'Love the Unloved' ministers to men with mental illness

United Methodists in the Midlands are reaching out in Christian love to a group of men struggling with severe mental illness.

Through a ministry called "Love the Unloved," members of Mount Horeb United Methodist Church and others in the community are supporting a residential home for mentally ill adult men.

Located in the tiny community of Monetta, eight miles southwest of Leesville, the home is occupied by 15 men who battle various types of mental illness, from bipolar disorder to schizophrenia.

Cindy Bodie, Mount Horeb member who started the ministry in 2014, said many of the men who live there are disconnected from or forgotten by their families and often feel unloved and unwanted. Her late brother, Steve, was a resident at the facility because of his own severe mental illness issues, and while her family visited him often and sent care packages and financial support, she saw firsthand how many of the other residents were not supported in this way.

It broke her heart and inspired her to help in her brother's memory.

"Very few of the other residents are supported in this way," Bodie said. "It is so sad that these children of God are forgotten by society."

Bodie, Karen Knight and the rest of their ministry team are determined that the men at Monetta are not forgotten.

Once a month, they visit the facility, situated in a remote area in rural Aiken and Saluda counties. Geared up to shower these men with love, they bring dessert and care packages, lead a Bible study and spend the day investing in these men emotionally and spiritually with a goal to help them know they are children of God and loved by Him.

In December, they threw the men a Christmas party with wrapped gifts for each resident, as well as new shoes and toiletry items.

Bodie said the men truly appreciate all they receive.

"They are so grateful," she said, blinking back tears as she describes the way she's seen the residents' lives transform over the years from gloom to new hope in Christ.

"Most of the men who end up in residential places like this are chronically mentally ill and, because of this, very much disconnected from their families," Bodie said, but she noted many people don't realize this.

Felicia Williams, administrator at the facility, said they would never be able to provide some of the blessings that Bodie and the team from Mount Horeb offer.

Local businesses and Sunday school classes have also started supporting the Love the Unloved ministry with financial and other donations. Several United Methodist Women circles and Sunday school classes have given money to help the men. Southeastern Freight Lines donated furniture and living room d├ęcor, Michaelis Mattress gave mattresses at cost, and other businesses also help. Next Step youth ministry at Mount Horeb built them a raised garden bed, enabling many of the men to learn a useful hobby with practical benefits.

Bodie is hoping to inspire people not only to help the men she and her team care for in Monetta, but also to look around them at residential care facilities in their own communities across the state to see if there are people who can use similar love and support.

Jessica Brodie, editor, South Carolina Advocate

One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the World Service Fund is the financial lifeline to a long list of Christian mission and ministry throughout the denomination. Through the Four Areas of Focus churches are Engaging in ministry with the poor with their communities in ways that are transformative.