Dan’s childhood was difficult beyond imagination. He was physically, mentally and psychologically abused by his father. Often he was deprived of adequate food and clothing. Dan left home at 28, when his dad came at him with a knife in the midst of a heated argument. Like many who have had abusive childhoods, Dan slipped deeper and deeper into a life of addiction and depression.
After many years, Dan’s father decided to move to Kentucky to be near a friend who could care for him, since his health was deteriorating. Because Dan did not want to have any regrets, as he did when his mother died suddenly, Dan wanted to talk with his father one more time. Moved by our congregation’s focus on forgiveness, as well as his many years of hard work in therapy and spiritual direction which resulted in being clean of his addiction, Dan looked his dad in the eye and said, “You were a poor excuse for a father and I have hated your guts for years … But, I understand now that you did the best you could. I forgive you.” Then Dan reached inside his shirt and found the nail on the purple yarn we had blessed during our Lenten journey of forgiveness. He gave the nail to his father and explained that it represented how Jesus suffered so that we could be forgiven. “Let this be the first nail in repairing our relationship”, said Dan. Though at first his father appeared not to want the nail, he took it with him when he moved to Kentucky.
A few months later, Dan received a call that his father was critically ill. He was on life support in a hospital in Kentucky and was dying. Dan called Pastor Janet and they talked about what Dan could do to bring his father to the Lord before his death. They created a service of healing prayer with scripture and anointing oil. Then Dan and his sister made the trip to Kentucky where they made the decision to take his father off of life support. During this time, Dan was constantly being held in prayer by several members of the congregation who knew how painful Dan’s relationship with his father had been and how hard this death would be on him.
One day in the hospital Dan was able to spend a few minutes alone with his father during one of his father’s lucid moments. Dan read to his father the scriptures and anointed him with oil. He felt called to stand in the gap for his father’s salvation. After the healing prayer, Dan walked across the room to reach for his small wooden cross. “Dad, do you know what this is?” Though terribly weak, his father had the strength to reach out for the cross and said, “Forgiveness.” Dan responded, “I love you, Dad.” To which his father grabbed his hand and said clearly, “I love you.”
Dan’s father died within a few days. Later Dan’s “Uncle” (his father’s friend) returned the nail of forgiveness to Dan. Through it, father and son were reconciled to each other, and Dan’s father went home to live with the Lord eternally. Today Dan acknowledges that there is still more work to be done in forgiveness, but through his experience with his father, he knows he will be led and given the power to do it. Forgiveness works through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ!
By Dan Beyerlein, as told to Pastor Janet
In loving memory of Bill Beyerlein
After the tragic shooting on March 9, 2016 on Franklin Avenue, our church joined the Wilkinsburg Sanctuary Project partners to bring hope and healing to our devastated community. Within less than 24 hours we held a prayer vigil on the street offering words of comfort and challenge to keep on working for peace. A week later we knocked on the doors of the neighborhood offering information on counseling resources and prayer. On the first month anniversary, we were invited by the homeowners to hold a house cleansing and prayer vigil.
But this was not enough. When a grant from the Week of Compassion through the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) was given to us, we prayed about how best to use that money to bring healing to our community. It was then that Operation Light on Franklin was born. Our church and the Wilkinsburg Sanctuary Project joined forces with Rebuilding Pittsburgh Together to work on the 1300-1400 block of Frankllin Avenue to lift up our courageous neighbors. Through two community work days, one in the summer and one in the Fall, as well as the youth who worked on Franklin Avenue through the Wilkinsburg Youth Project's summer jobs program, we were able to board up 11 properties and give a face lift to the neighborhood. Partners from the Mt. Lebanon Presbyterian Church youth group, Bethany College, Bethany Memorial Christian Church assisted our efforts, as well as many neighbors. Most importantly, our presence and prayer vigils on the street sent a powerful message that the way to respond to evil is to do good, as the I Peter advises.
Below is a letter of thanks from our partner, Rebuilding Pittsburgh Together which summarizes the work achieved:
We are extremely grateful for the generous youth grant of $4,000 provided to assist the residents of the 1300 and 1400 Blocks of Franklin Avenue this summer. Your grant along with support from the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation and Wilkinsburg Youth Project allowed RTP and its partners to work with the neighbors to clean up the blocks and make much needed repairs.We were able to touch 47 properties (11 were vacant and got boarded up) with needed minor repairs ranging from repairing fences, handrails, repairing concrete, hauling away debris, painting and installing visible house numbers. While we believe the work done was very valuable and lifted the spirits of the residents, we know the impact on the youth involved was even more uplifting.Over the summer, a crew of eight lead by three staff from RTP, worked tirelessly three days a week for six weeks. During that time, other youth teams came up to the site to assist. We also held a community work day in July that brought together Wilkinsburg Sanctuary churches, volunteers from the community, and 12 youth from Mt. Lebanon Presbyterian Church. Again that day was incredible as we also had more than 15 neighbors join the work group bringing a crowd of nearly 50 people working and celebrating.
Following a year of intensive work and prayer, we returned again to Franklin Avenue on the first anniversary to pray for healing for the families and neighbors. Ministers of the Christian and Muslim community prayed for healing and hope as we continue to recover from this terrible tragedy.
By Pastor Janet Hellner-Burris
I thank God for giving me this great opportunity and experience going into my 5th year as coach for Joseph’s Basketball & Bible Camp. I receive it as a tremendous honor and privilege to play a role in molding and shaping the lives of our youth. So few youth today have a positive male role model in their life to help guide and direct them into a successful future.
It is written in Judges 2:10 (New Living Translation): “After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel”. I refuse to be as the children of Israel were in allowing a generation to grow in ignorance of God’s majestic authority and unconditional love. I take this mission very seriously in educating and directing the next generation. Through Joseph’s Basketball & Bible Camp, I not only purpose to provide a safe and fun environment in which youth can learn and develop their basketball skills. But also, a place where they can learn of who God is and His love of salvation He is awaiting for them to accept; instilling within them biblical principles and values that will not only develop them spiritually but even help them to move forward in successfully achieving positive and productive goals in their lives.
From teaching basics such as teamwork to teaching teens the importance of abstinence. It has been a wonderful journey enlightening the minds of youth, and helping them to see life from a perspective different than that which society and media portray. It is great watching the progress and change in the lives of the youth I’ve worked with through JBB Camp. I look forward to many more years of servicing the youth and securing a better tomorrow through them: for our youth are our future.
By Coach Frank Tillman
As an important part of our commitment to raise our children in the faith, we provide Children’s Church every Sunday. Half way through the worship service children in grades three and younger leave with our Children’s Church intern, Emily Mills, for Bible study, activities and a snack. Often they delight us by coming back at the end of worship to share with the congregation what they have learned. This prayer was written by the children of our congregation as they learned about the three great movements of prayer: thanksgiving, forgiveness and petition.
We thank you for… our homes, God’s creation, our families and for joy.
We ask forgiveness for... taking people’s stuff without permission, for not listening, interrupting and being rude, annoying people on purpose.
We pray for … a clean environment, God’s guidance, equality for all races and genders, and for healthy ways to deal with our anger.
What a blessing to me and my youth group to be in partnership in the Gospel with Pastor Janet and the wonderful servants of Jesus at the Christian Church of Wilkinsburg. Three years ago we formed a bond to love and serve on another in Wilkinsburg through Santa’s Open House, The Sanctuary Project’s Block Party for Peace and Vacation Bible School. We have seen lives changed and God’s love shared to the people we have met and ministered to, but it has been us who have been blessed immensely by the love given right back. Only a partnership in the Gospel, as Paul reminds us in the book of Philippians, can make this all possible, and just like Paul, I thank my God every day for placing me and my youth group among these wonderful witnesses for Him.
by Andy Hrmoko
Youth Ministry Director
Mt. Lebanon Evangelical Presbyterian Church