Photo: K-9 Comfort Dogs Ruthie and Luther, along with Lutheran Church Charities staff Rich and Dona Martin, visit with a survivor of the bombings in Boston just before she went into surgery for her leg.
Running shoes with messages of hope written on the rubber soles dangle from a rod-iron fence that serves as a makeshift memorial site near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. This scene at the intersection of Newbury Street and Dartmouth Street is symbolic of the perseverance many Boston residents feel as they seek to overcome last week’s tragic bombings.
Yet, as horrific images of devastation continue to circulate on the Internet and social media sites, survivors and area residents acknowledge there is a long road of recovery, both physically and emotionally. Two successive explosions left three people dead and injured nearly 200.
Experts maintain the terrorist attack has forever shaped the identity of the marathon as well as the city of Boston. In response to the tragic event, care and comfort is coming from a variety of sources.
K-9 Comfort Dogs
Furry canine helpers were in Massachusetts to bring emotional comfort to Bostonians. Chicago-based Lutheran Church Charities deployed K-9 Comfort Dogs Ruthie, Luther and Isaiah, three dogs who help survivors affected by calamity like the Boston bombings. Addie and Maggie later joined that team after helping survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last December.
“When people pet the dogs it gives them a chance to relax and process what is going on,” said Tim Hetzner, president of Lutheran Church Charities. “Emotions were all over the place. We were there to share the mercy and compassion of Christ with people through the dogs.”
The dogs were stationed at the First Lutheran Church, a Missouri Synod congregation, located just a few blocks from the bombings. Hetzner says the dogs visited hospitals and walked the streets to help relieve stress in the aftermath of the devastation.
“We don’t proselytize, but everyone knows that we are Christian through our branding,” said Tim Hetzner, president of Lutheran Church Charities. “We pray with people if they so desire and we share Jesus Christ with people if they ask why we do what we do. The dogs are a tool that God has provided for us to share the Gospel.”
The dogs have now moved on to West, Texas, providing comfort to those impacted by the massive fertilizer plant explosion that rocked that town April 7.
Boston Churches Organize Support Network
Churches in Boston continue to provide support for victims of the Boston Marathon Bombings through a website called BostonMarathonSamaritans.org. The website was established through a partnership between TechMission, the Emmanuel Gospel Center and the Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston who partner with hundreds of churches in the greater Boston area.
"As a father of two young boys, I went to bed crying the night of the bombings about the pain of those who lost loved ones and others must be feeling,” said Andrew Sears, executive director of TechMission.
"In the morning I cried again as I was reminded of the parable of the Good Samaritan helping someone who had been beaten up and left for dead, and I thought, 'That is what Christians should be doing right now,’” said Sears. “So, within a few hours, we had a website up and partnerships with church networks across Boston to help the victims."
Sears explains one of the main goals of the site is to help churches provide the long-term care needed for the families that were victimized by the Boston Marathon bombing.
“TechMission is focused on technology,” said Sears. “Whenever a disaster strikes we’re able to respond really quickly. We will continue to provide information concerning the needs to the community with pastors in the region.”
Sears said free counseling to bombing victims and their families is one such service being offered.
A City United, But Grieving
Detectives Miguel Montesino and Albert Charbonnier where two of dozens of police officers called onto scene of the manhunt and ultimate shootout in Watertown, Massachusetts.
Montesino has served in the Boston Police Department for 18 years, but he has also served in Christian ministry for 14 years bringing a unique spiritual perspective of the challenges, which now face many Bostonians and those impacted by the bombings.
“I saw nothing but fear and determination in the officers and families that were there,” said Montesino. “I said to myself – ‘God, you need to take control.’”
Born and raised in Boston, Montesino and his wife, Michelle, came to know the Lord at Christ the Rock Church in 1999. Affiliated with the Assemblies of God denomination, the couple serves as campus pastors of the Christ the Rock Church’s Dedham location.
“I think God humbled this nation and He called us together to pray,” said Montesino. “We have the opportunity to drop to our knees and bring resolution to this world. The only way we can come to healing and restoration is through God.”
Prayer the Main Element of Recovery
Various prayer services have littered the Boston area since the bombings. Monday, Boston marked with a moment of silence the one-week anniversary that terrorists used shrapnel-packed pressure cooker explosives to wreak havoc on its city.
Lou Zinnanti, lead pastor of Christ the Rock Church Boston, said he’s seen a resurgence of prayer as a primary avenue to bring about healing. Gatherings of Christians have not only prayed for bombing victims, health care works, government leaders and first responders, but also those who were on the scene and filled the role of emergency workers.
Last week Zinnanti’s niece Angela Miller, an American Idol Top 5 finalist, dedicated her selection to her hometown of Boston. Mourners looking for hope and maybe even retribution, found comfort in her stirring rendition of “I Will Stand With You” as the teen highlighted heartbroken Bostonians on the popular program.
“Right when [the bombings] happened, I knew that I wanted to have some sort of dedication – show my love for Boston – in some sort of way,” Miller, 19, told Fox News following her performance Wednesday night.
"I love Boston. I want Boston to know that I love them, and I hope that song did that,” said Miller.
Zinnanti expressed great pride in his niece's performance, whose rendition was also used in a specially produced video for one of the prayer services. He also said it will take time to heal the wounded city.
“I’ve talked with many people who were down there who saw horrible things,” said Zinnanti. “Those images will never be erased from their minds and for them to do what they did in the midst of physical rubble – it is miraculous they were able to do what they did.”
Zinnanti said while many Bostonians are resilient, some are asking, “Where is God in the midst of our pain and destruction?” Zinnanti and his fellow pastors often remind doubters God is closer than He may seem.
“A lot of citizens there were really God’s hand extended,” said Zinnanti. “Some that don’t even serve God didn’t realize He used them in that situation. Many lives were saved because they were there.”
Russ Jones is a 25-year award-winning journalist and correspondent. He is co-publisher of various Christian news sites such as ChristianPress.com, OxfordFamily.com and a media consultant to a number of political and cause-oriented campaigns. He is also a freelance correspondent for the American Family Radio Network, a regular contributor for ReligionToday.com, Crosswalk.com and various Christian TV networks. He has been a guest on such programs as the Mike Gallagher Show, the Dennis Prager Show and Sandy Rios in the Morning. Jones holds degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia and St. Paul School of Theology. Russ is married to Jackie and together they have four children. He may be reached at [email protected] or Facebook.com/russjonesor Facebook.com/christianpressnews.
Publication date: April 23, 2013