For those unfamiliar with a home teacher, the idea is to have everyone visited in the ward, whether they come to church or not. The home teacher often offers a short spiritual thought. I believe home teaching is based on D&C 20:47, “And visit the house of each member, and exhort them to apray bvocally and in secret and attend to all cfamily duties.”
It’s a nice idea in theory, but in practice, home teaching is quite often something that doesn’t get done very often. I suspect the average ward completion percentage for home teaching is about 50%. Usually, people just get too busy to do home teaching each month, but not always. Home teachers are not always welcome. In my previous ward, I was assigned to a part-member family (the husband was an inactive member, the wife was a non-member.) When I got to the door with my partner, we introduced ourselves as the home teachers. The wife told us at the door that they didn’t go to church, didn’t want to go, and didn’t want us to come back. I handed her a plate of cookies my wife had prepared, and wished her well. I reported back to my Elder’s quorum president the exchange, and he told me they would try to have a neighbor become their home teacher on an informal basis. I had an even more unusual experience today.
Our ward realigned ward boundaries a few months ago, and we got a new bishopric, as well as a new Elder’s quorum presidency. With all the changes, I had a few months in which I was not a home teacher. I was given my list of 3 families to visit. Two of the three families were fairly active. The other name on my list was just a name, I’ll call Ted. In December, our bishopric asked all home teachers to pick up a 2 liter bottle of root beer to distribute to our families. While I distributed mine, my home teacher did not deliver one to my family (so I picked one up myself in January.)
I visited the apartment of Ted in December. He wasn’t home; an older woman (who I assume must have been his mother) answered the door in a walker. My list showed Ted had not been visited in over a year. The woman said Ted was not there right now, thanked me for the root beer, and explained that she would have invited me in, but she was sick and didn’t want me to get sick. I asked if she preferred I stop by unannounced or set appointments, and she said it was ok to drop by in the future. She explained that they didn’t go to church very often, and Ted often worked Sundays, but I was welcome to stop by again. (Normally home teachers have partners, but I haven’t been assigned a partner yet.)
So, I dropped by again today to meet Ted. He didn’t invite me in, but we talked on the cold porch for about a half hour. I soon realized as I talked to Ted that he was mentally ill. He confirmed my suspicions when he told me that he heard voices, had anger issues, and suffered from depression. I asked if he lived there with his mom, and he confirmed that he did. He explained that he could afford to live in the apartment by himself, but her social security check made it easier to make ends meet. He said that when the time comes for his mother to die, he might go live in a mental health facility. He mentioned that he made a living on disability checks–he had been declared mentally disabled due to depression.
In the half hour I talked to Ted, he told a series of strange, but probably true stories about his life. He had been married once, but left an unfaithful wife. In response, he got drunk at a bar, and was angry enough to fire a gun. It was unclear to me if he was merely firing the weapon at someone or not, but he was arrested and spent time in the LA County jail, where he was physically assaulted by inmates (I’ll spare some gruesome details.) This is what caused his “anger issues.” He also mentioned that he was surprised that a mentally ill person could get a gun in California, and then proceeded to fear that Pres Obama was going to take away his gun. (If anyone needs a gun taken away, it is this man.)
While he had some pretty colorful language he was friendly enough. He asked where and when church was, and said he would like to come. However, when he learned that church meets at 1 pm, he didn’t like that time of day. He has a sleeping disorder, and often is asleep at that time of day.
While we all need God in our lives, I’m not sure that church is a good place for this man to be. The thought crossed my mind to invite him to church (before he volunteered to attend), but after hearing all these rambling statements, I did not feel I wanted to expose my family to him. It is obvious he needs serious mental health help.
I’m not sure how to help this man as a home teacher. I guess my inclination is to visit him monthly, and listen to him, but I have no idea how to handle the situation. He seems quite unstable, and I feel like he has the potential to cause harm to church members–frankly I didn’t like hearing that he owned a gun and had anger issues. He was very rambling in his conversation. So, the question comes to mind, “What would Jesus do?” Aside from heal him of his mental illness, I have no idea. Any input is appreciated.