It’s hard to write about our experiences in New York City during these last few months. A block away from our home is the hospital where the NYC medical examiner’s office is housed. They constructed a 25-foot canvas fence, covered in fake green ivy, which hides the refrigerator trucks that hold the bodies of those who have died and not yet been identified. It casts a sorrowful shadow and sad reminder over our neighborhood.
Clergy are not allowed in hospitals for fear of continuing infections. Perhaps a simple prayer of departure would be the least one could offer a dying person. My buddy, a Catholic priest, choose to live inside the Veterans’ Hospital (near my home) where he serves as chaplain. He shared with me, “if I die with my men so be it, but I am not allowing them to die unattended and unloved and alone without a priestly benediction (last rites).”
Heroes are everywhere—from the ER and ICU staff to EMT and FDNY first-responders. I was speaking with a surgeon friend and explained my emotions about being unable to help at hospitals. He encouraged me and said “there are many people of faith inside those hospital walls who pray with those who are suffering and dying. I certainly do.” That was an immense encouragement to me, and a reminder that the Body of Christ is at work, and perhaps working overtime in unseen ways.
Historically, New York City has a way of bouncing back, although I have not seen the bounce as of yet. Basic services are functioning, but each day moving vans pull onto our street and we see another person move out of the city. A new normal is hard to comprehend or even imagine. Will schools open? What about sports? Is Broadway gone forever? How will restaurants survive? What about museums, boat rides, hotels, office buildings, the financial district? What about the most vulnerable--the homeless and elderly? Everything is up for discussion and no one has an answer. I am getting weary of hearing pundits, celebrities, politicians, and medical experts debating their theories. Sometimes one simply needs to shut off the T.V., wash your hands, and pray.
May 15th marked the day 36 years ago when Sheila and I moved from a mission in Times Square to our home on East 32nd Street, where we have lived since 1984. We could not have imagined how the Lord has opened doors of service, friendship, opportunities, and joy over these many years. This spring, Sheila and I wear medical gloves and masks any time we step outside our front door. Yet our house is still a blessing since we have outdoor space. Even yesterday our ministry house started to serve modestly once again--one young father (who had Covid-19 8-weeks ago and fully recovered) was able to sit 6 feet apart from me in our backyard and continue our time of discipleship and prayer. Six weeks ago we hosted a 5-person wedding on our back porch after we each had sustained a serious 14-day quarantine—we all have stayed healthy since that time. I am on Zoom daily, maintaining several men’s fellowship groups on a weekly basis, and being available on Facetime—there are so many people under duress and stress and needing spiritual care during this time.
We are trusting in the Lord Jesus, who has always brought us a deep sense of purpose and also the joy of seeing lives transformed by the power of God. We thank all of you who over all these years have cared enough to be our spiritual and financial support family which allows us to continue to live and be available to others in this ever-strategic city. “For such times as this,” we will continue to embrace His love for those who come into our lives. Kindly pray for us and join us in prayer for those who have no final benediction.
Yours in Christ,