By Jessica Brodie
LEXINGTON—United Methodists in the Midlands are reaching out in Christian love to a group of men struggling with severe mental illness.
Through a ministry called “Love the Unloved,” members of Mount Horeb United Methodist Church and others in the community are supporting a residential home for mentally ill adult men.
Located in the tiny community of Monetta, eight miles southwest of Leesville, the home is occupied by 15 men who battle various types of mental illness, from bipolar disorder to schizophrenia.
Cindy Bodie, Mount Horeb member who started the ministry in 2014, said many of the men who live there are disconnected from or forgotten by their families and often feel unloved and unwanted. Her late brother, Steve, was a resident at the facility because of his own severe mental illness issues, and while her family visited him often and sent care packages and financial support, she saw firsthand how many of the other residents were not supported in this way.
It broke her heart and inspired her to help in her brother’s memory.
“Very few of the other residents are supported in this way,” Bodie said. “It is so sad that these children of God are forgotten by society.”
Bodie, Karen Knight and the rest of their ministry team are determined that the men at Monetta are not forgotten.
Once a month, they visit the facility, situated in a remote area in rural Aiken and Saluda counties. Geared up to shower these men with love, they bring dessert and care packages, lead a Bible study and spend the day investing in these men emotionally and spiritually with a goal to help them know they are children of God and loved by Him.
In December, they threw the men a Christmas party with wrapped gifts for each resident, as well as new shoes and toiletry items.
Bodie said the men truly appreciate all they receive.
“They are so grateful,” she said, blinking back tears as she describes the way she’s seen the residents’ lives transform over the years from gloom to new hope in Christ.
Many of the men had not been baptized, so last year they arranged for six of them to be baptized in a large immersion tub with the help of the Rev. Ed McDowell and Thad Hinnant. Communion and the salvation prayer have also been a first for many of the men, she said, and they typically do not attend church, so much of their ministry tries to introduce these men to the Lord in this way.
But their spiritual support also includes plenty of time for fellowship. Over the years, the team has provided the men with recreational items such as a ping pong table with paddles and balls and a corn hole game. They’ve repaired the men’s broken basketball backboard and brought balls and other fun items.
They also give the men candy and soda treats, pillows and bedding, T-shirts and hoodies, and more. On their birthday, each man gets a homemade birthday cake with candles and a small gift.
In short, they try to love them like family—part of their Christian family, doing “do to others what you would have them do to you” in the spirit of Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31.
“Most of the men who end up in residential places like this are chronically mentally ill and, because of this, very much disconnected from their families,” Bodie said, but she noted many people don’t realize this.
“Every time I share about this, people are surprised,” Bodie said. “They aren’t aware of it unless they have experienced it with someone they love.”
Felicia Williams, administrator at the facility, said they would never be able to provide some of the blessings that Bodie and the team from Mount Horeb offer.
“Cindy Bodie and the Mount Horeb Church have truly been sent to us from God,” Williams said. “They are a much-needed breath of fresh air. They go above and beyond for our residents. From facility maintenance, furniture, clothes, birthdays, holidays, or just a shoulder to cry on, they have been there for staff, residents, and even some of our residents’ parents. If I ask Cindy for something, she will do her absolute best to provide the assistance or connect us with others who will assist. They have truly become a part of our family.”
Local businesses and Sunday school classes have also started supporting the Love the Unloved ministry with financial and other donations. Several United Methodist Women circles and Sunday school classes have given money to help the men. Southeastern Freight Lines donated furniture and living room décor, Michaelis Mattress gave mattresses at cost, and other businesses also help. Next Step youth ministry at Mount Horeb built them a raised garden bed, enabling many of the men to learn a useful hobby with practical benefits.
Bodie is hoping to inspire people not only to help the men she and her team care for in Monetta, but also to look around them at residential care facilities in their own communities across the state to see if there are people who can use similar love and support.
Anyone interested in learning more about how to start a similar outreach project, or learn how to support the Monetta men, is welcome to email her at [email protected].
By Jessica Brodie