A brief back story…
I grew up in Palatine, IL and spent time in two churches – Christ Lutheran Church and Immanuel Lutheran Church and School. While I was a member growing up at Immanuel, Tim Hetzner was on staff as the Christian Education Director. For years he ran an adult Bible Study called Crossways. As I got older I wanted to take it with him, but the timing never worked out as I went off to college and spent my summers at camp. My mother (who taught at Immanuel for many years) and some friends were able to study Bible with Tim, and the consensus is his classes were life-changing.
Now the real story…
For several years now, Tim has run Lutheran Church Charities. A good friend of mine, Josh Radetski (who also learned from Tim) worked with him for a number of years. We’ve been Facebook friends for a while. Tim is a faith-filled wonderful human being. He does good work. He inspires others. He’s even humble about it.
One of the ministry project Lutheran Church Charities initiated in 2008 is a dog ministry called, “K-9 Comfort Dogs.” A team of dog handlers bring the trained golden retrievers to places like Joplin, MO after the tornado destroyed the town, in New York and New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy, and now to Newtown, CT after the tragic events took place last week. To my delight, I was watching TV on Tuesday, and there was Tim, talking about how these dogs bring a sense of calm in a time of confusion. When asked what this ministry means to him, Tim said, “Children smile. I cry.” Kudos to you Tim, your team, and the dogs that bear witness to a loving and caring God, who seeks to console us in our deepest distress.
In these days that have followed the Sandy Hook shootings, I’ve found myself slipping between anger and sadness, helplessness and loneliness, while doing my best to remain calm, steadfast, prayerful and looking forward to Christmas. I’ve found connecting with colleagues and friends, holding my own kids tight and focusing on my work to be helpful, but like many others I am sure, there is a feeling of emptiness when I think on it too long. In the near future I am sure I’ll do some deeper theological reflection, but today I am reminded by one of the commenters on one of the links below.
“Dog spelled backward is God is it a coincidence? I think not. They truly are man’s best friend.” (AnnaLauraMarquez)
Hang tight. Keep praying. Remember God loves you and meets you in the darkness.
Reach up and pet him. God will lick you in the face until you smile.
‘Comfort O Comfort my people,’ says your God. (Isaiah 40:1)
“Comfort Dogs Bring Joy to Newtown” Best. News. CNN. online available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUQGrpJ7Pr4
Amy Jamieson, “‘Comfort Dogs’ Relieve Emotional Distress in Grieving,” People. December 18, 2012. Online Available: http://www.people.com/people/mobile/article/0,,20656736_20657586,00.html
“Therapy Dogs Arrive in Newtown to Help with Grief.” Today Show. NBC. online available: http://video.today.msnbc.msn.com/today/50235481#50235481
Melissa Locker, “In Newtown, Golden Retrievers Arrive to Comfort Survivors,” Time Newsfeed. December 17, 2012. Online Available: http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/12/17/in-newtown-golden-retrievers-arrive-to-comfort-survivors/
Doug Stanglin, “‘Comfort Dogs’ Help Newtown Deal with Grief,” USA TODAY. December 18, 2012. Online Available: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/12/18/comfort-dogs-grief-newtown-school-shooting-lutheran-church-charities/1777361/?sf7969557=1
K-9 Parish Comfort Dogs. Lutheran Church Charities. http://lutheranchurchcharities.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=25&Itemid=95
Comfort Dogs on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/k9comfort