Imanuel Talan, 45, still vividly remembers an experience from November 2010 that strengthened his determination to take care of mentally ill people who had been abandoned by their families.
That moment came when he met Erik, a mentally ill man, who was singing a song that touched his heart.
“Don’t you ever feel tired, working in God’s field,” Erik sang as he belted out the lyric of a popular gospel song.
It was the day after Imanuel had quit his job as a low-wage worker to embark on a new purpose in life.
The verse Erik was singing reassured his uneasy heart about dedicating his life to caring for the mentally ill.
Together with his wife, Trisna Santi, 41, and nephew Ady Senge, 27, Imanuel runs the Rumah Peduli Sahabat Kasih shelter in Cisauk district, Banten, where the mentally ill residents are treated like family. They are bathed, sheltered, cared for and given the same meals that Imanuel and Trisna prepare for themselves and their five children.
“I don’t want anyone who lives here — my kids or the residents — to feel that they are less important than anyone else,” Santi said.
The shelter receives very little help from the district or provincial administrations, relying solely on donations to pay for operational expenses — such as electricity and clothing — to care for its 21 residents.
Imanuel hopes to provide a better home for the residents to recover from their mental illness, believing that “the better the environment, the faster the recovery.”
Rio for example, barely spoke when he arrived at Sahabat Kasih, but now he is able to communicate and even play table tennis better than Imanuel.
“We never planned to live like this. This is God’s will. God owns this house. I just serve Him here,” Imanuel said.