Bethesda News

Pools & Pillars: Power & Perspective

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool (in Aramaic called Bethesda, in Greek, House of Mercy) which has five roofed pillars. In between these pillars lay a multitude of invalids – the blind, the lame, and the paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”

The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am trying to get in another steps down before me.”

Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked (John 5:2-9).

In those days, people would gather around the pool in expectation of healing during Passover and around other feasts. While the pool and its imbued power are intriguing, they are not essential to the story. Instead, Jesus’ work through his visit to the pool is the focus.

A pool and pillars are part of the history of our iconic landmark facility at 611 Reily. The first indoor swimming pool in Harrisburg was in this former PA Railroad YMCA; the foundation was discovered when renovating the Men’s Shelter in 2009. This pool provided some kind of physical healing through exercise, soothing tired muscles from working on the railyard along 7th Street.

Bethesda Mission, like that historical pool, is a place where God still heals the lame. Those blinded by substance abuse, crippled by low self-esteem and limited options, are healed, comforted, and restored. Bethesda Mission is truly God’s house of mercy.

Jesus, however, was never just interested in physical healing. Instead, He sought to bring about spiritual healing by trusting in Him. Do miracles occur at Bethesda Mission? Certainly, there have been some miracles of physical healing, when nothing could explain the reason humanly speaking of why a guest’s health has been restored (everything medically was offered and received, but the aliment or debilitation continued). There have also been thousands of miracles in the lives of the hurting men, women, and children who grace our doors and spiritually come alive through the power of Jesus Christ.

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord – Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy (Psalm 130:1-2).

Stories from the sacred scriptures and from our experiences cultivate our perspective – our vantage point, frame of mind, our world view.

I will share a powerful story at our Annual Celebration of an 18-year-old young Count at an art gallery in Dusseldorf, Germany, who spent hours gazing at a picture of Christ, crowned with thorns, blood trickling down his face. This painting, titled Ecce Homo (Behold the Man), includes the Latin inscription: “This I have suffered for you, now what will you do for me?” and ultimately inspired the Count’s life direction.

Hymn writer Frances Havergal (December 14, 1836 – June 3, 1879) was also influenced by paintings of the suffering Savior, which inspired her best-known hymn “Take My Life and Let It Be.”

At our Men’s Shelter entrance, a beautiful piece of furniture depicts Jesus, captures the attention of all who enter, and serves as a visible reminder each day for the guests living or visiting there of the welcome by our Savior and His desire to enter their hearts and lives.

These pictures capture the mercy of God, which is graciously expressed in these verses from Ephesians:

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:4-5).

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power . . . to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:16-19).

The turn-of-the-century architecture at our Men’s Shelter features four, strong pillars atop the fifteen steps leading to the front door. The pillars immortalize immense strength, stability, and significance in this iconic piece of Bethesda’s identity.

Likewise, a consistent team of faithful intercessors, our Pillars, give of their finances and time and enable us to continue to rescue, redeem, and restore those God has called us to love. Bethesda remains unwavering in its Mission: to provide individuals experiencing homelessness with shelter, food, clothing, to share the good news of Jesus Christ, and to discipline them in the Christian life.

If you have not committed to monthly giving, we encourage you to become a pillar. Your commitment to dependably support the Mission is necessary for Bethesda’s survival. You can become a pillar today by taking one of the following actions:

1. Call us at 717-257-4442 x236 to set up your recurring monthly donation over the phone.

2. Visit and check the box “Make this a monthly gift.”

3. Check the box on our appeals saying that you would like to enroll in our automatic credit card donation and make your contribution a monthly gift.

4. Find out about our volunteering opportunities at and join us in serving in the Missions or during events. You can also reach out to Kristina at


In Him,

Scott Dunwoody

Executive Director

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