My discharge from the rehab hospital 5 years ago…

“Why the **** can’t I stop shaking?” my friend sniffled, tears running down her cheeks and into a mass of unbrushed raven hair. “They’re messing with me, I’m tellin’ you.” She laughed and swept a strand of hair from her eyes, then resumed crying. “The voices are messin’ with me.” 

“I’m so sorry,” I whispered. I knew exactly how she felt. My friend and I both have schizoaffective disorder – a mental illness where we see and hear things that others don’t – and we both can tremble convulsively during acute episodes, sometimes for up to 45 minutes. Medication and therapy are long term solutions, but there’s no cure for the disorder, and short episodes can be frightening. 

“None of my coping skills are **** working!” She muttered as her body shook more violently. Then I realized that I had one resource my friend did not. 

I tried to swallow my own panic at what I was about to do. 

“I’m so sorry this is happening and – you can totally say no – but can I pray for you right now?” I held my breath. We weren’t supposed to upset an already agitated patient. 

“Sure.” She didn’t take her eyes off the table in front of us. “I need all the help I can get.”

Please Lord, have mercy on us, I prayed silently. Then I laid my hand on my friend’s shoulder and prayed for God to show his power and love by healing her shaking, and to use the episode to show my friend he was with us and cared about her personally. She stopped shaking before I finished praying.

“Wow. It really worked,” she said after my “Amen.”

This weekend marks five years since I was discharged from the rehabilitation hospital after my original accident, and one month since my last inpatient hospitalization for schizoaffective disorder. I’ve been hospitalized three times in the past three months, in order to obtain the correct diagnosis and medication plan, for a total of twenty-seven days. Needless to say, this is not where I’d planned to be five years after my accident. 

In some ways, being diagnosed with a mental illness feels like more of a failure than my seizure setbacks, although that’s not true. Schizoaffective disorder is often genetic; while I don’t have a notable family history of mental illness, doctors think mine is caused by my traumatic brain injury. But personal feelings aside, God has used this second round of hospitalizations to open my eyes to a group of unreached people who need the love of Jesus.

Praying for my friend wasn’t an isolated opportunity. I estimate that I’ve shared my faith with at least thirty people, this fall and winter. During my second hospital stay in November I heard a patient asking for a Bible, only to be told the facility didn’t have any. Thanks to my parents, we were able to donate Bibles to each of the units and even delivered them on Thanksgiving Day! Returning to the hospital a few days before Christmas took a heavy toll on me emotionally and spiritually, but it made me happy to see that the Bible on my unit already had plenty of wear and tear and was being read almost daily. 

My personal Bible, followed by the ward’s Bible, was actually my easiest access point to sharing my faith with friends and new acquaintances. I happen to have a Bible with a pretty cover: People mistook it for a journal, and some would stay to read a passage after they learned their mistake. “I’d buy a Bible if it looked like yours!” one friend joked in November. In December I did give another friend my personal Bible during my last hospital stay. 

The unit’s new Bible was also a wonderful access point. It was in high demand, both as an object of curiosity and as serious reading material; once word got out I was a Christian, people began asking me to recommend passages to read. The unit Bible was so popular, in fact, that I had to scramble for a chance to read it on my own in December. 

My dad recently asked me why I thought the Bibles were so popular – and why people were so ready to listen to the good news about Jesus. I don’t know for sure. Perhaps God put me in the right place at the right time on three separate occasions. But if I had to guess, I’d say people in a mental health facility might hunger for the light and love of Jesus in a way that’s deeper and more vulnerable than someone who isn’t locked in a facility with no visitors – or even windows. I don’t have a perfect answer for Dad’s “why?” question but I know what I saw and experienced. I believe God has some future work for me to do with these dear, nearly-inaccessible people, and I pray that God gives me wisdom to learn how to serve their community as I look forward to the future:

“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” ~ Romans 10:14

19 thoughts on “Unreached.

  1. Grace,
    How my heart aches for your ongoing issues and continuing hospitalizations, but what a powerful voice God has given you in sharing so vulnerably the reality of walking with him through dark days. Now, because of your willing, servant’s heart, he is sending you as a missionary to those who are hungry for the Hope and life only He can bring. Thank you for sharing so honestly as you have greatly encouraged me once again to see God’s hand in such undesired circumstances. This reminds me of the Piper quote I recently reread: “In every situation and circumstance of your life, God is always doing a thousand different things that you cannot see and you do not know.” Praying He continues to strengthen you and use you for His glory as He clearly has been doing!
    Susan Burlini

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind encouragement – and for sharing the quote! I know you are fighting your own battles each day and really respect your fortitude. As for me, I’m a flawed and broken instrument, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to witness for Christ and watch his Spirit work in the lives in the mental health community!

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      1. Thank you so much. I have recently become acquainted with 3 missionaries through the 2 churches I attend, 2 serving in Papua, New Guinea, and 1 serving in Zambia. How thankful I am for their Faith, love, and courage to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth as the Scriptures prophecy. After reading your story, I realize that we are each called to be missionaries, even if we never travel to another country. It is not about traveling to remote locations, but about reaching the needy, the often forgotten and hidden, those who perhaps need the Gospel most of all. You have answered this calling. I pray for us All to recognize and heed this calling, no matter where we are, who we are, or what circumstances we find ourselves in.
        I have hope that despite my mental weaknesses God will provide a Spiritual path for me to serve Him, also.
        Thank you. I Believe that you are helping and reaching more souls than you even realize.
        God Bless.

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      2. Amen! I’m glad to know that you feel the call to serve and spread his word right where you’re planted. May his power be made perfect in your weakness. ❤

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  2. You are not where you thought you’d be 5 years after your accident. More so, you are not where you thought you’d be 5 minutes before the accident. But God is using you for good. No, God did not want you to be injured and suffer, but it did happen and God is using you for good. May you find peace in His name.

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  3. I can’t imagine you dealing with another health issue that has required hospitalization. But what a ministry you have had dealing with those who need to know Jesus. I thank you for being His witness in a dark world of unknowns dealing with mental health. There are so many who need Jesus and you are a bright light in their lives. However, I pray for your complete healing. How I would love to hear you are playing your violin again but only the Lord knows in His timing. I know God is with you every moment of every day.

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    1. Thank you so much for your prayers! I’m a very flawed instrument and I’m grateful to be allowed to witness for Christ! I miss violin more than I can say and I look forward to the time when I will have a body that works perfectly again and is able to make music perfectly to glorify God.

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  4. Dear Grace, and Ivan, too,

    Thank you for being willing to be missionaries to the ones God calls you to at any given time. God has turned my own diagnosis into a mission field, and I learned that from my mom when she was diagnosed with cancer. She asked her friends to pray for her as she took the gospel to doctors, nurses and fellow patients. She would also write a new friend’s name on a card (along with the meaning of their name she got from a little book she carried), and added a scripture. Years later, those medical staff still had their cards, and they told me how much those meant. Susan was wise to quote John Piper… God truly is working through the circumstances of our lives to accomplish His good purposes. Thank you for being channels of His love and mercy!

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    1. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story of faithfulness to God’s calling in the middle of suffering! It really blessed me to read it all these years later. Your mother sounds had a very special calling from the Lord accomplish a significant work in the lives of those around her. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Oh Grace, this brings me to tears. Truly faith by hearing and hearing by the Word and you are bringing that as God has led you to not only be there due to circumstances but also your faith being activated in the moment. So honored to share your story and read about your experiences and just know how much you bless Lord Jesus along with these people. Love to you and Ivan always, always miss you. Candace

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  6. I don’t have words… except that you took Jesus with you during your tough times, and God used you, thank you for sharing and being an encouragement to us ( me )

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  7. Grace, thank you again for sharing your heart and pain with us as you’ve encountered another trial and yet remained strong in your trust in the Lord and His unfailing love. Bless you as you share that hope with those God brings into your life. May His steadfast love surround you even in the bleakest times, and we continue to pray for strength and protection for you and Ivan. love, Jan

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  8. What a blessing and wonderful opportunity you have as you live through your issues. God LOVES you!!! We do too!!! Read and Kathy Yeadon

    On Sun, Jan 16, 2022 at 8:50 AM Walking With Grace wrote:

    > graceutomo12 posted: ” My discharge from the rehab hospital 5 years ago… > “Why the **** can’t I stop shaking?” my friend sniffled, tears running down > her cheeks and into a mass of unbrushed raven hair. “They’re messing with > me, I’m tellin’ you.” She laughed and brushed a s” >

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