Monday, July 25, 2011

Is Life Fair?

Person of the Month

When Life Isn't Fair
A Conversation with Robyn Bloem by Nancy Lovell of T.D. Jakes Ministry

"People who haven't suffered are missing an important dimension of their lives, I believe."
—Robyn Bloem

In 1984, when mental illness and Christianity weren't supposed to mix, Robyn Bloem and her husband were slammed head on with the disease that won't go away with the right verses or a better quiet time. Steve Bloem was freshly ordained for ministry and narrowing the candidates to his first church when "flu-like" symptoms graduated into full-blown depression and eventually bi-polar disease. That's only part of what the Bloem's tell about in "Broken Minds: A Hope for Healing When You Feel Like You're Losing It," a dense blend of personal candor, Christian realism, and professional insight into the problems of mental illness—often aggravated by well-meaning Christians who misunderstand. Twenty-two years down the road, they also head Heartfelt Counseling Ministries a non-profit ministry to the mentally ill and their families.

Here talks all too briefly to Robyn Bloem about unfair blows and why she still believes in a just God.

Robyn, tell us briefly—and I know that's not fair—about Steve's mental illness.
In 1985 while doing his candidating trail, Steve became terribly depressed and for four months we did nothing except try to keep going. I sent him for walks to have his devotions and he'd come back worse. Nothing seemed to work. We came down to the last church we were candidating in before the Sunday they were to vote him in, and he had to tell them he couldn't do it. I had a five year old, a three year old, and a four month old. I looked at the three kids and a father crying, not sleeping, wringing his hands and pacing endlessly and I could only picture the old black-and-white movies of the state hospitals. I was 29 and thought my life was over. And his too. We ended up living with my sister and his brother who are married. Little by little we started to understand that mental illness is a physical illness. And that was 22 years ago.

Who was your husband in those 22 years?
People say to me, "I can't imagine living with a husband who struggles with depression for 22 years." I say he's not gloomy and negative. He's perfectly fine. He's a good husband and a wonderful father all the time except when he's in a depressive episode. And it can last up until three months until we get the medication straight and he's back on track. It's always scary—for him and for me. It's something that overtakes him. He doesn't get a little down, he gets hand-wringing, pacing depressed; he can't even drive a car. But when he's not, he's capable of anything.

As you learned to manage Steve's illness, you put up with a lot of misconceptions in the church—the very place you should be able to expect understanding.

We decided we would try to break the stigma. We openly shared my our mental illnesses. In fact we do a seminar called "Whispers in the Foyer: An Honest Look at Christians and Mental Illness." But the moment we shared that mental illness is a physical illness and what we'd learned, within a week or two the pastor would be back to yelling at people who were depressed and accusing them of being self-centered. But we just kept plugging until Steve and I got the opportunity to write a book, writing from both of our perspectives. It was very cathartic to write about the church and mental illness, the stigma, the misunderstandings, what the bible says, and what people suffering with mental illness need both professionally and personally.

I like that you have so much information into your book. You've learned a lot.
That's thanks to Steve's training. When he first got depressed and a couple of churches said, "We don't want a pastor with a case of the nerves," he applied to do social work. He said at the time that his major was religion and his minor was Greek. They told him he was educated for social work. So he earned his Master of Ministry degree, another degree in social work, and changed his life vocation into becoming a counselor. We've pastored since then, but most of the time he's been in counseling or ministry like now.
I wish that were the only story about unfairness in your life. Will you talk about some of the other events?
For more about the subject of the question, Is Life Fair, when your daughter and granddaughter die, please go to this link, and scroll down to pick up the story.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Fathers tortued for Christ

Some have asked me, "Why do you have helping the persecuted church in your purpose statement?" It is because the persecuted church is composed of born again believers whose suffering is most horrible, indeed.
Many of them spend their lives going in and out of prison because of their faith. They are like those spoken of in Hebrews;

Women received back their dead by resurrection ; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment.They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword ; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated; men of whom the world was not worthy (Hebrews 11:35-38).

The Persecuted Church page on our website is one of the most frequented. It, as do those with mental illness and bereavement, suffer greatl of body, mind and mood. We are commanded in Scripture, Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.
This is found in Hebrews 13:3.

Pastor T, a Mennonite from Ho Chi Minh City, was arrested on June 26, then beaten and taken to an unknown location. Nu, Pastor T’s wife, said her husband left home around 10 p.m. and phoned 15 minutes later to say he was being held at Ward 26 of Binh Thanh District Police Station. Nu and other church members went to the heavily guarded police station, but authorities denied having Pastor T in custody. Nu called out to her husband from a back door, and he responded, “I’m here. They have brutally beaten me. My jaw and hand are broken, and they have shackled my legs and hands. I’m very tired and am in pain.” Nu pleaded with police to let her see her husband, but they refused. Later, she saw him being taken by car to another location. Pastor T’s condition and location are unknown, and his house has been raided. Please pray for Pastor T’s health, and pray that God will strengthen and comfort him and his wife.
Please pray for these Christians. For more information about people who are being persecuted go to:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

CAMI - Christians Afflicted with Mental Illness

Many of you have expressed to Robyn and to me the isolation and loneliness you feel while trying to cope with your “brain storms.” In many places the evangelical church does little to shed light on depression, bipolar disorder, etc. and in other places it actually belittles and mocks those who are mentally ill. Heartfelt Counseling Ministries has an answer to this lack of community and offers solidarity.

It is called CAMI, which stands for Christians Afflicted with Mental Illness. It is for those of us who are true believers in Christ and have a burden for the afflicted or are afflicted ourselves with a mental illness. We have copyrighted the name but it needs explanation.

CAMI Purpose Statement-- - CAMI exists to strengthen those who are spiritually, psychologically and physically impacted by mental illness. We will create a sense of cohesion and community among born again Christians who are affected by depression, bi-polar, schizophrenia, panic and other disorders of mind and mood.

What is CAMI?

God led Robyn and me to start Heartfelt Counseling Ministries in 2003. Since then our book, Broken Minds was published (Kregel, 2005) and through that medium, we have met and spoken to many Christians who are sensing the need for a Christian community to aid and support them as they deal with their own broken minds. We conduct seminars, provide counseling, advocate and educate for the evangelical, biblical and clinical treatment of persons suffering from mental illness. We offer a safe environment, a listening ear and practical help for treatment all the while offering the hope of Christ. There should be no shame or embarrassment; these illnesses are the result of faulty brain chemistry and those who suffer from them are not weak people! We have extended a new helping hand to the global community to aid in our passion for the mentally afflicted Christian. It is a concept and movement called CAMI.

Why Does CAMI Exist?

1. Because Secular alliances of mentally ill people, though they do some good, cannot meet the spiritual needs of Christians who have mental illness, nor minister to their caregivers.

2. CAMI provides a visible, tangible fellowship in local settings; and also makes
possible real interaction in real time in this global village, our world.

3. CAMI provides substantial help and support in training others to start
and conduct CAMI mental illness support groups and evangelistic outreach groups.

4. CAMI will help mentally ill Christians who are often misunderstood to stand tall for Christ and work together in stomping out the stigma that surrounds this type of illness.

What will CAMI look like?

 CAMI will be embraced by local evangelical churches in both national and international settings.

 CAMI will have regional speaking engagements and have an annual conference including speakers and workshop leaders. This includes fund raisers. CAMI will train pastors and lay leaders to start and carry on mercy ministries which will include ministering effectively to the mentally ill population in their churches.

 CAMI will have a substantial ministry of prayer for those who are having problems, needs and concerns with their own symptoms of mental ilness. We will also pray for others who consent to have their prayer requests made known. There will be means of stimulating and faciliting these very important prayer requests. These will include prayer chains by phone, email,facebook, skype, twitter or by postal mail. The level of saturation by prayer will be determined by the parties involved.These prayer requests will be prayed for in an international setting.

 CAMI has eight guiding principles which are found in the CAMI Starter/Leader and Study Guides. They can be emailed to you or sent by postal mail.
Are you interested in starting a local chapter of a CAMI support group?
E-mail us at You can also call us at 616-447-9064

What Should You Do Now?
You should become a member of CAMI. You do not have to be mentally ill to do so.
Pastors, lay leaders and caregivers are also encouraged to become members.