Update: Anabaptist Church’s ministry moves Bronx nurse to tears

Last evening Rich shared an update that left me in tears. It is so beautiful, the doors God opens, and how the care of His children gives the weary frontline workers a safe place:

***Quick report on today’s opportunities to deliver Subway/ DD/deli sandwiches, sodas, box of Joe (DD) and box of hot chocolate to the ER workers at Jacobi Medical Center. Our contact, the director of communications at Jacobi, asked us to meet her at the ambulatory entrance to the trauma center, so we pulled up there and offloaded our food and drinks, enough for about 60 people. Our friends Stan and Sharon from our church made these cool little cards with verses on one side and “If you need prayer” contact information on the back and we taped the cards on the sandwich wrappers. Sandy prayed with our hospital friend who received the food with gratefulness. She said that her father has just been admitted to the hospital this morning, and she talked about the stresses of this time at the hospital. She also took a small packet of masks that our friend Sharon had sewn and told Sandy that they could definitely use these masks for patients and other people who come to the ER.

Our friend Brendan from our church got the Subway sandwiches, so it was a neat team effort. Our daughter Bri was closing down the Eastchester Dunkin’ Donuts this afternoon because the owner (he has seven Dunkin’ Donuts) needs to consolidate his dwindling work force. So the owner told Bri to give the doughnuts and bagels to her parents to give to the hospital. Sandy returned that afternoon to DD to pick up those items and she spoke with a police officer in line. She had the opportunity to speak with that police officer and pray with him, and he recommended that she take the free doughnuts to the EMS station. Sandy thought to herself that this is what she loves to do, pray for people.  She took the doughnuts and bagels and headed off to where she thought was the local EMS station, but the GPS took her back to Jacobi. So there she was at the Jacobi Medical Center. Sandy sat in the car and prayed about what to do. She saw an ambulance pull up and decided to go up and offer the food to the paramedics. A male nurse came up behind her from getting out of his car and said “May I help you?” She said “I just came to encourage you today.” He lifted his glasses to look at her and told her “I had to step away from the madness for a little while and take a break.” The man started to cry and Sandy asked if she can pray for him. She stood there, praying for this big male nurse, with tears running down his cheeks. The man told her that he and his coworkers had just stepped outside earlier that afternoon and held hands and prayed, because there is so much stress. Here is this big guy, broken up and crying, telling her “I just had to step away from it for a while.”

Brianna has two coworkers who have each lost family members to COVID-19 in the past week. One of her co-workers lost her Grandpa, and they couldn’t even go to visit him while he was in the hospital. Another of her co-workers lost her Uncle. The co-worker who lost her Grandpa is now at home, sick.

Our friend up the block on Corsa Avenue is perhaps a few years older than us, and she has been hospitalized since Friday with COVID-19. Today they had to put her on the ventilator, which seems kind of like her health is headed in the wrong direction. Please pray for our friends and neighbors around here, and pray for us. The “news” out there gets more real when it is the news right here in our community.

Rich ***

Today they planned to serve the local EMS.

Again, if you would like to financially support the costs of this ministry,  the following email is the church’s PayPal: bjcgive@gmail.com

******

One medical professional, I am told by a friend, had to wrap over a dozen dead bodies in black plastic yesterday, March 31, 2020. Unless we are them, we cannot possibly imagine being responsible for that task. The strain of this, knowing that with each infected body they are exposing themselves to this virus, and with that exposure they risk infecting their families at home, is almost too much for some. Yet they press on, knowing they, too, could be that body. You don’t work that closely with death and not feel your own mortality. It is no small wonder that a medical professional would be reduced to tears when a kind strangers shows up to care and pray.

It is my hope that hearing these inspiring stories will give more believers the courage to be bold in love, practical service and prayer in this COVID-19 crisis. We live with pre-conceived notions about the people around us. A big tough nurse, on the outside, does not show us a tender soul on the inside, taxed to the endth degree by present circumstances. To be surrounded by thousands dead and dying in your city and hospital, as these healthcare professionals are in New York, would be most difficult. Not only is there sickness and death, there is the awareness that loved ones are being torn apart in their time of suffering.  That is a form of suffering all its own; one these healthcare providers are obligated to enforce. One we do well to be aware of, to pray for the healthcare providers, all frontline workers, the sick and dying, and to support those in our lives who are isolated in ways that wear down the mind and body.

I think of my brother fighting a hard battle with cancer. He has been courageous, as has his wife. We, as family, have tried to visit regularly — with some able to go more frequently than others — and cook for them. Now they are isolated, going through this battle without the physical presence of friends and loved ones. I hear her voice, the loneliness and heaviness of the journey, and ache for them.

These are difficult times for many. I am more introvert than extrovert — ambivert would be most accurate — and adjust easily to being home, or being alone, though I do miss friends from time to time, and especially miss seeing our children and grandchildren. For many this is depressing and lonely. For those in abuse situations, this is a terrifying time. As someone who grew up in violence, I remember well how times of stress and financial hardship escalated violence and death threats. For those spouses and children, this isolation is a most hellish thing.

In some way most of us, or all of us, have been impacted, in big or small ways, and for many this increases the risk of depression and suicide. As believers in Jesus, we have love and hope to offer, even if only by extending a listening ear.

For this reason the churches who insist on meeting, rather than allowing themselves to be ‘scattered to serve’, boggle my mind. Whatever the motive — whether to prove they can do their thing, or to keep the money rolling in, or whatever else might be their motives — it does nothing to convince the world of love. Absolutely nothing. It is selfish.

If we would all lay aside our temporary losses and call one another to love, prayer and kind deeds, would we not exemplify the love of Jesus beautifully? This is what drew me to the little Anabaptist church in NYC. They are heroes. They are human. They are not seeking to be noticed or idolized. (So please don’t). But they are living the love of Jesus well. They are preaching with their hands and their feet, and encouraging through prayer. They inspire me… make me ask, “What can I do to show His love?”

And amid the pressure of completing this term of university, I’m trying to find little ways of making a difference.  In the weeks and months ahead, we will have opportunity to serve our fellow mankind,  to rise up like we never have before, to carry the burden of the inevitable cost and consequences resulting from this tragic time. We need to prepare our hearts today for this call, and the doors God will open for us to take His love into the world around us.

To have one foot firmly planted in the present reality — so we can be present and supportive, and the other firmly rooted in eternity, with a heart invested in Jesus and people, this is my desire and my commitment.

My prayer for you, for me, for us today is quite simple, “Jesus, hold your children tonight. The lost ones. The found ones. The struggling ones. The secure ones. We invite you to be present in our stories, in every part. Help us, who know you, to be mindful of those in need around us… to lean in and listen to the fears around us and offer love and compassion… to hear the hearts that feel lost and alone, and offer encouragement. Help us to represent you well. Always. And in all ways. Thank you for loving us in our brokenness. Now, help us love others in their brokenness too. Amen.”

NOTE: If you have a good news story you would like me to share in the midst of the tragedy of COVID-19 , send it to my personal email. There will be no shortage or tragedy in coming days, and that tragedy needs to be acknowledged. But we also need to hear encouraging stories, and see humans coming together to support one another, and blessing those who are in the front lines.

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2020

Love, wrapped in a sandwich: Anabaptist church in Bronx NY, serves healthcare workers at Medical Centre

Rich Schwartz, the lead pastor of BELIEVERS IN JESUS CHURCH, a small Anabaptist-type outreach church in the Bronx, NY, shared the following last evening:

** On my way back from a site inspection in Manhattan, I stopped in at the ER at Jacobi Medical Center here in the Bronx. I had some very helpful interactions with a police officer who has been stationed there 18 years, a nurse who is a 30 year veteran, and two H.R. people with 30 and 16 years experience. All of them said they have never faced such difficult times at the hospital as they are facing now. There is a very real shortage of every kind of PPE. As the police officer walked me from the main building over to Building Four, we passed a refrigerated tractor-trailer that had the back open. The police officer grimaced a bit as we saw dozens of bodies taking up probably 70% of the floor of that trailer. They weren’t stacked on top of each other, but it was surprisingly full of bodies in body bags. Eerie.

Tomorrow (03/31/2020) at 12:30 p.m., we are hoping to bring in individually wrapped sandwiches, coffee/tea, and juice to the nurses and doctors at the ER of Jacobi Medical Center. I have a contact there who said they would welcome this. Rich **

This is church. Living. Breathing. Giving. Loving. No walls. No pews. Those things have their place for encouragement. But this is church that I can get behind, 100%.

This morning, interacting with Rich via Messenger, he added this:
I would advise the public to pray, meditate on Psalm 121, and look for ways to love others well.

It takes courage and compassion to walk into such a space surrounded by death, when you are under no obligation to o so, humanly speaking. When practical, hands on, frontline duty could be left, by virtue of their training, to doctors, nurses and others who ‘signed up’ for this through their profession. This pastor’s visit to the Jacobi Medical Centre opened up doors to serve and show love in practical ways, so that his congregation is now making food for the healthcare providers at the medical centre. (I asked if there was a place for people to donate. The following email is the church’s PayPal, if you would like to help with the costs of this ministry: bjcgive@gmail.com).

After my exchange with Rich, I received the following message from his wife:  This is Sandy, Rich’s wife chiming in. 😀 There is a possibility that we will be able to video call patients in the hospital to pray with them. Pray that we can do that! Such an awesome opportunity!

Let’s pray for them as they reach out to the sick and hurting, and the medical team looking after their needs. To step into the suffering of others is not easy. Pray for the church as they show the love of Jesus to those around them.

We can’t all go to medical centres and offer assistance. For one, it would be counterproductive and become saturated, creating extreme and unnecessary risks. But we can all listen to the nudging inside of us, and do the next right thing, and care for that one person within our reach. We who are believers ‘signed up for this’ when we accepted Christ as our Saviour and Lord, and committed to walking in the Way of Love.

*****

COVID-19 THOUGHTS, MUSINGS & NUMBERS:
I’ve followed the numbers closely from the start. There is much public speculation about whether the numbers of cases are ‘real’, and comments like, ‘most of these people would have died anyway’, and that kind of thing. Or, ‘they’re fudging the numbers to scare us’ and take away our freedom. Or, we can’t stop it anyway, we might as well let it run its course, live our normal lives and see what happens.

We’re all entitled to our thoughts. That’s one of the beautiful things about free will. We are even granted freedom of speech (at least in relation to this, for the most part, as far as I have seen and know). We won’t all agree, and that is ok too. Ideally we disagree respectfully.

For all the memes and jokes we’ve seen (or created) about the toilet paper shortage — because that truly is funny, at least until you run out of TP in your house and are left to scramble — the disease itself is not funny. It is ruthless and harsh. Whether the people all would have died or not is not the question. Based on what friends in healthcare are seeing, the answer to that question is, “no’.  A friend who works in a hospital watched an otherwise healthy individual, almost ten years younger than me, succumb to COVID-19. There was no underlying heart disease, diabetes, or other disease that made this person high risk. No medical reason for someone so young to die. Young. Healthy. Gone.

Reading Rich’s experience, how he saw the truck with bodies lined on the floor… That’s not a normal death rate. That’s not a ‘they would have died anyway’ situation. That is the outcome of a high risk disease spreading at unmanageable rates, taxing the healthcare staff. We can’t afford to have our medically trained professionals burning out. For that reason alone, exercising caution is the most respectful and loving thing we can do for our neighbours.

On the other hand, hearing  Rich’s experience, what he saw on that truck, is no reason to live in fear. I do not say this for that reason. I say it as a call to ‘love in action’ and to encourage respect for others’ wellbeing during this time. Just because I am not afraid to die does not mean I have the right to impose such risk on others.

The restrictions by governments across the world are to protect the public, by preventing rapid spread and unnecessary infecting of countless people. To the argument that they don’t protect the unborn, making them hypocrites for pretending to care now, my question is, “What bearing does their failure in one area have on our duty to protect life in every situation?”  Regardless of the failure of government in any area, my duty is to protect life always, as much as I am able. If they are comfortable killing babies, I should be no more comfortable causing unnecessary death and harm to others. My duty is to Christ, first and foremost, and to show love and grace in whatever situation I find myself. Right now, the best way to love those around me is to not put them at unnecessary risk.

I’ve seen strange claims that this is an attack by government on our faith and religious freedom as believers. No it isn’t. It isn’t persecution against the church. We are not victims here. God is not taken off guard by the scenario, and I have a hunch He’s trying to speak to the church, but some of us are too busy playing the victim to hear him. If it really was persecution for the sake of Christ, we should rejoice, not fight for our freedoms. But it isn’t that. We are all shut down together, along with our friends who are atheist, Muslim, Sikh, and every other religion.

So saying we are being persecuted is a bit of an embarrassment to Christianity, as though somehow we should have special rights. First of all, it isn’t persecution. Secondly, a life of ‘special privilege’ is not what Jesus said His life would offer us. Thirdly, in everything that happens, God is about pursuing hearts, and if we align ourselves with His vision, we don’t have space to play the victim. We have only an opportunity to love well.

Sin and death have done a number on us, on our world. Disease is part of the curse of sin. But God…

These difficult times are an opportunity to show love to others in ways we do not normally see. We tend to be so busy about our own lives that we don’t see opportunities to share the love of Jesus in practical ways. Right now, if we stop fussing long enough to see and hear, there are countless opportunities to bring the love of God to people, even from the quiet of our homes. Seize the moment, as a Jesus-believer. Show His love and grace.

Let’s pray for the countless sick across the world and in New York. New York been hit hardest in USA, with over 75,000 sick in that state alone, with over 180,000 across USA infected. New York, alone, has almost as many cases as have been reported in all of China. Even with fudging numbers, if such a thing would be happening, there is a staggering number of sicknesses and death, with evidence Rich writes about to validate that it is a significant and traumatic number of infections. They need our care and our prayers.

And let’s pray for the many struggling with suicidal ideations as a result of fears surrounding COVID-19. There have been numerous high profile suicides — including the finance minister of Germany’s Hesse state, and a nurse who feared she had infected patients — which has the potential for ripple effects. The hopelessness that comes from not being able to see their way through the present pandemic and inevitable aftermath speaks to a deep need within the human heart. Our desire to feel safe, secure, cared for is normal.  When that is shaken, we need a deeper hope. We need to know that in our need we will not be abandoned. In Jesus we have that hope. And if we are in Him, and carry His hope, we have something to offer. Not in preaching condemnation. But in loving generously and in prayer.

Admittedly, there are moments I don’t know what to say to God, or how to pray, in all of this. And the simple prayer that rises from my heart is this, “We need you Jesus. We need you. The world needs you.”

We need Him desperately. And the world needs Him. We are His hands and feet, ‘living among them’; the brokenhearted.  It is our opportunity to show the world that Jesus is kind and generous. He is hope. He is peace. He is love. He is present. … present, through our love.

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2020

Children Protected Amid COVID-19 Pandemic Without Scientific Explanation

Has anyone observed that, for once, very young children are the most protected in this COVID-19 crisis? So far,  not one death. Not one. I pray that protection continues.

Study involving children under 9 who fell ill to COVID-19

Children aren’t at great risk, WHO SAYS.

With my work I see the most vulnerable as those in the early years before they (some) can express themselves well or even have words to speak to the atrocities they suffer. This continues into the teens, but is more severe in younger. I see adults brush off their suffering — especially when that child is grown, but even before — as though sexual abuse and domestic violence are nothing more than a mere ‘test from God’ that simply requires ‘forgiveness’ — falsely so called. Religious institutions have done shamefully at protecting them. Let’s be honest about that. Protecting children is too often replaced with ‘trust’ for ‘repentant’ adults and the children remain vulnerable and continue to face abuse. Some, not wanting to go through the experience of being scolded or not cared for, sometimes conclude it is better to lie since ‘no one cares anyway’. If asked whether abuse is continuing, they will say ‘no’, just to avoid that experience. So the parents/adults are happy because the abuse has ‘stopped’ and the abuser is happy because he/she has a good reputation and is restored in the church/community. And the child lives through hell.

It seems no one cares. It seems the children are not protected.

So it makes my heart especially happy that not one child under age 9 has died. Some have fallen ill. At least one has been treated in hospital. But *not one*…. not even one, has died. The children are protected. And I say “Praise God! Praise Jesus!” For once, the littlest ones among us are the most protected. So far doctors and scientists can’t explain it (based on most recent documents I’ve read). I can’t either.

My mind wanders to Matthew 18, where Jesus makes it clear that children are valued and anyone who harms them would be better off tossed in the sea with a millstone about the neck. So, yes, children matter to God. They are not always protected from harm at the hands of evildoers, nor from the impact of disease. But at a time when sexual abuse is coming to light everywhere, and the unborn are being aborted, it is a delight to see children protected. 

My intent is not to make bold prophetic connections, or wax all political or judgemental. If it is judgement, I’ll leave it to God to make His point. (In which case if His anger is anything close to what I imagine, at the neglect of children, this is but the beginning of what is coming). I do not even wish to speculate that this is the case. It could be. Or maybe not. Making bold prophetic proclamations like that is not my role.

My intent is simply to say, “I noticed that the littlest among us are protected the most.” And it makes my heart so happy. Because in my line of work, prioritizing wellbeing of children is too often neglected. That’s all. Nothing more profound or bold than that.

For days I’ve been thinking about this. Privately I have said it. What has kept me from posting is the potential backlash. People may read deeper than what I’m not trying to say, or create their own ‘revelations’ and prophesies as to the why and wherefore of it all and either cheer for me or wish to stone me.  And, while those prophesies and revelations could be interesting, I haven’t the time to manage big conversations. I’m in the middle of my final major assignment, so I pop on FB to check in on a group or two and respond to a message or two, but I don’t spend a lot of time there.

Nonetheless, I am posting these thoughts, and will say in advance that I may or may not agree with analysis of prophetic meaning that are applied. (Which doesn’t mean I’m right and they’re wrong. It simply means I don’t see it). But I am just very happy to see the wellbeing of children so profoundly stated to the baffle of science. 

In closing, “Jesus loves the little children”. In a world that has neglected them, where sin has attacked their little bodies by evildoers, too often in the guise of religion… in that world, Jesus loves the little children. We do well to be reminded of it.

If you have been abused, God has not forgotten you. He has not overlooked the abuse further heaped on you by religious institutions you reached out to for help. He is a God who metes out justice, with mercy for the truly repentant, not based on church membership, or which denomination or strain thereof. He is a God who sees. He sees the abuses you suffer and have suffered… some in His name. And His heart is moved with compassion. He sees you.  And He looks upon you with great affection and compassion. If you are suffering horrendous things, or have in the past, and you have not been heard or loved with compassion in that suffering, know that your suffering breaks His heart. It broke His body too. And always remember…

… He is especially fond of you. 

As always…

Love,
~ T ~