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

Peace…

It is a word many victims of abuse don’t understand, experientially. At times the word is merely a mockery of that thing we crave and cannot attain. Our spirits scream for it, our minds are desperate for it, and our bodies ache from their wanting… But peace evades us at every turn.

Unfortunately I cannot simplify it into one quick anecdote for the turmoil, fear, pain and anguish.

It is a rise and fall… A learning to hold onto it a little longer before it slips away… A persistent leaning into a sheltered place… Staying intentionally in the Rock that hides us in the storm and covers us… Learning to abandon the need to prove a thing at all… Abandoning the desire for approval and perfection…

And resting in the One who defines us… Loves us… Accepts us…

Ah… sweet Love…

Because there is no fear in Love. And where there is no fear, there is peace.

Peace… that inner quiet… surrounded by a world with chaos all around…

canstockphoto8291889 (3)
Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Beautiful Wounds, Redeeming Scars: Abigail’s Story (Part 4)

WARNING: This post contains graphic content… If you struggle with cutting, or are sensitive to the graphic description of cutting, do not read this post. The intent is to create awareness in the body of Christ, of a struggle that is relatively common, and tragically hidden, because of fear of judgement. Healing comes when silence is broken.

The day Abigail gave me her blades, she gave me something else. Her trust. And the trust went much deeper than handing me the blades. There was trust in that, without a doubt, but she gave me an even more personal trust.

“Abigail, has anyone ever seen your cuts, your scars?” I asked.

“No,” she said.

“Where are they?” I asked.

Abigail pointed out several areas on her legs and body, where she had cut. “One word will always be there. The scar is bad. It will never go away,” she told me.

“What’s the word?” I asked.

“Die,” Abigail said.

“It expresses what you felt at that moment, doesn’t it?” I asked the obvious question. I paused a moment, then continued, “Would you let me see your scars?”

Knowing where the scars were located, I knew I could ask without feeling inappropriate. I handed her a blanket, and told her it was to cover up the rest of her legs, if she decided it would be okay for me to see her scars. She hesitated.

“What are you most afraid of?” I asked. “Are you afraid that if I see your scars–if anyone sees your scars–that I won’t love you any more, that I won’t see you the same way again? Are you afraid of rejection… of being judged?”

Abigail nodded. Fear. Pain. Angst. Shame. Impending judgement. So many things you feel when you contemplate revealing the inner, hidden parts of your heart.

“Abigail, I promise you that I will see you no differently.The only advantage to letting someone see your scars, is so they no longer have the same power over you,” I explained.

Anything we carry alone, as our little secret, has power over us. When we let someone who cares into that secret, the power is broken.

Abigail spread the blanket over her legs, then raised her skirt just above her knees, revealing a patch of skin with letters boldly carved into into her body, three inches tall. DIE it read, just as she said.

I had never seen with my eyes before, words boldly scarred into flesh, that way, and my heart felt sad for Abigail. Not because of the scars, really. But the pain those scars bore testament to. It’s okay to grieve the sorrow and trauma of another, and in that moment my heart felt her pain. But more powerful than her pain, I felt the deep conviction that Jesus is more. He is more in every way, and more than enough for her pain.

Our eyes met. “I don’t see you any differently, Abigail,” I said. I reminded her that Jesus died for her scars. That her scars, rather than reminding her, and the world, of her pain, have the potential to be a testimony to the grace and goodness of God through Jesus, if she will continue to give it all to Him, and let Him redeem those scars.

Her scars, I told her, have the potential to inspire praise. If she looks at them and remembers what God has done for her, and redeemed her from…

We think of wounds as unsightly, and scars as a reminder of darkness, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

When I stand in front of Jesus, one day, I hope I will have a moment alone with Him  to kneel down in front of Him, to hold His hands, and kiss the scars the paid the price for my freedom. I want to touch His pierced side and see the wounds that gave me life, and healed my bleeding heart.

canstockphoto0492006

And because of those beautiful wounds, and redeeming scars, I can look at the words carved on Abigail’s leg, and see beauty, hope and grace, because God will use her life–and, in fact, is using her life already–to reach others. Hundreds of people are reading her story, here, and are touched. Your messages tell me that her pain has purpose…

Purpose that is being realized in your hearts, as you find permission to open up your own pain to Jesus, so that He can take your wounds and scars, and make them beautiful, and bring redemption. Purpose in the ways her story is preparing you for that young man, or young woman, whom you will meet soon, who struggles with feeling worthless, and maybe even cuts, like Abigail.

And as we stand in the gap for others, and bring Jesus to them, we experience church–the Body of the Christ–as it is supposed to be. A place where wounds and scars are exposed, and the love of Jesus transforms them into life-giving testimonies. And we extend grace for the rise and fall of that battle, so that we don’t destroy or shut down hearts in that battle.

Abigail’s battle is far from over, Any expectation of perfection, any expectation that her psychological scars, and the spiritual battle, would miraculously end, would have served only to push her into hopelessness. But in turning her heart gently toward Jesus, she found the courage to take one step into freedom….

And then another…

And another…

But with the steps into freedom came vicious attacks from the enemy, and a divine visitation from God, through Jesus, in a dream.

To Be Continued…

© Trudy Metzger

Return to: Abigail’s Story Part One

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series