Dave Larlee, Associate Pastor of All Saints Dallas, often picks up on three themes when he volunteers at The Well Community: the goodness of God, hope and grace. Larlee has periodically preached the sermon at Thursday Night Life, The Well’s weekly worship service for members, and has seen these themes as common threads in members’ faith.
Over the past three years, Larlee has observed members’ strong conviction that God is good, despite all they’ve experienced. “You get really honest prayers that often begin with lament, but that always end with praise.”
Likewise, Larlee has witnessed members’ strong sense of hope, which Larlee describes as “the joyful expectation that good is coming.” He’s also seen an abundance of grace, “that empowers members to be who God calls them to be.”
In the midst of the daily challenges of living with serious mental illnesses, Well Community members cling to God’s goodness, to hope and to grace. “There’s a material poverty, but there’s spiritual richness [at the Well],” Larlee shares. “Many [members] have tried everything else and nothing has worked.”
Larlee says he got into ministry among those whose struggle with mental health challenges “by accident.” But, he insists, it wasn’t an accident. Originally hailing from Canada, Larlee first saw God draw him to serve among those who live with mental illness while studying at Oxford, as he led a lunch ministry aimed at those who’d recently been released from prison. While interacting with those who’d been incarcerated and their families, he got a taste of the spiritual needs of people who deal with these conditions.
Now, as he preaches from time to time at The Well Community, Larlee sees both the spiritual needs of members and the encouragement they bring to him. “I thought I went to help them, but they help me, he shares. “I get so much more from them than I’ll ever give. It’s the economy of God’s kingdom.”
Larlee explains, “When you go to The Well they just love you. The love is so tangible,” he says. “I walk away with such a sense of God’s love. I’m so humbled and glad to be there.”
Members’ uninhibited worship has also made a big impact on Larlee. “There is an abandon to their worship that you don’t see often on a Sunday. There’s a freedom of expression; they’re not worried about being on key, or being too loud or too soft. …They’re much more free to worship Jesus. … There’s a wonderful honesty.”
Larlee mirrors this honesty as he preaches at The Well, noting that preparing a sermon for members requires him to be open about his own challenges—a principle he’s also applied as he preaches at All Saints. “In order to connect, you really have to be transparent. It’s not a matter of giving a great theological sermon. They have to see how it’s changed your life.”
As Larlee shares openly with members of The Well, he continues to be challenged by them. He admits he’s been humbled as he’s listened to them express their spiritual needs. “In my arrogance, I thought I knew what they needed,” he recalls, explaining that it’s easy to make assumptions.
As he’s listened to members, Larlee has been blessed not only with a clearer understanding of members’ needs, but with friendships. “Becoming their friend is a great thing. The reward is the friendships that you make. … The way they love without judging has helped me … more than I could ever thank them for.”
Larlee encourages others who want to be at the heart of what God is doing to join him. “I say come to The Well … There is something of God that happens every time I’m there.”
Volunteering at The Well is a small commitment that has a great impact on the lives of those who deal with mental illness in Oak Cliff. Think you might be interested? Don’t hesitate to get in touch! We would love to answer your questions and find the best place for you to use your unique gifts. Contact us.
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