This has certainly been a year to remember! As Living Well entered its 6th year of ministry in September, we really had no idea what was ahead and the impact it would play on all of our mental health. We are incredibly grateful for a church that not only sees the importance of caring for our mental health but also provides resources to do such a thing.
This year we have also been incredibly grateful for the value that our BC government also puts on caring for your mental health in the way of education and support groups. As a result, Living Well has been able to continue to meet both in person and via zoom throughout this entire year.
We have asked a few of our participants to share what this year has been like for them:
God is working through me every day and I know that there are good days and difficult days, and He sees it all and helps me make better choices and helps me grow into an apprentice of Jesus and I am grateful that He is with me as it gives me a sense of peace and lightness. Being a part of Living Well has given me a sense of community and that I am not alone. It also gives me a safe place to be no matter how I am doing. I know that when I am there I am surrounded by a loving and caring group that gives me encouragement and hope.
I feel like God has given me so many means of “community”! Living Well, Apprentice Group, Life Group, counseling, and the North Langley church family to help me with my journey with God. God has given me freedom and even though I have my highs and lows I know I am not alone, and he surrounds me. “God is my strength when I am weak” and I try to remember that quote in my day-to-day life.
And here’s what Brandon had to say:
Being a part of this ministry has personally changed and affected me in pretty much every area of my life. The way I think, act, and do things have all changed. I think back to when I was a new Christian and I had bought a book from the Christian bookstore. It was titled “WWJD”. Which stands for “What Would Jesus Do?” I ask myself this very question all the time. When something goes unexpectedly… When I don’t know what to do… When I am uncertain… When I feel like I can’t find any direction in my life. I Pray and ask myself… “What Would Jesus Do???” Another way being a part of this ministry has personally changed me or affected me is by helping me with my fear. One huge fear in my life that I deal with on a daily basis is my brain tumour. I had a brain tumour removed over 10 years ago and this is constantly on my mind. I was told that it would most likely grow back, and this scares me a lot. I almost died getting through the surgery to have it removed. I Lost part of my vision, lost my short-term memory and had to learn how to talk and walk all over again. I don’t want to have to go through this again. Being a part of this ministry has very much helped me change into a worry free man and has affected me throughout my journey with God!
And lastly, we asked Andrea to also share from her perspective as someone who is caring for others with mental health challenges:
I came to Living Well about three and a half years ago. The year prior to that, I faced the crisis of a loved one suffering a mental health breakdown. At that time, I had gone to a Canadian Mental Health Association peer support group which was a tremendous blessing, similar to Living Well but without the prayer and direct acknowledgement of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. In addition, I had taken the peer support group facilitator training with Sanctuary Ministries, a Christian mental health organization. I was becoming well equipped in this new world of mental health challenges, and I wanted to be able to support others on what is a highly tumultuous journey.
However, as the life of my loved one continued careening, and I likewise careened through tears and confusion and a great sense of recurrent loss, I knew I needed more support than I was strong enough to give. Heartbreak is not fixed by education alone. I needed some stability, a place of refuge, somewhere I could lay it all out and make sense of it ... or not make sense of it, but at least know those around me could handle the story and not expect me to put all the puzzle pieces together. Really, I needed a place to cry, to share, to listen, to pray.
I was so thankful to learn of Living Well as a Christian, faith-based support group within an easy driving distance. The first months of attending Living Well, I was in great anguish pretty much every meeting but by the end of each evening, I experienced renewed strength from listening to others, sharing myself, and praying together. The second year, I gobbled up all the educational pieces as well as experiencing renewed strength in the fellowship of each meeting. The third year, I had a love-hate relationship with the meetings - I hated that I needed to spend time like this, but I loved that I could spend time in community, and always left refreshed.
This year, I have loved the broadening of our support group as due to public health restrictions on gatherings we have been together the whole night as a whole group, rather than breaking out - those with lived experience and those living with a loved one who has lived experience. This works better for our Zoom/in-person hybrid, but more importantly, it feels so whole and I love each and every member of our support group. Of course, I still very much appreciate the educational piece of every meeting, too. It is remarkable to have the calibre of professionals coming in to speak with us on salient topics with such practicality and compassion. It is a safe place. It is a safe community. It is a place of story and healing.
I am so thankful to Suzie and Calvin for facilitating so lovingly and authentically. I am very thankful to the professionals who give of their time and expertise. I am thankful to the North Langley Community Church for valuing and supporting this ministry that welcomes us. Praise be to God for the gift of Living Well, where our hope is restored and strengthened through Christian fellowship that is grounded in Christ and a well-balanced approach to mental health. Has God answered my prayer? Yes, finding a place to flounder and flourish while being accepted and loved and helped is an answer to prayer. Thank you very much.