Global Ministries

The United Methodist Church

Connecting the Church in Mission

Binding up the Wounds of the Broken-Hearted

By Vickie Sigmon*

“Do they have anyone who can help,” the police officer asked as he gestured to the woman who sat on the dark street curb clutching her four young children. Stunned and exhausted, the children were no longer sobbing. Like shipwrecked survivors, abandoned and alone, the kids clung to their mom. Their anxious fear-filled eyes darted around as if a shark might suddenly emerge directly from the pavement where they huddled.

Four men had broken into the family’s apartment, crashing through a bedroom window in the dead of night. They landed on the bed where the mom and two little ones slept. One intruder snatched up the two-year-old and threatened to kidnap him. When two older children stumbled in, another intruder grabbed the nine-year-old boy. Holding a gun to the child’s head, he promised to shoot if the children didn’t quit screaming.

IMG_0949.JPGVickie Sigmon reads Dr. Seuss to some of the children involved in the Open Arms Community in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she serves as a Church and Community Worker.      PHOTO: COURTESY VICKIE SIGMON

The intruders terrorized the family for 30 minutes. They stole potato chips, Barbie dolls, and modest Christmas gifts still in boxes. After the police left the crime scene, I noticed the living room couch was gone. “Donna, did the men steal the couch,” I asked in bewilderment. “Si, Miss Vickie, si, si,” Donna replied. She speaks perfect English,
but the trauma had left her almost mute. The men had loaded the low-value sofa directly into a pick-up truck waiting outside the back door. Finally, after slinging Donna across the room and injuring her arm—and instilling as much terror as possible into the hearts and minds of this extremely vulnerable family—the men left.

Help and Hope

Donna called me for help at midnight. Like Samuel, who heard God call as he lay on his pallet, I rose from my bed and responded to God’s call. For 32 years, I have served as a Church and Community Worker of the General Board of Global Ministries. My primary task throughout the years has been to find help for people who have had their lives ripped apart and their hopes dashed. When lives are devastated, the causes can include crime, poverty, addiction, domestic abuse, low academic achievement, mental illness, racism, and socioeconomic prejudice. Sometimes, the causes overlap and the devastation seems total.

I have been inside more prisons than I can remember, held hands and prayed with murderers and serious felons. I have been present as a mother fell to the floor in utter desolation when her child was arrested; and, I have heard the inconsolable wail of an eight-year-old who was told that her father had died after hanging himself. I have held an immigrant mother dying of cancer in my arms as she begged: “Please take care of my children. Mi mamá no está aquí, please take care of my children.”

IMG_0945.JPGVickie Sigmon with some of the children from the Open Arms Community in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. PHOTO: COURTESY VICKIE SIGMON

I have learned that the sound and meaning of a sob is the same in any language and in any culture. I have learned that when hearts, spirits, and minds are broken, people cry in anguish…and God hears the people cry.

God hears the cries and God responds through everyday people like you and me. Every United Methodist mission anywhere in the world exists because United Methodists—like the prophet Isaiah—have answered God, “Here I am, Lord, send me.” Side-by-side with our Lord and the people who are hurting, we push up our sleeves, pull out our wallets, and do God’s holy work to bind up the wounds of the brokenhearted and set those who are made captive by sin—either their own sin or the sins of others—free.

For 32 years, again and again, I have witnessed hundreds of ordinary people doing God’s work wherever God sends them—into jails and prisons, ghettos and barrios, and sometimes into gated communities and high steeple churches—and it always seems like a miracle.

Ezekiel 36:26 tells us that God will rid us of our wicked hearts made of stone and give us a new heart that is of God. This is indeed a miracle. With a new heart and new spirit, we are willing to go wherever God sends us to do God’s work.

Our hearts turn to stone when filled with sins such as fear, greed, and pride. I suspect my own heart becomes rock-hard when I despair because public debates are raging about walls and war, about who should be convicted as a criminal and who should be exonerated, about who belongs in a country and who doesn’t, about who is faithful to God and who is not. I harden my heart to shut out my fear and despair. I lay down on my pallet and do not hear God’s summons.

Then the miracle happens. God calls me repeatedly until I rise up and leave fear and despair behind. I give myself to the Lord’s service and go into the world with a new heart that beats for God.

When the police asked if Donna’s family had anyone who would help, I knew with certainty that United Methodists would help. Throughout that long night and into the hours of the next day, and the following days and weeks, Christian servants would walk beside Donna’s family, help them heal and live beyond the trauma, and hold them tightly in God’s love.

*Vickie Sigmon (Advance #982916) has served as a Church and Community Worker in North Carolina since 1985. She works with the Open Arms Community in Winston-Salem. In 1999, she was assigned to work with the Yadkin Valley District to discern, design, and develop Open Arms Community. Open Arms is now a neighborhood-based
faith community offering hope and help through ministries with Latino immigrants and their families. Vickie and her husband, Kevin Hayes, live in the neighborhood and are privileged to witness God’s people building the kingdom every day.

Copyright New World Outlook magazine, Fall 2017 issue. Used by permission. Email the New World Outlook editor for more information.