Stewardship Resource

Mission of Love

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  • Author: K. C. Myers s a reporter for the The Cape Cod Times, Brewster, Massachusetts
  • Updated: 12/15/2009
  • Copyright: K. C. Myers
    Copyright article: The Cape Cod Times, Brewster, Massachusetts
    Sunday, December 06, 2009
    Reprinted by permission.

This is a story about how The Brewster Baptist Church n Brewster, Massachusetts reflected the congregation's mission: "Love God, love people and be a force for good." [Doug Scalise]is the pastor of the congregation.

Mission of Love
December 06, 2009

Donna Potter was a mother of three living an enviable life. Her three children, ages 8, 10 and 12, were healthy and happy. She loved her home and was active in her church. And this summer, she married a man she had met two years ago on e-Harmony.

But on Aug. 18, one month after their marriage, and one week before she moved her three children into their new home in Bedford, N.H., everything changed.

Her new husband, Sean Martin, got in a bad car accident. After being flown by MedFlight to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where doctors resuscitated him three times, his family got shocking news. Among many broken bones, Martin had shattered the T3-T4 vertebrae. He was paralyzed from the waist down.

Her family now faced a dizzying array of life changes. One of them presented an immediate problem.
"Financially, we were devastated by the accident," Potter said. "I didn't know how to pay my bills."

Enter the Brewster Baptist Church which had become a major part of Potter's life since she divorced and moved to Brewster full time in 2002. Until a few months ago, Donna Potter was a mother of three living an enviable life.

Church volunteers organized a "mini home makeover," calling on the more than 500 congregants to help. They raised $45,000 in two weeks to renovate the family's home and make it handicapped accessible.

"It was just a huge, huge godsend. They came to our rescue," said Potter, 45.

Before the accident, Potter had been able to support her family based on alimony and her part-time job as a nurse practitioner for Dr. William Pegg in Hyannis.  But when she married Martin, the alimony checks ended. Martin, who sold lighting rods to architects and designers of hospitals and universities, was to be the family's breadwinner.

As her husband lay in a hospital bed, followed by months in a rehabilitation hospital, Potter had to figure out how to support mortgages on two homes.  The New Hampshire house is still for sale, she said.
On the Cape, Potter didn't know how she was going to afford food, let alone make the Brewster home suitable for a man in a wheelchair, Potter said.

"It's a situation I've never been in before," she said. "It shows that in a blink of an eye everything can change."

Her faith sustained her. She knew God would help, she said. She just didn't know how.

For members of the Brewster Baptist Church, who routinely travel on missions to build homes in the Dominican Republic, Mississippi and elsewhere, this was a no-brainer.

"We try to love God, love people and be a force for good," said the Rev. Doug Scalise. "This was a tragic accident. To go in one month from all the hopes and dreams of being married to have something like this happen.   Their challenge was difficult emotionally, financially and every possible way.   Our church just wanted to surround them."

Among the home improvements done by volunteers and friends both in and out of the church was turning an outdoor shower on Potter's deck into a new handicapped bathroom. They added blacktop to replace the crushed stone on her driveway, changed her carpeted floors to hardwood so the wheelchair could roll more easily and widened the doors on her cottage. Gas bills and landscaping services were taken care of all fall.

About 30 builders and companies donated labor and materials, said Bob Linnell, a retired builder and church deacon. Since the renovations began Nov. 3, teams as large as 18 worked almost every day, Potter said. They expect to be finished by Christmas, Linnell said.

"Donna is a very giving person herself," said Sharon Kautz, Linnell's daughter. "She is always the first person to help others."

Linnell and his son-in-law Tim Kautz, also a deacon, organized the project.

Potter, however, credited the church "as a model of Christian love," she said.  "Everyone does everything out of the goodness of their hearts, not out of guilt or anything."

As for her new husband, he rarely complains about his lot in life, his wife said.  "Sean has grown even deeper in his faith. He's grateful that his head was protected and that he has no brain damage. He's been so inspiring, so positive. He's bringing people back to the church."

Her children have done well throughout the turbulent fall. They all said, 'We'd rather have him in a wheelchair than dead,'  "Potter said. "They just have a great bond."

K. C. Myers
Copyright article: The Cape Cod Times, Brewster, Massachusetts
Sunday, December 06, 2009
Reprinted by permission.

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