Dear Beloved in Christ,
Bethsaida was a bright girl who lived in the inner city of Milwaukee. On all accounts she was going somewhere. She didn't drink, do drugs, or smoke, and was active in school and sports. She was accepted at Marquette University and had plans to become a nurse. At a young age Bethsaida learned tennis at Merrill Park and was the No. 1 girls singles player at Bay View High School.
Three days after Christmas Bethsaida was rear-ended by a semitrailer truck on her way home from Taco Bell where she worked. She never came out of the coma that claimed her life three weeks later. She was at the ICU unit at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee when I met her. In order to relieve the swelling on her brain the doctors removed a portion of her skull but it was too late.
I was in the lobby with the Cotters on the day that Jordan had his accident. A woman sat in a chair in the corner. Her lips were moving silently as she watched Jerry Springer. I got up to leave and she came up to me. "Will you pray for my daughter?" she said. "I will," I said.
We sat down. I asked her daughter's name and the situation. Her accent caused me to question what she said. "No one could be named Bethsaida," I thought, "Her name must be Beth and her last name Sayda." I prayed and afterwards asked the daughter's name again. "Bethsaida," she said. "Really!" I said with a smile on my face. "That's from the Bible." "I know," she said, "My father gave me the name, and I named my daughter that too." I told her how Jesus healed the blind man in Bethsaida and fed the 5,000 there also. I had hopes that Bethsaida would be healed as well.
I asked if I could return in a little while and pray at her bedside. I did, and later found out that while she had gone to Sunday School as a child she had never been baptized. I asked if I could baptize her, and the mother said that I could.
On Friday I came with a little bowl and the silver baptismal shell from our congregation. Bethsaida, the little tennis girl from Milwaukee lay silent as I saw it, but heaven rejoiced as there in that hospital room Jesus came, the Spirit alighted, and God said, "You Bethsaida are my beloved child; with you I am well pleased." Born again she was born from above, born of water and the Spirit, born anew in God's kingdom. It was evident at that point that she was going to die, but life there arrived, just in time. I closed by singing "I Am Jesus Little Lamb," and promised to come back on Sunday. On Monday she died.
The family called to say that they wanted me there at the funeral. "We want you to sing that song you sang by her bedside, it brought us such comfort." I felt a little out of place at the West Side church, yet by the graveside I spoke of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. I told the people that Jesus said that He knows His sheep, and that His sheep know Him, and that nothing can snatch them out of His hand. "I am the good shepherd," Jesus said, "I give my life for the sheep." "Jesus is good because He gives His life even for sheep such as ourselves," I said. "Because of that we have eternal hope." I ended with the hymn, the last line bringing everything into focus. "And when my short life is ended, by his angel hosts attended, He shall fold me to His breast, there within His arms to rest."
I hugged the family and said goodbye and told them I would call soon. Later that day my wife asked me if I thought it was worth going. I paused and said that I didn't know. How does one answer that question? For so many things one never knows. A pastor just goes.
As I told my Bible Class the previous week, the people in the pages of Scripture come into contact with Jesus in many ways. Some people come to Jesus on their own accord. Some people are touched by Jesus when He comes to them. Some people are brought to Jesus unknowingly. Some people are healed at a distance. Some people that Jesus healed were old. Some people that Jesus dealt with were infants. Some people were somewhere in between. Whatever the situation, there was no barrier that Jesus didn't cross; even death for Him was not an obstacle. And so therefore, neither is a coma, even if it is so for us. In the end God granted even more than we asked for. She now enjoys perfect healing in Christ, the rest of all the saints, and was spared the sufferings of this life.
Pastor Seifferlein plans to visit the family in several weeks and bring a care package from our congregation. If you wish to give a small monetary gift or a homemade baked item, homemade canned goods, card, or other items, please give it to him by Valentine's Day. -- Pastor Seifferlein