarceration is just as important. As we read in this month’s front-page article, “The Salvation of Mass Incarceration,” our nation has seen a substantial increase in the number of incarcerated people over the past 40 years. Jerry Blassingame, a former prisoner and founder of a nonprofit to help men like him, shared how one in 106 white males, one in 36 Hispanic males and one in 16 black males have convictions—more than 70 million people total. Once these people serve their time and are released, there are more than 48,000 laws that continue to punish them and others with criminal records. A year after their release, studies show more than 60 percent remain unemployed.
We, the people of the church, can do something to help. But sometimes it’s hard to see what to do. Sometimes we think someone else might be better equipped to start a new ministry at our church, someone with more experience who has worked in that field.
I wonder if King David thought that. Did he tell himself, “I’m just a shepherd. My brother is better equipped, has more experience, looks the part”? But God didn’t want David’s brother to be king—God wanted David.
Peggy Dulaney, who helped organized the Anderson District’s “Let’s Talk: End the Silence” mental health conference, told those gathered for the event to pay attention to God’s voice and do as we’re told—even if we don’t think we’re the best person for the job.
“Pray for guidance about what the Lord is calling you to do,” Dulaney said. “If God is stirring you in some way, then He will equip you, and there are so many things that you can do.”
Phrased another way: God doesn’t call the equipped—He equips the called. Think about that, and pray on Hebrews 13:20-21: “Now may the God of peace … equip you with everything good for doing his will” (NIV). Is God calling you?