This is another response to a Pastor that we are working with that has asked questions about working with homeless people in Arkansas and running into a lot a mental instability/suicidal stuff:
Finally getting around to your question. Sorry! I have to admit that this is such a broad question that there is no complete and right answer to it. Every situation is different. There are many general rules to use as guide lines but none of them work every time. Except the ones that you already know.
Get them to Jesus is first and foremost, BUT how, is another story. If they will come to church great. Have the best JESUS services that you can and let them absorb that over time until they surrender to The Lord and His will.
Constant interaction with saints is another basic but pure response. People that love unconditionally, correct carefully and don’t sin or approve of sin. This is generally a side of God’s humanity that they are not very familiar with. It is refreshing and often life changing for them.
After that, it gets tricky. Be very leery of over medicated people. There are more of them than the ones that are not. Study medications. Not just on google and Facebook and shallow stuff like that. Really study them. Don’t start telling people to flush their meds if you don’t know what you are talking about. Don’t just quote something from the pulpit that you heard on the Drudge Report or something. If you are going to be an expert, the first thing you must do is become one.
Suicide is also very careful business. Most suicide “attempts” are for attention purposes only. But you better know what you are doing because one mistake can cost an eternity.
For example: There are some suicide attempts that are almost never genuine, there are some that are rarely genuine, there are some that are often genuine and there are some that must be assumed to be genuine.
ie. Wrist cutting is the most commonly talked about and “attempted” form of suicide. But I will let you in on a little secret. I have dealt with dozens, probably hundreds of suicide attempts and I do not know of anyone who has “successfully” killed themselves by cutting their wrists. Zero! It is almost always a sign of emotional attention problems and it is almost never a serious attempt at taking ones own life.
Things like overdosing on pills, taking poisons and attempting to drink oneself to death are a little more serious and a little more commonly successful.
Jumping out in front of a train, shooting oneself, jumping off a bridge, etc. these are even more serious and even more commonly successful.
The number one successful form of suicide that must be taken gravely serious is hanging.
You must also remember that when dealing with American homeless people, almost every one of them is homeless because of an addiction. They will talk about their job problems, family problems, society, government, etc. but they are homeless because they have an addiction and can’t obey rules.
The ones that do not fit this category are the ones that you suggested in your question. The mentally unstable.
This category is broken up into 3 groups. Those that are clinical, which is most likely the smallest group. (Though the doctors and the government treat them as the largest group). Those that are mentally unstable because of the medications that they take, abuse or are mis-prescribed to them (This probably being far and away the largest group). And those that are possessed. And of course do not forget the possibility of many of them being a combination of these groups.
If they are addicts. Then you deal with them based on our addiction teachings that are on our website, in our teachings, all over the web, etc. Addicts are the most selfish amongst us and the selfish cycle must be broken by helping them get to rock bottom as soon as possible. This of course is done by removing all of the enabling. When they hit their real rock bottom, then they have a choice that has to be made and hopefully they choose Christ. Also, hopefully, you have been Christ like enough and around them enough that when they need help being discipled on HOW to serve Him, they contact you.
If they are possessed, and you continue to follow the Biblical rules of engagement and you and your ministry are filled with the Holy Spirit of God, they will manifest and it is a matter of taking authority over them and casting them out, thus freeing the individual to choose a new master. Again, Christ, with your help.
If they are truly mentally unstable, with a retardation or brain damage or something, all you can do sometimes is love them, befriend them and make sure that they get the needed services. They are God’s special children and they should not be homeless and they are generally very abused when they are. God will bless you for caring for them.
If they are temporarily mentally unfit due primarily to abuse and over prescribing of medications….this is the hard one. Primarily you can love them, befriend them and gain some trust. Next you want to advise about and possibly even call into question certain aspects of their medical and medication history. Informing them with the best and most accurate facts that you can. Knowing that at some point you are going to cross their doctor, case worker, etc. (So you better be right). All the while trying to love them and continue to gain their confidence because if they are coming around saints, services, etc there are always chances for them to get saved and or delivered from their prescription abuse. Then you have a whole new person on your hands to work with.
Warning: Many will get saved and still be addicted to their prescriptions. This is a very delicate balance. You need to seek to be in contact and even know personally the doctors, clinical nurses, EMT’s, parole officers, judges, etc in your area. This is something that we always teach here at HMA for reasons just like this. You don’t want to send them to any doctor, therapist, etc. Most of them are the type of person that helped get your new convert hooked in the first place.
I cannot stress this enough. YOU NEED TO KNOW YOUR STUFF! If you want to be in the ministry in 2017, not just have a pulpit and belong to a fellowship or a denomination, Pastor a church, preach some meetings…..But be involved in real new testament Biblical ministry. You need to apply effort to learn the tools of the trade. Bible, Bible application, counseling, relationship studies, drugs, addictions, and on and on and on.
Too often I hear, “I don’t know about these things Brother Sloggett, can you take care of this for us? We just don’t understand.” It is one thing to BE ignorant of something, it is another thing to STAY ignorant of it. The information is available but you have to want it more that you want to play video games, have parties and attend events. This is no reflection of you personally. You are actually doing the right thing. But I am answering in general of course.
I hope this is helpful my friend. If you have anything more specific, I can probably get a little more detailed. God bless you!
Your humble servant,
Rev. D. Todd Sloggett