July 8, 2018

Dear Seymour and Jurena,
As I started my church journey at Messiah I expected to hear about God, Jesus, all the things I shouldn’t do, all the things I should do, and other religious things. But to be honest, I didn’t want to be there or hear any of it. But, as it turns out church wasn’t anything like I thought, and the actual lessons I have learned at Messiah are multiple, life changing, and unexpected. My testimony is a work in progress because there are so many levels to everything, and I continue to receive new information from old lessons as I grow.
Both of you, and others at Messiah, have enriched my life with a strong, positive impact. The education, unwavering kindness, and love I have received over the past year and a half have taken me to places I didn’t know were possible and helped fix things in me that I didn’t know were broken. There are others at Messiah bringing more lessons, but I have learned to accept my challenges as blessings, and therefore, with each step forward, I receive more blessings and growth. Some of my earliest lessons impact my current growth and some lessons I face over and over on different levels, sometimes even losing progress, it seems. Learning to receive, being part of a group, sanctifying my emotions, trusting and believing God, and letting go of the need to be good at everything, but bringing my best gifts, are some of the lessons that have changed my daily life. I will write about the healing that has occurred and some other mysterious things that have deepened my faith without a full understanding of what is happening. Praise and worship was the beginning and continues to be the driving force for my recovery and growth.
I admit, attending church was not my idea nor my thing. When I was 19 years old, I read some graffiti on the inside of a bathroom stall at my college. It read, “Religion is equal to a band aid for man’s fear of death and the unknown.” These words, combined with my previous religious experiences, caused me to believe and embrace it. I didn’t walk into a church for 33 years except for sporting events and camps for my kids, and never once did I feel guilty or bad about it, or consider that I should go. When I did attend the kids’ church activities I always made sure to escape during breaks so I didn’t have to listen to the “church people” talk. I continued to have a private relationship with God, but I now know that I was functioning with a damaged heart, limited knowledge, independently, without teachers or a family, and without an instruction manual.
When I first arrived at Messiah in December 2016, I was basically dragged into several churches by a boyfriend seeking healing for me. The only reason I agreed to attended church was because I was trying to put forth effort into the relationship. Not my relationship with God, but my relationship with the man. I didn’t care how religious he wanted to be. I would go places that I didn’t want to go with him occasionally, or as needed, if he would do the same for me. I was proud of myself for my willingness to compromise, and I thought I was on the right track. And to be honest, I was only willing to compromise because I was injured.
In November 2016 I received a serious concussion at work when a large window crashed down on my head. I was several weeks into recovery, but hadn’t recovered at all, when I walked into Messiah. I had a lot of symptoms from the concussion including a cracked tooth, loss of olfactory senses and taste buds, increased sensitivity to sound and light, memory loss and changing vision in my right eye. My strength was literally gone and I could only lift a half cup of water. I couldn’t write my name or fold a wash cloth into a square.
At the time, I was living in a tiny one room efficiency apartment with my teenage daughter following many stressful years that included a long illness, serious injuries, emergency surgery, job loss and broken pipes that resulted in the sale of my home. I developed PTSD from hundreds of near-death experiences and hospital visits only to be turned away over and over because I had no insurance. My condition was considered pre-existing, so insurance was not available, and my health was seriously deteriorating. My tiny apartment was supposed to be a place to recover physically and financially from these problems, but instead I received head trauma and another opportunity for recovery. I couldn’t drive for a few months and I couldn’t drive on rainy days for over a year because the noise was too intense. I was readmitted to the hospital in February 2017 with kidney stones, shingles and e-coli at the same time. I had so many symptoms that doctors could not agree on my condition, and I was given lots of different medicines for lots of different things, and it is speculated that my concussion may be responsible for some of my symptoms. After five days of convulsions and a fight with the devil, I survived.
I am still recovering, and I continue to back slide into discouraged moments, but the truth is this is an awesome example of how sometimes our struggles become blessings when we don’t expect it. When I got my concussion, my kids and friends sprang into action. Everyone took turns skipping work and school to do my job for me. They were already trained because they helped me through my other injuries, and my bills were manageable because I was in the tiny apartment. I focused on healing and a positive attitude above all else, but I admit, worry was starting to infiltrate my thoughts when everyone started to wonder if I would recover at all.
I chose Messiah over the other churches because of the praise and worship. Even though the music was loud, it didn’t hurt my head. As soon as I heard Jurena sing I was exposed to something that I had never experienced before, but I couldn’t understand what was different about it. As she sang, I stood there with a scowl on my face and my hands clinched into fists in my pockets. I saw others in praise and worship and wished I felt happy like they did. I wanted to take my hands out of my pockets and relax, but I didn’t know how to receive the gifts available to me.
I was like this for almost a year with scattered attendance and crazy emotions. After eight months, the boyfriend and I broke up and I spent my week in a personal struggle over if I should attend church on my own. Over the next six months I continued with scattered attendance for praise and worship. Then, I waited for Seymour and Jurena to turn around or close their eyes, and I would vanish as swiftly and quietly as possible! It was a full year into my journey at Messiah that a prophetic word during praise and worship allowed me to see and feel the power as the words came to pass before my eyes.
I became more interested and involved in other church activities. I attended the Christmas party, the New Year’s party and then started going to small group and an occasional prophet’s gathering. The key that I received at the Christmas party is a flower with a clock in the center and the words “Faithfulness” and “Time to Bloom.” I was going to pick a different key because I liked the envelope, and I am the only one that knows how my hand was guided to the one I got, but because of this, and the fact that I am a plant lady, it is a powerful word for me. The New Year’s party was less structured than other activities, I was starting to get to know people and I left with a feeling of having a group of friends who are doing something more worthwhile with their time than most of the other people I know.
It took me an entire year to get to this spot, but wanting to receive made learning to receive one of my earliest lessons. When the snow storm hit and I wasn’t working, Jurena randomly handed me a $20 bill. I tried to decline it, but everyone around me went nuts and told me that I had to take it. So, I took it, brought it home and put it in my make-up box where it still sits today. It is now a daily reminder to praise God for my blessings and to focus on the things that make a difference. It seems like a small thing, but learning to receive is a huge lesson that impacts everything.
One Sunday Jurena sang a healing song, and I longed for and needed more. I started seeing beautiful visions of angels, love and musical notes coming out of Jurena. Soon the visions included the angels, love and musical notes coming out of Seymour and Betty too and the room filled with what I now believe to be the Holy Spirit. This love spread through the church and out into the atmosphere. On the weeks I talked to Jurena, I would tell her how beautiful her voice is. I told her that she sings all the songs better than all the professionals. Jurena wouldn’t take any credit and she wouldn’t let me compliment her like I wanted to. My visions were so powerful and I wanted her to receive my praise so much that I painted a picture of one of my visions for her in December 2017. One day, I was excitedly telling Jurena about my visions and she smiled at me and said, “I know, I see it all the time.” Since then I’ve had several more visions including a vision of Messiah surrounded with other churches coming up with us. One Saturday night while listening to Jurena at home I had a vision of Messiah, and it was like the other vision with us surrounded by other churches, except our church had no walls. I could see the service and Jurena singing and there was no building, but everything was exactly normal otherwise. The next morning at church we learned that we lost our building. I had a vision last week while Jurena while was singing. I saw lavender, but slightly darker, heart shape balloons leaving earth and going up. After they all floated up, about 100 balloons or so of all different sizes but all heart shaped, I saw an extremely bright light. It was so bright that I had to open my eyes because it I felt like my eyes were going to be burned if I didn’t open them.
In March of 2018, I received more damage to my brain from a horn at church. It felt like I had my brain sliced in half, and for several weeks most of my concussion symptoms returned full force. I struggled to understand how a noise could cause the same trauma as a physical hit. It wasn’t until I accepted that my re-injury had a spiritual component that I started to recover. One Tuesday night I drew a picture of my brain and what my injury looked like. I told my story at bible study the next evening. Jurena showed a picture she drew on Tuesday night and it was the same exact picture that I drew of my brain but her picture was of a golden river of peace, I believe. Praise and worship was filling in the dark space in my brain and Jurena’s drawing created a surge of healing through my body and mind.
I used to describe the feeling of my concussion as, “Active, like worms are eating my brain.” It also feels like, “My brain is shaking inside of my skull when I’m exposed to repetitive or loud sounds.” One Sunday Jurena talked about someone else with a brain injury during praise and worship. She made a reference to knitting and how the person’s brain was being repaired and this connected new information in my head that completely changed everything. The activity in my brain continued but I was enlightened to the idea of healing and repair and the worms destroying changed to knitting healing and I dove into praise and worship with all the spare time I had, sometimes listening all day.
The small group served as group counseling for me, and provided an opportunity for some occasional individual time with Jurena following the group. In one of the groups, I stirred things up with difference of opinion, but it was that moment that I felt like I brought something of value to the group. Some people expressed strong disagreement with my views while others expressed agreement to my opinion and relief to be able to express themselves. Seymour was skilled in letting the situation build and unfold, but settled it down before it became damaging. In fact, he seemed pleased with the intensity and participation so I didn’t feel like I caused trouble. I don’t feel like anyone tried to change my views or held my views against me. I opened my mind to the opinions of others and learned a valuable lesson about authority and a little bit about what the bible says about it. The small group setting helped me because I realized that we are all dealing with different things in life, and although we all don’t have the same problem like in traditional counseling, it is a group of people that genuinely care about each other and have a willingness to share their experiences and resources to help one another. I became a connected part of the group when everyone still loved me and welcomed me despite the difference of opinion on very important and emotional topics. This was one of my earliest lessons on sanctified emotions and one of my earliest views into the integrity of the group. Everyone simply accepted me.
During my individual time with Jurena she walked me through some exercises to help me process some of my past experiences. When she shared her personal story, I could see and feel understanding, compassion, forgiveness and strength, and none of the negative stuff that comes out when I shared my story. It was at that moment that Jurena basically handed me a road map to recovering from my PTSD and moving forward. I had spent years trying to figure out how to talk about my story. Not being able to talk about it was holding me back from my calling. Then I spent years trying to follow my calling without talking about my story. I spent years asking doctors to help me with the only solution being medications or being told that I just needed to get over it. I did not fit the stereotype for the problem I had and because I refused the medications, I was refusing treatment and frustrating doctors. But Jurena wasn’t frustrated with me and she was so positive I could get over this stuff that I believed her. Suddenly, instead of all the negativity in my head, I started hearing Jurena’s voice say, “Praise the Lord” which brought happiness and hope instead of negativity and worry. I also started to hear the prayers of my friends in small group. It wasn’t the words that I could specifically hear because everyone was praying, but instead it was a feeling or presence that overcame me. So, through this healing process, I learned that it was never about me telling my story because my story isn’t my story at all. When I first entered Messiah, I thought injury and trauma was my story. Then I thought trauma and recovery was my story. Now, I know that my past experiences are just a small part of my story. Everything I have been through is preparation and God has much greater plans for me. I think I had God and religion as its own category and not something that is a part of everything.
I had also been struggling with being overwhelmed with so many different directions in my life and having conflict in most of the areas. I have been focused on figuring out what I should quit and what is my responsibility? I’ve been seeking answers to questions such as, “Is what I think I am called to do actually what I am called to do?” Through this process I’ve realized that I don’t need to quit anything, but that I can walk in faith and I can handle more. I have also resolved most of the conflict with the lessons I’ve learned on authority, respect and respecting authority.
Messiah church and being a part of this family enriches my life. Thank you for your patients and love, and I am forever grateful for the changes you helped to create in me. I could keep writing for days and still have more to write about how you’ve helped me, but I wanted to take this time to tell you how much I love and appreciate you both!

Noreen Laemers