“God created us all in his image, which is love. I think the problem we have in mental and social health is that we don’t believe we are loved or lovable,” says Pastor Nita Allen of Oak Cliff Christian Church. She adds that we often don’t realize that God loves us intimately and wants us to become like him. Those who’ve been abused or neglected—as is the case for many who live with mental illness—often believe that they’re unwanted because that’s the message they’ve received.
A desire to help others understand they are loved by God is why, for over a decade, Oak Cliff Christian Church has partnered with The Well Community through faithful service and giving. And, many times over, both members of this church and members of The Well have experienced God’s hand through each other.
Their service began after Joel Pulis, the founder of The Well Community, spoke at the church’s women’s group, and this fellowship of believers caught a vision for The Well’s ministry. In addition to giving financial support, when The Well began holding Thursday Night Life, members of the congregation began lending a hand with worship services and meals. “We believed in the mission; we believed in the work,” Pastor Nita recalls, adding that those who aren’t able to volunteer help make the meals possible through the funds they generously contribute.
The church’s service at The Well is centered around helping members understand and experience God’s love through the love of others. Feeling wanted and cared for can make all the difference. “When we believe we are loved, we are capable of loving,” Pastor Nita says. And, understanding God’s love comes through experiencing it through others. “All people, no matter our age, see the hand of God in other people.”
Experiencing this love plays a vital role in meeting the spiritual needs Pastor Nita sees among members of The Well, including needs for acceptance, belonging and value. She clarifies, “Those may sound like emotional needs, but the body, mind and soul are connected.”
While finding a community where needs like these can be met is particularly challenging for individuals dealing with mental health struggles, these needs are universal. And, as Pastor Nita has experienced firsthand, they’re needs that those suffering from mental illnesses can help to meet. As she’s given the message at Thursday Night Life many times over the years, Pastor Nita has been impacted by the way she’s been received by members. “It’s part of the reason I love preaching there. I love how interactive they are. … I appreciate their insights and intuitiveness.” Unlike when she preaches elsewhere, she regularly receives feedback as she speaks, which she values greatly.
When Pastor Nita returned to The Well after some time away following the loss of her daughter, she was touched by the way members remembered her and welcomed her back. In the wake of grief and tragedy, she saw the hand of God through them. She’s far from alone in experiencing God’s love through members of The Well. “There’s not a member of our congregation who’s served at The Well without being ministered to,” she says.
Pastor Nita recalls a time when she and several members of her congregation washed the feet of Well Community members. When they’d finished, the members before whom they’d just knelt stopped them. “We still need to wash your feet,” they said. They proceeded to cleanse Pastor’s Nita’s feet and those of the other volunteers.
“I wept,” she recalls. “Every person there knew of the presence of God in that place.”
Pastor Nita encourages churches to consider serving at The Well. “Take the risk. It’s what Jesus would do. It’s what he did. He touched lepers. We are all lepers in some form; we all need human touch. You are going to be touched. … We’re all in this boat together.”
She adds, “I love The Well. I send people there. I support the people there and I’m grateful we have the opportunity to serve there.”
Thursday Night Life happens because church and community groups are willing to serve. Would you consider signing up your group for a Thursday night? Don’t hesitate to call or email! We would love to answer your questions and find the best time for you to join us. Contact us.
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