"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Grace under Siege 46: We only offend our own

Testimony of Taylor van Buskirk, a former member of Grace:
     "I left the church for multiple reasons.  I was dating Terri Wolven at the time.  She was an awesome lady who had been blinded due to a combination of multiple sclerosis and diabetes.  She was a single mother of two and heard a noise at night.  She got up and fell – breaking her left arm and her back.  She was able to get to the phone and dial 911.  The x-rays led to the fact that she also had cancer.  
     "That woman maintained the best attitude through those horrible circumstances.  What made it intolerable was how Grace handled her.  She kept calling out for help and got NOTHING!  A few ladies stepped up to the plate and would bring her food.  That was Cheryl Guacci, Cindy Judd and Charlotte Klein (who really came to the rescue.  I’ll explain that later).  It was when she received a letter from [Jesus Eyes] (don’t get me started on him).  He sent Terri a letter bluntly telling her to stop harassing them.  If I hadn’t seen the letter myself, I would not have believed it.  It was shocking.  I went to [JE] and asked him, 'Where is the love and the care and concern in this church?'  I remember saying something like, 'This church has been here since 1913, and you would think reaching out to our own in need would be a well-oiled machine by now.'  Maybe I blocked the memory from my brain but I honestly don’t remember what [JE] said in reply.  It was shocking!
     "I had to be at work most of the time so Charlotte stopped by every day to help her!  Wow!  She would do grocery shopping, help her cook and clean and read her mail for her.  Her and Mark were amazing.  Terri’s cancer got the better of her.  Get this, Mark and Charlotte had moved to Montana and they took Terri back to Montana to live with them.  It’s in Montana she died.  Not one staff member was at her memorial service.  There were only about 8 of us there.  I think about her all the time.
     "Why did Grace treat her with such disdain?  I think it’s because she confronted the staff about the lack of Spiritual teaching in the youth department.  Both her kids were in junior high and the church was having a community outreach to all the kids in the neighborhood.  Terri asked why there was no Bible lesson or talk and why they didn’t even pray before a meal.  Their response was, 'We don’t want to offend them before they get in the door.'  Uh, doesn’t the Bible teach us the cross is offensive?
     "The final straw for me was when I attended a Sunday School class Lou was heading up.  I wanted to see where he was taking it.  It was a mixed aged group and people were going around giving their 'testimonies' – if that’s what you could call them.  I remember one lady said something like this, 'I’m Catholic and I love coming here because I feel so welcomed.  Grace accepts people regardless of what they believe and that I am still accepted by God, even if I pray to Mary and the Saints.'  It was something like that.  I looked to Lou waiting for him to say something.  He said, 'That’s great.'  That’s great????  Are you kidding me??  I went to Lou afterwards and asked him why he didn’t tell her in grace and love that Jesus is the only way and his reply was, 'We don’t want to offend them.  We can’t help them if they’re not coming here.'  It was something like that.  I responded by saying, 'But we also are obligated to tell them the truth.  Mary doesn’t hear her prayers any more than the Saints.'  He shrugged his shoulders and walked away.
     "I could go on and on – I won’t mention the unfriendly, unapproachable staff he gathered around him.  I would try and talk with them.  One time [one of the pastors] literally said to me, 'I have some people over there I would rather talk to right now.'  I looked at him and said, 'Are you serious?'  I couldn’t believe it. 
     "I realized, I don’t belong here anymore.  My family had attended Grace Brethren Church (then First Brethren Church) at Fifth and Cherry since 1913.  I was born into this church as was my dad.  My great-grandmother attended Fifth and Cherry.  What a sad day.
      "That’s it in a nutshell and I mean a nutshell.  I haven’t been back since 2006." 

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