The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Finding acceptance

In this castle, everyone is treated royally

Mark Paradise is sweet on Barbara, but they haven't gone out on a date yet. Betty Lewis sometimes peppers her conversations with rock song lyrics. Tim Wills, 71, misses his mom.

Marcia Sellers (center), a member of
Marcia Sellers (center), a member of Christ the King Lutheran Church, Centerville, Ohio, asks Betty Lewis what she'd like to drink during a Thanksgiving celebration at The Castle, a nonprofit day-care center for mentally ill adults.

They're not so different from anyone else, yet they share a bond that makes some people retreat. They are mentally ill.

It's not unusual for the mentally ill to be misunderstood or shunned, but for the pastor and congregation of Christ the King Lutheran, Mark, Betty, Tim and others like them are a blessing. More than a year ago, parishioners extended their hands and hearts to The Castle, a nonprofit day center for mentally ill adults near Christ the King in Centerville, a suburb of Dayton, Ohio.

Every weekday, 30 to 40 adults gather at The Castle to share a meal, do chores, exercise, make crafts, learn computer skills and just hang out with people like themselves — and with staff and volunteers who accept them.

"[They] have feelings, big hearts and want to be loved," said Dona Johnson, Christ the King's pastor, who explained that some have schizophrenia, bipolar disorders or both. "They want to feel the care from one human being to another. They are heavily medicated. Sometimes the medication or the effects of the medication are sometimes even worse than the disease. And so they do need a place where they can interact and be cared for with compassion and God's mercy."

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February issue


Embracing diversity