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A Friendship Bench is quite literally a park bench—with a higher calling. In Zimbabwe, friendship benches are located on the grounds of medical clinics around major cities. They're a safe place where trained community members counsel folks struggling with what they, in the local Shona language, call kufungisisa ("thinking too much") or what Americans call depression.

Dr. Dixon Chibanda, a psychiatrist at the University of Zimbabwe, came up with the name Friendship Bench back in 2006. In Zimbabwe, as in most places, there's a lot of stigma around mental illness. Chibanda figured out that while people were hesitant to head to a mental clinic and speak with a medical professional about their mental health, they were generally willing to sit on a park bench and share their worries with someone within their own community. At these benches, community counselors and patients meet weekly to discuss intimate issues—and develop a plan to overcome difficulties.

The strategy seems to be working. According to a study that tracked 573 patients with anxiety or depression for a six-month period, only 13 percent of those who participated in the Friendship Bench program still had symptoms of depression. Maanvi Singh, "The Friendship Bench Can Help Chase the Blues Away," NPR (1-10-17); submitted by Van Morris, Mt. Washington.

Who is on your "bench" encouraging you in your walk with Jesus?

Blessings- Pastor Jon