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

Update on Mennonite man miraculously healed in Tanzania

A happy Thursday (Edit:…just kidding… it’s Wednesday!  this sitting at home thing…!) to you all! What a delight it is to be alive! To see the sunshine, and hear the birds sing! I love these things at any time — and even the snow that many abhor — but especially now, when the world looks upside down. To see that God’s creation still sings and shines, that makes my heart happy!

And I have no doubt that is how Jason and Mel Hunt and their family feel, in Tanzania. A few days ago I shared the story of Jason collapsing, believing he was at the end, only to miraculously revive again. That is one of the best things I had heard in a week or two, so I shared it. I have no regrets about sharing his testimony of unexpected healing. It is truly good news.

My only regret , and there was one… though I don’t like that word, came when friends cautioned that many will take his experience as ‘the cure‘ and act irresponsibly because of it. I had not thought of that, and at first thought my friends were overreacting and their concern not warranted. Especially given I had put in a disclaimer that I was *not* promoting it as a cure, but rather because it seemed to me a story of hope in the midst of tragic times.  Nonetheless, I listened to their cautions and edited the post, removing anything that might hint at the experience being touted as a cure.

Others were less gracious and said he is a liar, to declare so boldly he had COVID-19 without test results. My response immediately to that criticism was that this does not make him a liar; it makes him overly enthusiastic.

Then, yesterday toward evening, I received word that test results for COVID-19 came back negative for their family. (Keep his wife and daughter in your prayers. Last I hear, yesterday night, they are still sick and in need of prayer). This means he did not likely have COVID-19 in the first place. The post was causing enough of a stir that I decided to remove it until such a time as I had time to edit out any ‘offending parts’. This is something I have rarely done, but in the interest of avoiding unnecessary offence, I removed the post entirely.

We can somewhat assume the tests are conclusive and he likely did not have COVID-19. But that is not really the bottom line, and his overstatement is not the greatest tragedy in the world.

It is only a tragedy that he was too sure of himself if:

  1. he is not humble enough to learn from it. Otherwise, is is an incredible learning experience, not only for him but for all of us, me included. Or maybe especially me and him, but I think all of us.
  2. the church has no grace for a testimony that is powerful but overly enthusiastic and certain of details that were not relevant to the miraculous outcome. To write off such a profound recovery because the recipient is human — as are we all — is to limit the work of Christ among humans. It means I can only see Him if you are more/less perfect. If I took that approach, given the hell and horror I see in Christian community, I would have turned to atheism long ago.

Before posting the original story I checked into the legitimacy of the claims, and again numerous times since. I added a disclaimer in the original blog, and I would have been wise to edit out any reference to COVID-19. In that I erred. Yet, I had and still have every reason to believe that the story told, happened as told.

In spite of the kerfluffle and humanity of his way of verbalizing it, I am no less amazed by God, and I think no less of Jason for it.

If there is not grace for his humanity, then the church has nothing left to offer the world. Nothing. Because that’s who Jesus is.

I have said many times, there is grace enough for the vilest sinner (including sex offenders) and if they are truly repentant they can receive that grace. I believe that with all my heart. (That does not equate to giving sex offenders free regn under the guise of forgiveness, but that’s another topic for another day).

What has baffled me in this is that it seems there is less grace for a man who is overconfident in a medical self-diagnosis and includes it in his testimony, than there is for the sex offender who sheds a few tears and does not change his ways. Surely, surely, there is grace for both, but especially in a case of ‘intending no harm or sin’ in the process.

I do not regret telling the story. If I did not think we can learn from it, then I would have regrets. I hope and pray that we can see past the humanity and see Jesus at work among us. If we can’t see Him in our collective brokenness, what have we got — what has Jesus got — that will bring any measure of peace and wholeness to us and those around us?

Having removed the original post, here is the portion of his testimony that does not make any assumptions about what his illness was.  Praise Jesus!

Last night as I desperately fought for breath to live, I just kept stumbling through the house around the fireplace and kitchen trying to hang on to a measure of breath. The rest were holding me up, crying and praying, (and probably wondering who was going to cart my body out to the coffee field). Finally at 3am I was really fading so wheezed out my goodbyes as I slumped up against the fireplace. I told them no one was to do mouth to mouth on me because I didn’t want the infection to increase in their lungs. As I sat there fading out to everyone’s amazement I got so hot from the fire at my back that I started to sweat buckets and my lungs suddenly started opening up and oxygen came into my lungs. God intervened.

[…]

The improvements over the last few hours has been exponential. Even Mel has made incredible progress. God is intervening.

[…]

I will mention the whole household came down with symptoms today. And the whole household has made exponential gains in the last eight hours. Most are sleeping peacefully now. […] We need to run forth knowing that love will always conquer fear.

[…]

All the prayers are being answered.

*****

My prayer is that you all stay safe and healthy, and if your health has been compromised, that God will heal and restore you.

Remember, God is kind.

As always…

With love,
~ T ~

 

© Trudy Metzger

I know what it’s like… (A sex abuse survivor’s wife speaks)

The following post is the voice of a survivor’s wife. She is a brave, loving and compassionate soul. For all who have lived the trauma with a spouse, this post will resonate deeply. To all who have not, I urge you to lean in and really listen. Broken hearts lie scattered on church floors, overlooked, unheard, unknown, unhealed. Unhealed in a place where Jesus is said to dwell.

I urge you to notice one such heart and breath the life and hope of Jesus into just one. Speak life. When you speak. But mostly, listen. Listen, and really hear the heartbeat, no matter how weak, how erratic and how uncomfortable.

Always remember that Jesus chose the broken places. He dwells there. Not in high and together places, but in the lowliest of places, there He enters and makes His home and declares, “If was for the lost children, that I came”.

***

I know what it is like to live with abuse second hand. I know what sexual and religious abuse looks like up close and personal.  I haven’t experienced sexual abuse but I’ve lived with the affects for all my married years. We’re working our way out of extreme spiritual abuse.  I’ve lived the trauma for many years.  If I could sum it up in one word it would be TEARS. Endless rivers of tears.

I know what it’s like to raise a family, praying over them, pleading for God to cover them with His protection and for the trauma of the abuse to not be passed on to them, while their father goes through periods of being completely zoned out. I know what its like to have to know when to follow my husband’s lead and when to realize he’s flipped and irrational and then to step up and fill in the breach. I know what its like to sit in the grocery store parking lot counting the little cash I have to see what I can buy that week for my family because my husband is in a black hole. And I have to try and figure out how long we can survive till he comes out again. I know the heart break of walking alongside him when he realizes all the things that have slipped away while he was “not there,” picking up again, then going through all of it all over again. Because with the triggers and the ongoing mental trauma there’s no continuity.

I know what its like to be married to a man who is a survivor in so many ways, has qualities and gifts that contribute to mankind in many beautiful ways, but to sit with that same man as he curls up on the couch in such emotional pain that words are useless. To watch him reach out to others and have compassion for the hurting but feeling complete worthlessness in himself. To live alongside and watch while normal life is so exhausting that finally he wonders if its even worth it.  The intense struggle of wanting to believe in God but wanting to have nothing to do with the god he was shown, yet unable to grasp the difference. All this while appearing to be a normal family and functioning the best we can because it feels like no one understands.

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The damage abuse does is deep and devastating.  It ripples out and affects so many people.  Its crippling beyond belief. It’s mind altering. It completely strips away identity.  It puts them on a path to prove their worth for many years, and then when their efforts are finally exhausted they give up.  When it’s a man it affects the family financially because when he’s the main provider and fear and flashbacks are a constant reality, there’s not much energy left for making good decisions. So there is added financial trauma.  It affects the whole family.

In fact, years of trauma and dysfunction can happen before one even realizes the brokenness and what is actually happening.

Then there are others.  I know what it’s like to walk with abuse victims who dissociate. To hang on to a victim in a flashback until you can arrive at a safe place for them to throw themselves out of your vehicle once it’s stopped, to cry it out in a roadside ditch. To listen to the pain of their heart’s cry that doesn’t even make sense to themselves. But what do I do when they continue to believe the lies in their heads?  When they would rather believe the lies and that they’re worthless than to even accept the love that they’re given because love doesn’t feel “safe.”

Yes, God is the answer, He’s the healer.  But what if the mere mention of God fills the victim with such anxiety and anger that they shut down because the abuse was so wrapped up in their “godly religious” experience?

There is so much more that could be said.  I just want to bless you and encourage you to keep going.  I believe that once the victims find their voices and speak the reality of what they live with, the reality that so many wish to not hear, that is when people will wake up.  It’s critical that the victims be given their voice.

I’ve prayed many prayers, I will continue. I applaud as I read the (victim’s blog) posts.  I praise God and cry hallelujah when yet another victim has the courage to step up and speak, when yet another leader speaks out in truth, exposing yet more of the abuse.

And then I face the next battle on the home front and I hope and pray that fighting the battle well here will somehow contribute to the war against abuse at large.

~ Anonymous ~

***

The spouse who sits compassionately with the survivor of horror, as he or she grieves the trauma, or lives through the hell of its aftermath is a true hero. This wife is a true hero. I have such a hero in my life.  To this author… to my husband…. to every other spouse who sees and knows what it’s like… Thank you!

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

THE GATHERING, NOVEMBER 2, 2019, LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE:

  1. Registration for THE GATHERING will close October 1, 2019 or when sold out.
    To register: THE GATHERING: Registration
    For information:  THE GATHERING Information.
    To register for concert only: JASON GRAY CONCERT NOVEMBER 2, 2019 LBC 7:00pm

NOTE: After August 1 concert is only included dependant on availability.

One of the things we are working toward November 2, 2019, at THE GATHERING, is creating a place where we collectively invite God into our grief.  It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse, and their trusted support persons to join together for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering. We will cry out to God, together. The invitation is to ‘come as you are’ in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to heal another layer, together.

NOTE: Anyone over 18 who sexually assaulted someone – whether child or other adult – is not welcome. This does not mean they are not forgiven if they have repented. It means victims should not fear being confronted with the source of their trauma on such a vulnerable day. Security guards will be present to remove any who show up and are identified as offenders by the victims.

Until August 1, 2019, registration for the day’s events includes lunch and attendance to the evening concert with Jason Gray, whose music had brought hope and healing to countless victims. Songs like “The Wound is Where the Light Gets In“, “A Way to See in the Dark“, Sparrows“, “Nothing is Wasted“, and many more speak a language we understand.

© Trudy Metzger 2019