As I am an experiential learner one, of the ways that I teach is through my personal experiences and testimonies of my journey with Jesus. The following excerpt is taken from a paper that I wrote during my season Marylhurst University, while working towards my Masters’ of Divinity.
In a recent season, that imprinted my life for eternity, I was given the challenge by the Holy Spirit to find the DNA of GOD in a man who I nick-named, “Darth Vader.” We met in psychiatric unit lock down city hospital, where I was visiting another patient. The hospital was known as the “arm-pit” of Peace Health’s most recent I-5 west coast corridor acquisitions according to one of the directors at that time. Unfortunately, the psych unit rated among the worst in America. This situation was unprecedented in my experience as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As one who is given the privilege of seeing in the spiritual realm (some call this discernment, others intuition, others a sixth sense), the man was literally covered by demons, that had the appearance of dark slimy shadow reeking with a foul odor, his dark eyes were like an advertisement for a horror movie. He was completely incapable of communicating any of the English language as guttural grunts emerged from his un-kept, un-showered being. Completely appalled by his appearance and behavior, he would have been the last person on the planet for me to engage in conversation. My own introverted personality in conjunction with my heightened fears and anxieties would have never allowed me to even say “hello.” However, here I am in a lock down unit, a very confined small space.
The 1.5 hour commute to the hospital overflowed with my prayers and tears. Upon entering the hospital, I stepped into the elevator filled with very happy people going to the maternity floor – which was followed by an audible gasp…then deafening silence when I requested the floor going to the psych unit. Immediately all eyes dropped to the slate gray elevator floor. After all what do you say to someone going to a psych unit? The group departed from the elevator leaving me alone in the dim shadows of awkward silent rejection, until the elevator opened once again.
Following the sign-in procedures and turning in my vehicle keys, I was escorted to the lock down unit by a nurse who unlocked the door and then locked it again, as soon as I entered the low-light, bleak, stale room. Three patients were in lock down, a young teenage girl, and two men, one younger and one older. It did not feel like a safe place, yet I was determined to accomplish my purposes in that place. I was given a maximum of 5-10 minutes for visiting as this was my first visit, as the nurses observed through thick glass security enhanced windows. The walls were painted dirty white, the worn linoleum floor recently cleaned with bleach as the odor filled the confined space. Three mattresses without sheets or blankets lay on the floor in separate partitions. My skin crawled at the thought of the bugs infesting the mattresses.
Slowly, I moved toward the patient that I was visiting, as the young girl stared aimlessly from her perch in a corner and the older man paced and growled like a caged animal. It was not acceptable to me that this brown-eyed teenager was locked into this place with two men, in less than stable mental states, yet I could not see that I could bring about any change. The nursing staff offered no confidence in their ability to oversee, as their backs were turned and they were sipping coffee and chatting, completely unaware of what was happening in lock down. I wondered if they were required to take coffee breaks during their work time. In my mind, I named the older man, “Darth Vader” because I had never seen anyone so consumed by darkness.
The tall, blonde, blue-eyed young man I was visiting recognized me, but was clearly broken in mind, soul, and spirit. He kept aimlessly turning in a circle repeating continuously his state of confusion and delusion. His pants hanging much lower than normal as his belt had been taken by the staff. I noticed his shoelaces were also missing. The nurse limited my visit to 5 minutes because the other two patients in lock-down were becoming much more agitated.
Returning the way that I came, picking up my keys at the check in station, with tears streaming down my face, I navigated my way to the elevator. It was suggested that I bring sweatpants, socks and t-shirts (no buttons) and shoes without shoelaces for the next day. Pillows were not allowed.
Traumatized, I left the hospital overwhelmed by what I had seen, especially the truly desperate condition of the patient I was visiting. Seven months earlier (March 2005) was his first visit to a psych unit where he stayed for 5 days with a strong recommendation for medication which he rejected due to lack of insurance and advice from a social worker.
At the time, the psychiatrist said that he saw this daily, and given a year on medication to give the brain a chance to rest and heal, that he would be fine. The common causes for a mental collapse included birth trauma (low oxygen), head trauma, and emotional trauma. Even though Jeremy was a college graduate with his own contracting business, he qualified in all areas that likely result in mental brokenness, particularly 4 head traumas throughout his childhood. The consequences of emotional, birth and injury traumas may develop years after the incidents and often compiled with other traumas. In essence, usually it is never really just one isolated event.The medications do not really heal the brain, they simply hold it steady, in a greater state of balance, so that it will heal itself. It was explained to me, "like a cast on a broken leg." Every persons' healing schedule is unique. However, sometimes the people the need the help the most are the last to see what it is they need and/or usually the last to ask.
In the parking lot of the hospital, I sat in the vehicle, sobbing without consolation, purposing to pull myself together, to make the drive home. While praying, the Holy Spirit of God, clearly asked me to find GOD’s DNA in “Darth Vader.” I emphatically declared to the LORD that was completely impossible. The LORD assured me that nothing was impossible with HIM. After much struggle and many tears, I finally relented and agreed to the LORD’s request. It was another one of those countless “YES GOD…no matter what” moments in my life. It seemed like GOD was asking me to find HIS presence, HIS DNA in a human being void of any light and literally oozing with demonic slime. Seriously.
The second day in lock down, things had not improved. I brought the requested sweatpants, socks, t-shirts and slip-on shoes. I learned that the patient I was visiting was being given so much medication that they were taking an EKG daily to make sure his heart was not damaged. That did not set well with me and I can assure you the doctor from Lithuania did not care about any of my concerns.
I was not exactly sure what God meant when HE said that HE wanted me to find HIS DNA in Darth Vader. What exactly does that mean? I did not know. So, the second day as I was done with the 5 minutes of visiting (3 hours of commuting) I turned to Darth Vader, smiled, introduced myself, shook his hand (without a glove), and told him that I was praying for him. His eyes remained dark and void of any connection. Without light or hope.
The third day in lock down. The situation was the same except the young girl was gone, for this I gave thanks. The patient I am visiting is staring into space, speaking in fragmented sentences, crying intermittently, confused, rejected and hopeless. My heart is shattered. During the visit, Darth begins pounding on the nurse’s station viewing window in which they ignore him. He continues to pound on the window, then finally drops his pants and urinates on the floor because the restroom is locked and requires a nurse’s key for him to use it. And immediately, I am escorted out of lock down with loud apologies. My only comment, “Is there not anyone in this place that can do their job?” as I had yet to meet a nurse or doctor that seemed remotely interested in the patients. And I wondered what happened to integrity or kindness as the nauseating odor of urine and stale bleach followed me to the elevator.
Finally, on the fifth day, Darth and the patient I am visiting are moved to the regular ward – now roommates. I have expanded the territory and each day walk through the ward introducing myself to each patient, shaking their hand, meeting their eyes, let them know I am praying for them. For reasons that I don’t know, the nurses continued to mostly ignore me.
As the days turned into weeks, I realized that I needed to drop my course in Hebrew as I was working on my Masters' of Divinity at the time. My children were always viewed as priceless gifts from heaven requiring a high priority in my life. It was a simple choice at the time, support Jeremy and take a Hebrew class later.
By the 18th day, the patients in the ward were waiting for my visit, because some have never had a visitor…the bed-confined man that died on day 15 had not had a visitor in 3 years. Jeremy, the young man I initially visited, and Darth were still sharing a room on the regular psych ward, as they had managed to stay out of lock down (no violence).
On the day that Jeremy checked out (day 19), a family member came to visit Darth – she was his first visitor. After I introduced myself, she then looked at Darth and said, “Darth (not his real name) did you hear that, her name is Jennifer Joy, what a beautiful name?” Darth turned his head slowly, looked at me, and in a cognizant, lucid moment said, “Yes, she brought me joy in here.” I knew his words were a confirmation that my assignment from the LORD was completed. Somehow, through the LORD’s amazing grace, I had given to Darth a shred of hope, a fragment of faith, a piece of goodwill that he could hang on to in one of the darkest moments of his life. The truth is there is goodness in all of us, as we are God’s creation…sometimes it takes a little faith and perseverance to find it.
The antidote to the darkness was seemingly simple, yet it required complete reliance upon God’s strength and courage. Daily, I went into the psychiatric ward, looked for Darth, greeted him kindly with the sound of his own name and shook his hand (without a glove and often placed my left hand over his), looked into his eyes, introduced myself, “Hi, I am Jennifer Joy….Jeremy’s mom” and let him know his life had value. Of course, this was in addition to personal prayer time spent for Darth. Each day during the 3 hour commute, I cried coming and going from the hospital, often stopping in the hospital chapel seeking strength to continue, as the original reason for my visiting the psychiatric unit, was that my own son was in lock-down with Darth Vader. My soul had never known such agonizing pain.
That experience impacted me as no other in relationship to my theology on demonology, deliverance, and the love of Jesus Christ. At the time, it was bar none the most challenging assignment the Holy Spirit had ever given to me, as I intentionally purpose to participate in the advancement of God’s Kingdom on the earth. I remain forever convinced that the unconditional, relentless, love of Jesus Christ who is also known as Yeshua, is the strongest, most powerful force in the cosmos.
June 2019 Note: Often people ask about my son. Following his visit at the hospital in September 2006, he chose to stay with his biological dad. For the next 9 years, Jeremy was in and out of psych units as his dad took him off the medications to make sure that he stayed with him so that he could have the tax benefit. Providing him alcohol, marijuana, cigarettes (the three known worst things for brain injuries), gambling…the lifestyle that destroys one’s mental health. The only time I was permitted to visit Jeremy during those 9 years is when he was in a psychiatric unit, not at his dad's house. In May 2015, during Jeremy’s last time in lock-down, Jeremy signed a document allowing me to be a part of his journey and I began going with him to medical appointments (a six-hour commute) for 3 plus years. In November 2018, Jeremy’s dad died of aggressive brain cancer and Jeremy moved home for the first time in over 20 years. He is now living the non-addict lifestyle and regaining his life through exercise (weightlifting, mountain biking, rock climbing, golfing), eating nutritiously, and intentionally moving forward making decisions for the benefit of his mental health. It is an uphill climb daily. As we are holistic human beings – our spirit, mind, will, soul, emotions, intellect, physical body…are all connected. How we care for our mind affects our soul and body. Trusting daily that GOD will restore all that has been taken from Jeremy and that he will live out the fullness of HIS days with God’s divine destiny and blessings.
Thank you to all that have offered prayers for my three children over the course of these past 24 years in ministry.