Platform: What I’ve Learned through Advocacy
By Christine Van Farowe
Clayton Brown, my friend and a devout Christian man living on Cleveland’s west side, desires two things: a loving, Christian wife, and a job. For most of us, these are attainable. When you have schizophrenia and no one to advocate for you, it is nearly impossible.
I met Clayton more than ten years ago. He rang the parsonage doorbell and asked if I wanted to buy any of his “stuff” so he could buy food. He had drinking glasses from amusement parks and sports teams, VHS movies, magazines, and bad vinyl records. I told Clayton I wouldn’t buy his stuff, but I would send him home with some food. Thus began our friendship.
At the time, Clayton was working for a mechanic who was “advocating” for Clayton and his mom. The “advocate” would cash their disability checks and pay some of their bills. I spent years trying to convince Clayton that he was being used for his money. It wasn’t until their house foreclosed, he ran out of food again, and his mom became a ward of the state that he allowed me to step in.
I am now Clayton’s representative payee—a person who helps manage the finances of others. Had I not stepped in for him, he would be homeless right now. Clayton and I meet a couple of times a month to discuss his financial needs. We try to get lunch at Wendy’s a few times a year.
I am blessed that the Lord brought Clayton in my life. He is a true friend, often asking about my family. Clayton has also taught me about how society still views so many people as disposable; we rarely make room for persons with mental disabilities. Through this relationship, I have learned how to “love my [different-from-me] neighbor.”
Had I not met Clayton, I never would have realized the passion I have for those needing advocates. Had I not met Clayton, I don’t think I would be worshipping God with my feet, hands, and voice the way I am today. How can God use you to advocate for someone in your community?
Clayton is still seeking a wife to love and a steady job. My prayer for him is that he finds all the happiness in Christ that the Lord has for him.
Christine Van Farowe and her husband, Dean, have served for 14 years at Calvary Reformed Church in Cleveland, Ohio, where Dean pastors. “Platform” gives RCA members a chance to share their opinions.