“Bashert” (Yiddish for Destiny): MissionLink March 24, 2016


Lindsay and Matt Helm with son, Hunter


This is my first time writing a God Moment.  I was raised in a Jewish household among very culturally Jewish people.  My father, the child of Holocaust survivors, was born in Israel and immigrated to this country in 1960.  My mother’s family had been in this country for several generations and had been critical to the construction of several important synagogues in Brooklyn, New York.  For most Americans, my family would be broadly painted as Jewish.  Yet for us, we were a mixed family.  On one side, I have a grandmother who was enslaved, beaten and tortured as a young child during the Holocaust, while on the other side I have a grandmother who was one of the first women to attend Stern Business School at NYU.

The differences are most apparent in how the two sides of the family speak and how they refer to God.  My immigrant family speaks eight languages; the eighth being English.  My American-born family speaks English primarily and can understand bits and pieces of other languages.  This contrast alludes to a greater counterintuitive vein which sustains either group.  My father’s family, the survivors of one of the worst genocides in human history, whose survival is nothing less than a feat of chance and luck, do not believe in God and are at the same time vehemently atheistic and Zionist.  My mother’s family observed the Sabbath, kept a kosher household, and regularly attended synagogue.

This contradiction in faiths, within a culturally ancient brand, laid the foundation for an existence of questioning everything both Jewish and religious.  A caveat to this line of thinking is that in Judaism, questioning the very existence of god is considered a form of prayer. The debate and Socratic dialogue between oneself and their conscience is encouraged. Thus, from the perspective of my religious family, denying the existence of God in many ways was a means of connecting to their own Creator.

The result of this murky guidance is an agnostic—I, personally, don’t believe in the God of the Old or New Testaments.  There may be a higher power; I don’t know.  That acknowledgement of stating that I don’t know is the heart of agnosticism.  The word is derived from the Greek translation of the verb “to know.”  Its prefix indicates that one does not know the answer to the greatest of questions.  And so, in essence, I continue to question and probe the universe for an answer as to whether or not there is a higher power.

This basis for belief does not leave me bereft of spirituality or moments away from a higher power.  Instead, I lead a life driven by compassion, which intersects, crisscrosses, and overlays times of faith and spirituality.  The English word compassion derives from the Latin patiore, which means “to suffer.”  With its prefix, the word compassion means to suffer with someone.  I find this path of compassion draws me to helping those less fortunate and those struggling and suffering.  This circuitous path has lead me here to Mission Central, which was neither on my radar, nor on my list of perspective employers as I am an attorney by trade.

After several months of working here, I reconnected with a friend from college that I hadn’t spoken to in almost ten years.  Her husband had become paralyzed in a kayaking accident just a few weeks after she had given birth to their son, Hunter.  She and her husband are enormously attractive people, both inside and out.  They both resemble the prepackaged family that is used in picture frame displays at a store.  Curiously, the couple lives in Downingtown, Pennsylvania and was in need of medical equipment due to their financial situation.  Strangely enough, Mission Central, through the great work of Project C.U.R.E. had all the equipment they needed.

Here is where my agnostic path through the universe interacted and bombarded the road of compassion; creating one of many God Moments for me here at Mission Central.  When I realized I had available to me all of the equipment she needed to care for her husband, I contacted her.  Lindsay was shocked to hear from me, yet enormously grateful, nonetheless.  But for my employment here and the life-altering accident sustained by her husband, we would likely never have interacted again since college.  That in itself was pleasant but not the pinnacle of a Godly moment.

There were two things that I was unable to initially find for her in the warehouse.  One of the items I was told is rare and the other item has never come through the door.  While rifling through the neatly arranged rows of medical equipment, I thought to myself, “I hope I can find this for them.”  I had internalized their suffering, made it my own, and exposed myself to the universe hoping for relief.  I left to go home that night worried that I would not be able to help her and her husband.

When I entered Mission Central the next day, through the warehouse as always, there, resting in front of the row of crutches and commodes was the shower bench I needed.  When I asked around, no one could remember who brought it in or when it arrived.  But, there it was, one of the two items she needed.  Later that day, a day where we were enormously short-staffed due to the holidays, I had to help a friend from United Cerebral Palsy empty her car full of donated equipment.  We struck up a conversation.  She laughed and said, “I have the other thing you are looking for; it just didn’t fit in my car.”  Low and behold, the second item on Lindsay’s list was found.

The Saturday after Christmas of 2015, I delivered a car full of medical equipment and $150 I had raised with the help of a friend.  Lindsay and her husband Matt were ecstatic to receive the donated medical equipment from Mission Central.  They were clearly moved by the efforts of those in the warehouse and were enormously grateful for everyone’s help.

I’m not sure if the God Moment was meeting Rob Visscher who hired me, meeting Jean and David Norris, stumbling across my friend’s heartfelt request for assistance online, working at a place that could provide her all of the equipment she needed to care for her paralyzed husband or living in the same state as she lives in after going to college together in New York.  But as the agnostic in a Methodist institution, I acknowledge the sum of the events as something extraordinary.  Just like the survival of my family during the Holocaust, many factors had to align for this unlikely result to occur.  Yet those events aligned, and I was able to connect her needs with God’s resources.  I therefore surrender to this series of unlikely events and bow my head in acknowledgement to the ethereal enigma that is one of God’s many moments here at Mission Central.

With Appreciation,

Brad Biren

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