Saturday, November 14, 2009

WWJD

This article was written recently by long time clinical pastor, professor and director of the Crystal Cathedrals Counseling Ministry. Jim Kok has been at CCC for 25 years. While this account is about his interactions with a person with mental illness, it is not too dissimilar to a person with a cognitive disability.

Demonstrating the Love of Jesus to a Frightened Young Man

At approximately 12:30, during lunch hour, I was called to the church lobby to talk with a young man who was there needing to be settled down. I went and met Mike. It was obvious to me, as an experienced psychiatric chaplain, that he was confused, frightened, agitated and obviously mentally ill. He was not boisterous, threatening or angry. Mostly upset, but quietly sitting there. He said he was afraid of the medication they insisted he take and so he had run away from the psychiatrist’s office.

He and I spent about forty minutes together and were relating rather well, when the Security man whispered to me that the police were coming. He had left a psychiatric facility, without permission, and his mother was worried about his safety. I was asked if I would try to keep him in the lobby until the police arrived. I agreed, and continued my counseling with him.

About ten minutes later “Mike” spotted the police coming down the sidewalk. With a frightened cry he got up and ran toward the back fire escape. I was right behind him and stopped him as he reached the first step. I wrapped my arms around him and attempted to console him. At that very instant the two policeman entered the stairwell and grabbed for him. Since I had my arms around him I asked them to wait so I could quiet his fears with a prayer. Then I would let them take him. (I imagined we then would all quietly walk to the Police Cruiser and they would return him to where he was receiving care). They refused completely.

Instead the Police grabbed for him and roughly grabbed my arms and tried to pull them off Mike. I kept my arms around Mike and pleaded that they wait a minute so I could calm his fears with a prayer. At the same time I identified myself as a Pastor of the church. While this was happening Mike was quietly standing, embraced by me. He was not belligerent, yelling, fighting or resisting anything. He was just scared.

When I failed to release him I was forcibly pulled off, and told to turn around so that handcuffs could be put on me. I was furiously angry at the way they were treating this frightened, ill young man, and I said so. Mike was roughly pushed against the wall and handcuffed. I was warned that if I did not turn around for my handcuffing I would be thrown to the ground. After that warning, I let him handcuff me.Mike was not a dangerous young man. I had established a relationship with him and he could have, and should have been, gently and kindly taken by the hand and delivered to the police car. If they had paused, respected me, and allowed me to finish my counseling responsibility—the prayer, I could also have assured them he was of no danger.

That was obvious anyway. The volunteers in the lobby could easily testify that he was not a threat, just a confused young man. My job was/is to show the love of Jesus to these sick and frightened people, like Mike, and to see to it they are treated with respect and kindness.Mike had run to the church. He regarded it as a safe and loving place, and that is my job to reinforce that impression. I wanted to create a loving caring atmosphere for him so that he would continue to regard the church as a place of loving kindness.

Instead, he was treated like a dangerous lawbreaker. His lifelong memory of the Christian Church will be of a place where he was roughed up, handcuffed, and treated like a criminal.

I was treated like one too. I was handcuffed, forced to sit on the concrete, pushed into the back seat of a police car, with no leg room. Then I was delivered to the Police Station. There I was given no helping hand to exit the back area even though with my hands cuffed I could scarcely maneuver out of the space. I was then relieved of everything I had in my pockets. My money was counted, I frisked front and back and between my legs, searched, fingerprinted, photographed-front, left side and right side. Next I was taken into a small room, read my rights, warned that I would probably have to pay restitution, and appear in court. Then I was released.

This was one of the most degrading experiences of my life. I had cooperated fully to make sure Mike was there when the police arrived. I stopped his frightened fleeing so the police could take him. I embraced him in a caring manner to say a loving and reassuring prayer with him—which was roughly and crudely denied me.

There was no appreciation, respect, or recognition that I was in a counseling relationship with Mike and caring for him. There was no looking at Mike to see if he was any kind of threat.No act I have ever performed was more clearly and simply expressing and showing the love of Jesus.

Obviously even loving-kindness is not without its risks.

Posted by Pastor Jim Kok on Thursday, October 01, 2009

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