Sat, May 25, 2024

Faith Friday: Overflow

Steve Swanson is the former station manager of 88.3 WAFJ radio station in North Augusta.

Overflow was birthed out of great pain, but now is sustained by God’s strength fueling the fire of this work and by great purpose. So, I’m thankful for that. Not thankful that we lost our son or for any of that, but I am so thankful that we serve a God who can take excruciating pain and use it for his glory and our good. To be able to encourage us to continue to take steps regardless of what we’re going through.” That’s how my conversation began with Terry Lee, the founder of the Overflow Foundation based in Aiken.

Where did the name come from? “Overflow was the name of my son, Phillip Jr.’s first music CD released in 2017. He was a professional singer/songwriter. One of the most talented and well-rounded individuals I’ve ever known.” His CD cover photo shows a flood in downtown Augusta and illustrates the theme. Phillip opened for acts like Darius Rucker and the Steve Miller band. He had also signed a promotional deal with a company based in California. It seemed his career was off and running. Although Phillip ended his life in 2018, Terry Lee says, “It (his music) is still having an influence. That magnetic personality is still very much a part of people’s lives, even five years after the death of Phillip.

Terry Lee experienced loss early in her life. She became a Christ follower when she was 13. Just four years later, she lost both of her parents in a car accident. In 2012, Terry Lee’s younger son, Rick, incurred a traumatic brain injury. Even through these extremely painful times, she knew God was with her. That foundation of faith has provided her with invaluable strength.

I wanted to know if she thought it was getting easier for folks to acknowledge mental health struggles. Her response? “I believe it’s becoming easier. I believe it’s been one of the most difficult eggs to crack. But there are more people than I’ve ever seen working on this platform of mental health and substance use disorder. Which is another reason for hope I believe. The more we can decrease stigma and normalize the importance of mental health as well as physical health, that makes it easier for people to address it and say it’s OK, if I’m not OK. It’s not OK, if I don’t get help.”

Terry shared this sobering statistic. “At least one in five individuals will have a diagnosable mental health challenge in any given year. It’s closer now to probably one in three or one in four, including children and youth. We’ve trained almost 2,000 individuals in our community. We teach at USC-Aiken, Aiken Tech, and Aiken public school districts. We’ve been teaching coaches, teachers, and guidance counselors. Anybody that will come. It’s phenomenal because it’s leading some of the participants to take their next steps toward counseling.”

I asked Terry what she says to spiritual people who think they shouldn’t have any kind of mental issues because they follow Jesus. “I go back to the biology of the human body in that it’s OK for us to have gall bladder disease or heart disease, the heart being an organ of the body. The brain is an organ of the body also, so why should it not get sick? Our mental health is not an indicator of our spirituality or spiritual well-being or anything else. I think that’s Satan’s way of trying to keep people away from being transparent and reaching out to get the help that they need.”

Overflow’s origins began two months after Phillip Jr. died. Terry went to Anderson, SC, and took a class called “Mental Health First Aid.” That day, she determined to become an instructor. She didn’t share her story with her class instructors that day.  She was afraid they would tell her it was too early in her grief journey to be there. A short time later, she traveled to Nashville and took the instructor course. In addition to the training she received, that class trainer has become a lifelong friend and encourager. She says, “One of my goals is for as many people in Aiken County and the Augusta area (across the CSRA) to be trained in mental health first aid, as well as CPR. If we can respond to a medical emergency, why not to a mental health emergency?”

Terry said God led the foundation to this foundational verse. Romans 15:13: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. “We are a faith-based organization. We don’t make any apologies for that. We believe ultimately that’s where our hope and strength come from.”

At just the right moment in her grief journey, God brought Kay Warren (she and her husband, Rick co-founded Saddleback Church in California) into Terry Lee’s life. Rick and Kay had lost their 27-year-old son, Matthew to suicide. She shared these insightful and comforting words, “You did what you knew to do, when you knew to do it.” The Warrens became a lifeline of hope to the Lees.

Terry shared this insight- “The loss of a child by suicide or murder is the pinnacle of grief. It’s the most complicated type of grief. Not to minimize any other type of loss. Because there are unanswerable questions. It makes it very complicated and difficult, so it requires some special care to be able to figure out how to move forward.”

There have been many lessons learned along the continuing journey of grief for Terry Lee. One of them is, “A greater transparency with life and relaxing in the moments and not having quite so many expectations of myself, and that’s been wonderful.”

Overflow provides many resources as they focus on their goal of “Pouring hope into life.” They are also available to share a message of hope with your church, civic organization, business, or school.

Reach out directly to Terry Lee, Overflows Founder and Executive Director-

National Suicide Prevention Line 988
Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Crisis text line: text HOME to 741741

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