Parodies Help Many Mentally Ill Australians
Thu., Jul. 24. 2014 12:03am EDT
In our preamble in this week's newsletter, we shared part of an email we got from a fan in Australia. Here's the rest of the incredible story:
Seeing your last email news had two comments from Australia, here is another from yet another state in Australia:
Just after the release of Biblical Graffiti (1999), I became involved in a Churches Disability Support Network. Name is a bit misleading as the largest group of people we became involved with are those with a mental illness. I also see an increasing number of people with an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI).
One person I got to know was Alex, who had been knocked off his bike by a car. Not long after he experienced seizures for the first time in his life and was diagnosed with clinical depression. This later changed to paranoid schizophrenia, he was granted a Disability Pension, no longer able to work. Today his diagnosis is just bi-polar.
Alex had been a bright student, brilliant guitarist. However, after accident his memory was affected to the extent that when he tried to read even song sheets with chords on, his brain couldn't process information quick enough or he would just forget what the chords were. Nevertheless there were certain favourite songs he could instinctively still play and he had a really good voice.
He desperately wanted to be able to play and sing in church environments, but frustrated by his limitations. After praying about this, another guy I got to know Rowan told us he had heard "Amazing Grace" sung to "House of the Rising Sun." This became Alex's signature tune (one of the tunes he could play instinctively). Rowan has since gone to be with the Lord, his life taken early by a condition known as Huntingtons (same one that took life of Woody Guthrie).
I then started to search the Internet for other Christian songs to popular music and stumbled across your parody of "Proud Mary" (Alex's favourite song) and ApologetiX. Some of the songs he could play/sing instinctively were songs you parodied on Biblical Graffiti and earlier releases.
I, too, am a singer/guitarist and work within the Network with people on the music front. Singing/music is increasingly seen as important in recovery from mental illness. Today we have a pool of singers, musicians all with either a mental illness, ABI or disability that get all sorts of opportunities to perform. They perform under the name of Through The Roof. Who performs depends on who is available at the time, sometimes that means who is well on the day.
The early songs we sang were a lot of your early parodies. Initially for the likes of Alex and others with memory problems, but then parody songs sort of caught on. Initially I thought of them as outreach songs, creating the opportunity to share the Gospel. But as I listened to some of the people sing them with their whole heart, I realised that you if want people to worship the Lord with their whole heart, you need to let them sing to Him, about Him with the music that's in their heart (the same music you play).
Over time we have unearthed some songwriters, still mostly parody. We're not always as clever as J. with our lyrics, in more recent times have concentrated on simply putting Bible passages, Psalms to anything from 50's to current music. A pastor friend of mine who has spent some time in India tells of only 30 percent literacy in some rural areas. So how do people find out what's in God's word and revisit it ? Songs that they sing over and over, that stick in your mind. The literacy issue is significant too for a number of our people.
It's staggering to think of the number of people that have been touched by those involved in Through The Roof over the years. The people that have come to faith in Jesus, those that have recommitted their lives. Although we do sing at churches, predominantly we go and sing often where no other Christians go. Particularly at the accommodation facilities where a lot of the people live. On the street, a number of the people busk; hospital mental health wards; rehab facilities; church outreach initiatives without musicians; and refugee group churches without musicians.
One of our vocalists, Chen, a Vietnamese War refugee suffered a stroke at a young age when he first arrived in Australia. As a result his right hand was a permanent tight fist. When we first went to where he lived, we acted out the Good Samaritan and sang some songs round story. Somewhere in the middle of one of the songs his hand opened up. He turned to Jesus from a Buddhist background. Today he sings some verses and chorus from some of your songs in Chinese, Vietnamese.
Our Network doesn't have the transport resources to get everyone that wants to go to church on Sunday (and needs transport assistance) to church. So a local Salvos Church has a big day of a Tuesday when we can access additional transport resources. Tuesday is church for a lot of our people.
A Rotary Group from Dallas, Texas was visiting Melbourne and came one Tuesday to do a barbeque for the people. Some, groups, businesses come of a Tuesday to help out but are a bit surprised at what they find as they share/interact with the people. Especially after lunch when the music starts up.
If you can imagine our friends from Dallas after a bit of enthusiastic encouragement, suddenly finding themselves on stage with the band singing ApologetiX songs (that maybe they hadn't heard before although they lived in U.S.). God works in strange and wonderful ways.