Bethesda News

Amid COVID-19

These past few months have been historically unprecedented in a battle against an invisible foe. For those working in some hospitals, it has literally meant walking into a war zone (said by many who experienced combat). For some it has meant the loss of their business, jobs, and income. Others have faced the daunting task of trying to test their capacity and resilience to teach school subjects to their kids. Many have been taking to heights unknown the phrase “cabin fever,” and for all of us, an emotional and functional disruption to “normalcy” of life.

As all of us have had to learn to communicate differently to achieve some level of connection (thank goodness for Zoom, High Five, Skype, social media). You have shared some of your stories of this new challenging world we find ourselves in. I hear frequently how much we miss a hug, a touch, a face to face experience with our families and friends.

In honor of Father’s Day, in our attempt to keep our men guests and staff safe, here are the medical protocols and tireless efforts implemented of at our iconic Men’s Shelter, that “house of mercy” at 611 Reily Street:

  • We implemented protocols and guidance from the CDC and PA Department of Health for screening/assessing guests and cleaning/sanitizing measures throughout shelter beginning in mid-March.
  • Bethesda Mission halted taking new men guests on March 18, 2020 and then reopened on May 4, 2020 to new guests, limited to those serious about long term recovery.
  • With numbers increasing of homeless on our streets during this pandemic, we collaborated with the Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness to provide food, water, showers, health services to encampment sites. Bethesda Men’s Shelter increased curbside food distribution serving breakfast and dinner to 100+ daily while serving our resident guests 3 meals a day.
  • As restrictions are modified in PA, in our community, we will begin to accept new guests but limit the number of residents in the Men’s Shelter to a maximum of 98, with no more than 20 persons sleeping in the Chapel (78 permanent beds). These restrictions provide adequate spacing between mattresses and enough space in the shelter to quarantine an individual(s) suspicious for COVID -19. New admissions will be allowed only on weekdays to allow staff nurses to do a COVID-19 screening
  • Strict temperature screening of all persons entering the Men’s Shelter including staff, volunteers, residents returning from work and/or out of the building for a period of time


Reflections from our Staff 

Bill Christian, Director, Men’s Shelter

“For the time our guests are with us, this is their home, so safety is of utmost concern. We have been so blessed by guests’ attitudes and cooperative spirits in stepping up to clean the Shelter several times/day, packaging box food, serving hundreds of meals curbside to homeless on the streets.”


Carol Steele, RN – Medical Clinic Manager

“The door to the Medical Clinic has been whitewashed from so much cleaning. We are thankful so far [at the time this letter is being written] to be virus free in the shelter.”


Cecil McCray, Manager of Mission Services

“We have been doing Church online, so instead of doing the regular devotions, I have been just praying with the guys before church comes on during roll call. It was one of the most powerful responses that I have received from the men­. They came up afterwards and were very appreciative of how their families, as well as themselves, were included with just prayer.”


Doug Barger, Director of Client Aftercare

“I have been blessed by a number of the men who have been encouraged by the LORD’s using my story to help them see that life apart from the things that have tripped them up in the past is possible, attainable, and manageable. These are evidences that God is at work at the Mission and working in the lives of the men we currently have there. The low numbers and lack of transient guests popping in and out of the mission causing distractions and conflict has helped some of these men to be still and know that he is GOD.”


Kevin Murphy, Chaplain/Life Coach

“I have experienced a feeling of thankfulness. Despite the fact that the virus has intruded into so many parts of our society, causing the closing of so many places of business and of offices in general, the Men’s Shelter has remained open and, remarkably, virus free thus far. I cannot help but think that the Lord has placed a hedge of protection around us as we seek His will for the men we are serving.


Don Koch, Director of Social Services 

“It is always a privilege to serve Jesus and work with the residents at Bethesda. The men are asking us for verses concerning overcoming fear, living by faith, and trusting Jesus. They are learning how to overcome in adversity, gain endurance and maturity. There have been demonstrations of real brotherly love. This will help them as they move on from Bethesda and I am sure many will see this as a time of real growth in their lives as men of God.”


While our guests have experienced a range of emotions, what has surfaced in these few months is a desire to want to know what can they do to help. This has been so encouraging to the staff and to the media who have sought out some positive stories coming from this unsettling experience. That is why we wanted to share these stories with you, our faithful donors.

In the Gospels, the excitement of the growing crowds and tensions between the Pharisees and Jesus caused the disciples to want to escape to the Garden of Gethsemane to find rest, ask questions, and listen to the Master build into their understanding. Our guests, and hopefully each of you, have found ways to steal away to find rest and comfort in the midst of this storm. Taking time to reflect on passages that focus our minds and hearts on the one who is sovereign over all, and has demonstrated it by sacrificing his life, gives us real hope.

“In the Garden” is a gospel song written by American songwriter C. Austin Miles (1868–1946). According to Miles’ great-granddaughter, the song was written “in a cold, dreary and leaky basement in Pitman, New Jersey that didn’t even have a window in it let alone a view of a garden.

Thank you for your standing with Bethesda through this storm. Our guests are so appreciative of the sacrifice you make to faithfully pray for and support this life changing ministry.


In Him,

Scott Dunwoody
Executive Director


“I’d stay in the garden with Him; Though the night around me is falling;
But He bids me go through the voice of woe;
His voice to me is calling”
(“In the Garden,” C. Austin Miles, 1912)

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