Submitted by Nancy Wiseman
I had been in my usual time pressure capsule as I pulled onto Curtis Street at Park Avenue for what seemed like the ninety ninth time. I’d been asked to join the planning committee for St. Francis Center’s annual Gala that St. John’s pledged to support with auction items and dinner tickets. I needed to get in and out of the Center with some Gala paper work so I looked away when a homeless guy was about to panhandle me.
I was familiar with the endless number of homeless people who filled my own neighborhood ten blocks away. They were positioned at every corner or approached me as I loaded bags of groceries into my car. It was always the same scenario. “Lady, can ya spare some change?” they’d say. I’d just ignore them, or throw out my empty hands.
So I brushed off this guy in the walker standing at the curb, dressed in an oversized, torn, brown coat, his dirty hair peeking out of a grey ski hat, marked Vail. The day was boiling yet this man shivered, probably due to drug and alcohol abuse that goofed up his body temperature regulator.
"Ma’am, can you help me across the street? I’m going to the Center but can’t get this thing over the curb,” he said.
I stopped long enough to see that the front legs of his walker were stuck in the dirt and weeds and he didn’t seem to have the energy to get it up and over the curb and across the street.
Then God gave me a nudge in his direction.
“Hello sir, can I help you cross the street today?”
“Oh yes Ma’am. Thank you so much. I come here a lot. Get a shower, clean clothes, even medical help, stuff like that. I got diabetes and can’t make my feet work so well. They know my name here, too. Joe, short for Joseph, my father’s name, you know.”
I took a gentle hold of his arm, feeling the rough fabric of his heavy coat in my hand, the foul smell of someone who spends his life on the street. He grinned at me with dark stained teeth, interspersed with black spaces where some had long since fallen out. I smiled back at him with my “white picket fence teeth” as they call them down here.
We took a long time to cross that two lane street but during our journey, I forgot that I was in a rush. I looked up as we inched our way along, Joe feeling unsteady on my arm, and a bit panicked that he couldn’t make it. I held on tighter. Cars backed up in both directions. I waved at the first one in line, a silver Lexus, idling patiently. He gave us a thumbs up.
“Hey Joe, you’re doing great. We’re almost there,” I said.
Driving away that day, I looked up. “Thank you, God. I needed that.”
"May God make haste to help me."
Submitted by Mary Ellen Williams
I felt close to God as a child and teenager, facilitated by long hours I spent by myself during summers in Canada that offered nature and books as the major distractions. Going to college, I stopped going to church and speaking to God. Over 20+ years, I would occasionally check in with the Roman Catholic Church, but I had lost the thread. Moving to Colorado from downtown Boston in 1994, I still didn't go to church because most places where I inquired weren't inclusive and were intolerant which didn't square with my sense of God's love. I explored Saint John's in 2004/2005 and found it a comfortable home where I feel safe and loved. I am terrible at practicing spirituality and have fits and starts, though my most consistent practice is to say the Our Father at bedtime with my daughter, Ella, responsively by half verse. However, I feel that I try harder to see people around me as loved by God and to treat them with the love and respect that Jesus modeled. But sometimes I still get distracted. May God make haste to help me.
"I have made amazing new friends and found pastoral support to be invaluable."
Submitted by Bill Culpeper
After 5 years of devastating illness, on March 7, 2010 I experienced a Healing. I asked my doctors who declared me healed and could not explain how it had happened. That has to be a Miracle. I saw a request for volunteers at St. John's. Since 2010 I have answered the phones on Thursday morning. This has 'completed the Miracle of Healing for me'. I have made amazing new friends and found pastoral support to be invaluable.
Thanks be to God.
"...there were a few long, dark nights when I was in a very dark place, spiritually."
Submitted by Michael Cawthra
I was raised in the Methodist church. As a child, that didn’t mean much to me as we only went on Easter and the occasional special event. But when I was married in the cathedral, I knew this was a great place to be and to develop my relationship with God and Jesus.
As the years went by, I became more and more involved with the Episcopal/Anglican beliefs and it felt good. But, as some know, in early February I was diagnosed with leukemia. As I began the long journey, which still continues, there were a few long, dark nights when I was in a very dark place, spiritually. I did not understand why this happened to me and how I was going to get through this. I spent an hour walking in the halls of the hospital with one of the fabulous nurses at Lutheran hospital talking. Then I spent many nights alone in a dark room and I finally dug down and began talking to God. It was then that I realized that I could not do this alone and no human could really provide me with the comfort I was searching for in the dark. I asked the Lord to take me in His arms and carry me through this trial. And He did, as evidenced by the sudden rebound in my health, the blood cell numbers coming back strong, and the subsequent good news, lack of serious side effects, and “a peace which passeth all understanding.”
I attribute a lot of this to the pilgrimage Margaret and I went on to the Holy Land last year with Peter and several good friends in the Cathedral. Whether it was standing on top of Mt. Sinai, standing on the spot the angel Gabriel greeted Mary with the news of the baby she carried, or being near Lazarus’ tomb where the ultimate miracle occurred gave me the power to “let go, let God” take me by the hand and lead me, literally, “through the valley of death” which is cancer treatment.
But let me say, there is one person who deserves a huge amount of credit for giving me strength to keep going. That would be the woman who walked down the aisle of the cathedral 35 years ago and has stood by me.
I love you, Margaret.
"...God had never abandoned me."
Submitted by Cedric Wasano
I was living in Fort Worth Texas at the Unnion Gospel Mission as a resident. Seeking sobriety and a better life. Hopeful, that if I was faithful enough and trusted God enough all would come together. That was 2005. I was able to secure full time employment and moved out of the mission. I became self supporting. Material comfort has a way of corrupting if one is not careful to nurture a spiritual life. I slowly started to drift away from prayer and church. I had been attending a very wonderful Episcopal church in Fort Worth and had found much to love about it. But, I slowly started to leave my God behind in pursuit of a new higher power. Money. I slowly started sinking into an alcoholic abyss. I finally snapped when everything came falling down around my head. I lost my roommate and moved to a smaller apartment. I kept my job. I found a 12 step program location and joined. They were able to show me that God had never abandoned me. Part of the 12 step program was to make amends for past wrongs and I found myself in L.A., a stop on the road to Denver. Making amends for past wrongs to people. I finally made my way to Denver where I found another wonderful Episcopal Church, Our Merciful Savior on 32nd. I started attending regularly. Having been brought up in the Catholic Church, I was grateful for the Episcopalian Services and their warm welcome. I now am very thankful that God has shown me that the way of Jesus is never narrow, but broad and all encompassing. The doubts and questions about issues were silenced by the Episcopal Churches acceptance of many things not accepted by other religions. I continue today to identify as a member of the Episcopal Church. Never out of pride, do I share with others. That we don't discriminate and I get to also share with those not part of our faith how welcomed I was at my first Episcopal Church. God is Great and Merciful. I no longer have to live with intolerance of others.
"...I felt that I was being welcomed home."
Submitted by Ann L. Jones
In 1959, my engineer husband and I moved to Guayaquil, Ecuador where he began work on the construction of a massive seaport facility. Soon after my arrival, I met a young American, Billie Alban, who was married to a member of a prominent Guayaquil family. She not only helped me to learn Spanish, but when she found that we both were “cradle Episcopalians”, she introduced me to a small group of British and Americans living in Guayaquil who met—literally in an upper room—to hold Morning Prayer services every week. As a newly-wed, facing the challenges of a different land and language, I felt that I was being welcomed home.
As time went on, the group grew from “two or three together” to sometimes twenty or thirty. The Bishop of Panama had previously made arrangements to send a priest to administer the sacraments at Christmas and Easter but most of us felt strongly the absence of a weekly Eucharist and we longed to have a resident priest. We wrote several letters to Panama and to the National Council in New York, we were visited by a couple of bishops from the U. S., and finally we were told that a priest would be sent to us.
With the arrival of Father Charles Pickett in 1960, our mission grew quickly. We were able to buy a small house which became the Church of Christ the King. Several men in the congregation put together an altar and we obtained all kinds of donated furniture. I was able to buy some fine linen in a shop in Quito to make a fair linen for the altar, and I used local fabrics in brilliant primary colors to create simple Eucharistic vestments. We even had a “stained glass” window, painted by a local artist.
In the next few years, our mission grew to over 150 people, representing about ten different nationalities and denominations, with an active Vestry, Altar Guild and Sunday school. At this point, it became obvious that our real goal was to reach out to a growing Ecuadorian congregation. Father Pickett made pastoral calls, Billie developed a curriculum in Spanish to train people as lay readers, and the number of services in Spanish grew. We worked with a local hospital to bring assistance to women in some of the poorest barrios of the city, developed a Community Center, and provided a salary for a school teacher.
In the fall of 1962, I had to leave Guayaquil suddenly when I learned that my father was dying of cancer. Leaving the airport that night, surrounded by loving friends, I was reminded of the prayer that we “do all such good works as thou hast prepared for us to walk in” and realized how blessed we all had been in coming together to know Christ and to make Him known. As my friend Billie said, “It’s like living the Book of Acts.”
(The Church of Christ the King is now La Catedral Cristo Rey in the Diocesis Litoral Del Ecuador, which has over thirty-two congregations, and a Theological Study Center with twenty-one seminarians.)