Of Meat Cleavers and Murder and Mental Health.

St.John’s Norristown is right in the middle of our town. We are across the street from the courthouse; many of our neighbors are those that are employed there. We don’t get to know too many of those neighbors.

We are closely aligned with many of our other neighbors, those who come to our church for lunch and those that we sit with and minister to at The Hospitality Center next door. We are committed to serving our neighbors, all of them.

Donnas service

Memorial Service for Donna at Norristown Hospitality Center


A few days ago, we led a memorial service for our friend Donna. Donna was a good egg and a good friend to me. I got to know her on the day that she came to Norristown, last summer. She worshipped with us, along with her “boyfriend” Jimmy at St. John’s.

You may have read about how Jimmy murdered Donna on the bridge, apparently incensed because Donna had another friend, and was no longer interested in Jimmy’s attention. They argued, he stalked her and stabbed her. For most of us, we deal with break-ups with sadness and some anger, but not violence.

On the day following Donna’s service, I spoke with another friend as we sat at the Hospitality Center. He is a handsome and bright young man that has been left behind by his family. Most nights he sleeps at the Transportation Center. The Transportation Center is a favored place for many to bunk. It is dry and somewhat warm. I asked him about the lump on his forehead and the eight or so stitches that tractored through it.

“What happened?”I asked. In a matter of fact way, he replied that (name omitted) had attacked him with a meat cleaver. “You know how he gets, he’s kinda crazy.” “Crazy” may be an accurate observation, but it is not a diagnosis.  

If I have told this story correctly, you should understand two things. First, we came far too close to having another memorial service. Also, there is a fair amount of mental health issues in our neighborhood.

From the outside, most people would define our neighbors at the daily lunch program and at the Hospitality Center as either poor or homeless. Although that may be true, that is not the true defining factor.

Some years ago, I was asked this question. “How do people become homeless?” After offering some hollow and hypothetical answers, I decided to get the truth. I asked that question of many people. “How did you become homeless?” Here is their answer.

You get homeless when you run out of friends and family to help you out.

That is what defines our neighbors and our work and our ministry at St. John’s. Many, but certainly not all, of our neighbors struggle with mental issues.

As they become family to us, we work hard to gain a more compassionate understanding, a fuller knowledge.

Why do I offer this story? Because so many have come to the conclusion that anyone that is in need of a meal, or a place to stay is either lazy or addicted.

That’s not always true. So often these are simply folks that have trouble managing their thoughts and emotions. So much so that they become unmanageable.They have been given up on by their friends and family.