Tuesday, April 21

Good morning, church!

Today are the birthdays of Crystal A. and Stephanie H. From our quarantined homes we wish them a happy birthday with their families and children! And while they are hopefully celebrating today, patience is still the keyword for all of us in our current experience. How much longer? At least three more weeks is what I hear and read. The re-opening after that will not be one happy lovefest; it will be gradual and careful and we will tiptoe back into our lives rather than storming to freedom. But what is freedom anyway? Many years ago I watched this movie with Denzel Washington, “Remember the Hurricane,” from 1999.  Washington plays Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter, a successful black boxer in the 1960s who was falsely incarcerated and as a result spent twenty (!!!) years in prison before his exoneration and release. I don’t know enough about the real Rubin Carter (who died in 2014) to judge how close the movie was to the character it was based on. But what struck me in the movie and the portrayal by Denzel W. was the sense of freedom that the man exuded even while innocently locked up behind bars. To me, it was a perfect example for the spiritual truth that freedom does not depend so much on what you can do or not do or your current situation or whether you are rich or poor or what you can afford; it depends much more on your mindset. Let us remember that during these quarantine weeks. And if we feel sorry for ourselves, let us remember that some people have been “quarantined” (imprisoned!) for years and years without good reason. Liberated minds will find joy in the little things we can do and the blessings we have and even the opportunities that are given to us during this time. Paul said, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery.”(Galatians 5:1) – It is worth remembering that this Apostle of freedom was himself frequently incarcerated for his faith. Mindset matters!

Today I would like to bring our attention back to the true heroes and heroines of these times, the healthcare workers, nurses, doctors, and caregivers all across the world, all across our country and here in our county and in our own church community. They deserve our HIGHEST respect and our continued prayers and encouragement. I reached out to some of them and asked about their experience. I will keep their identities and the places where they work anonymously. It doesn’t matter who it is or where they work. I simply wanted to bring to your attention what they are going through at this time. Two of them responded and you can feel the worry, stress, and distress in their description of reality in our local hospitals. Please keep that in mind too, as you struggle to keep your composure during this quarantine. One of them wrote:    

“At a local hospital, we are treating about 50 COVID patients that are either positive or awaiting results. It is very sad and difficult to see a somewhat healthy population so ill and feeling so horrible. These patients are dying alone, and it is upsetting that there is nothing the medical staff can do. This weekend I saw a reverend pray for a dying patient from the door and a middle-aged patient decide not to be intubated and requesting no resuscitation efforts.  Even though work is tough,  the hardest part is worrying that you are putting your family at risk by possibly being infected yourself.  Prayers that this nightmare will come to an end soon!! Thank you.”

The other person wrote this disturbing account:

“I would definitely appreciate some prayers. My anxiety is through the roof. I can’t sleep because I either wake up in a panic thinking about work or I have nightmares… Just this weekend I sat with an elderly man as he died of COVID. I can’t get the sound of his last breath out of my head. Another man I sent to the ICU to prepare for intubation as he struggled to breathe. 

We had another COVID patient cardiac arrest yesterday because the treatment for it (Medication A and B) can lead to deadly heart arrhythmias. Hospital staff are advised NOT to ventilate during a code situation until anesthesia can get there with special masks to intubate because the risk of transmission is so high…

Last weekend we had a husband and wife die in the rooms next to each other. I have heard many nursing homes have stopped sending DNR’s to the hospital. They let them die there in a familiar and more comfortable environment. This is unlike anything I could ever imagine. And we aren’t even in badly hit places.”

These are people from our church. Please don’t even try to speculate who it is. It doesn’t matter. Join me in prayers today for them and for the important work they do. I am pretty sure that this is not what they had in mind when they signed up for nursing and envisioned a career of helping people to get better. But being the closest thing to a caring presence when someone dies and takes his or her last breath is truly important as well, and in many cases, these medical workers fulfill the roles of family members and clergy during this time.  We have more than ten people in our congregation who work in various hospitals or medical settings. Please pray for them today. May God give them the strength each day to do their work and may God keep them safe, even as they carry out this dangerous work in the most careful ways! And if you are a healthcare worker and you read this email, please know that your church is behind you, lifting you up today. Thanks for all you do!

Be blessed and be safe dear church,

This too shall pass. Pastor Andreas Wagner