A Reflection on “Organic Community Mental Health”

Wow! This has been a full-full month for me, and perhaps for you as well. It is sometimes said that Community Mental Health serves “the most vulnerable in our community.” However, this can hide the fact that each of us has strengths, and each of us has our own points in time when we are more vulnerable than others.

For over a year, nearly every week I would go out during the COVID pandemic to deliver food to those most in need. Those who for whatever reason were unable to get food for themselves received food delivered from Hope Clinic and other resources to ensure that they stayed fed. At the heights of the pandemic lockdown, nearly 40 households received food assistance in a weekly day of delivery that was very much a drive-door-drop-dash effort. As time progressed, and as fear and restrictions lessened, the numbers of recipients decreased and the depth of visits increased in the nature of the needs that were met to address everything from housing to chore help on a few occasions. Fifty-two weeks of this!

In the past month: My mother in law died and was buried. So, naturally, we went to honor her saintly life with family, to weep with those who weep. We left, having gotten my passport, visa, clear COVID tests, and tickets all just in time. We visited a few places in Indonesia and ate great food. We went from one end of the most densely populated island of the world to the other. We visited the Jerusalem Bible Museum in Jakarta, which is actually the closest I’ve ever been to the land of promise. There I was once again astounded at how integral God’s mercy is to all of life, and the difference the resurrection makes to all of life (No, they did not have any of Jesus’ bones or blood as relics there). I was also reminded of the importance of the gifts of the least and helping the most we can.

Around June 25-26, we learned that a local flood happened in my hometown of Ypsilanti, MI. I was reading through Job a week ago, when I felt slightly ill and took a long nap where I sweat a lot in a hot room and got a bit dehydrated, then returned home after getting 2 NEGATIVE COVID tests. My dear wife Sheila stayed behind Indonesia, monitoring the security cameras and saying one last farewell to me with her brother Jonathan as they hurried me off to the airport in very light traffic through what is normally a very congested Jakarta. They got me water and wished me bon voyage as I ventured homeward. I had to go to prepare a place once more for my bride, so that where I lived, there she could be also.

At home, there was a flooded basement and as the basement was cleaned up on Saturday, I got a positive COVID test result. Over the past weekend, around a dozen folks have come to help me in practical ways. Of course, our faithful postal worker had already delivered the month of missing mail to our doors.: risking life and limb to mow the yard with its deep grass (Darren B.), removing water and debris, sanitizing the basement (Thanks to Orlando Tennyson and Ms Evans of Regal Cleaning Services and his friend with a truck and John Evans of First Baptist Ypsilanti who helped coordinate this), dehumidifying the basement (Thanks to Joe L formerly with ServiceMaster and still a Logistics Officer of the Michigan Army Reserves, and Brent), sorting through piles of accumulated life possessions to put them in the garbage (Thomas, who is normally in Spain), Joe from AAA Insurance services approved the claim for property damages, Colonial Heating & Cooling has scheduled a visit to get us back up to speed with a working furnace and water heater, Ron with Ypsilanti Public Services provided adequate trash stickers to accommodate my extra trash bags that (thanks to travel) fell out of the time frame of everyone else’s 2 weeks of limitless trash pick-up.

A special shout out to Mike Frison of Knox Presbyterian and Every Nations Chapel in Ypsilanti who helped me wake up Monday after a 10 hour nap. Before then I had slept less than 18 hours out of 100 from the time I woke up the day I left Indonesia on Thursday. I would be remiss to neglect to thank my dear friend Mark Vanderput who prays for me regularly and reminded me that it was best that I arrive home first, before Sheila, so that she didn’t have to worry about the clean-up. He contacted many of those above at a time when he was hard-pressed to help himself due to other obligations in Hamtramck. I’m grateful for my Mom and sister and friends who called and listened, prayed for and encouraged me all along the way.

Thanks to all those I met along the way from Jakarta to Ypsilanti, especially the Slave of God and the Treasure who listened patiently as I explained the wonders of Jesus, his love and truth, and they took good news of life’s hope. Thanks to Airline staff of Etihad, of United, and those in Abu Dhabi and Chicago O’Hare airports, and faithful Carl who risked his life to convey me safely from the airport to my home. It has been 15 years since I was so close to being admitted to the hospital due to the stresses of life becoming nearly overwhelming.

I am also grateful Brandie Hagaman, my supervisor at Community Mental Health who offered to help bring gallons milk and orange juice since I cannot go out shopping for myself. More than that, she encouraged me to continue to work as much as I am able once I get my feet on the ground. This will lend just enough dignity to get through the days of isolation and abundant reflection which the quarantine guarantees.

This is how to serve those “most vulnerable.” Usually, I am seeking to serve others in such ways. Now, I was on the receiving end. The Lord gave me grace and wisdom to ask for help and advise people how they could help best. In a very short time, I had a surprisingly, suddenly expanded support network. As I am gaining strength, I will be able to give again to others. Likewise, families, churches, the local agencies and companies and government agencies ideally work together to serve others in their time of greatest vulnerabilities so that in due time they too can get back to work to serve others, as God provides strength, each helping others where the Lord has allowed a person’s weaknesses to become an opportunity for compassion. May the Redeemer restore our community in peace and justice!

With great joy!

Mert Hershberger,

Poet, M.A., Host, Certified Peer Support Specialist, Customer Service Advisor, Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist

~ Walking with people on the road to recovery. ~

When I had lost all hope,

I turned my thoughts once more to the Lord of Hosts.

– based on Jonah’s prayer (2:7 TLB)

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