It happened in August, while Dawn Burns was moving her mother back to Rochester. “We were setting her up in an apartment, so we could keep a watchful eye on her,” she says. But two hours after they’d gotten the U-Haul, they found themselves at Unity. “Here we were, literally moving Mom home, and now doctors were telling us we’d never be able to. They diagnosed her with Lewy body Dementia, saying she’d need a higher level of care, going forward.” When a nurse asked a flustered Dawn if she’d like a chaplain for prayer, she found herself nodding. “By all means,” I remember saying. “I felt so lost right then.”
It was a Hope elder and Unity hospital chaplain Carl Coloney who showed up at the door. “I remember I was brushing Mom’s hair, as he started speaking…and I felt her just sort of melt. She got so oddly calm. It was so stunning, I remember thinking: Wow. There is a God.” The thought had felt foreign, Dawn admits. Her heart: it had been wound thick with time and doubt. Though she’d felt an uncommon tug to God from an early age–at 4, she used to dress herself and walk ten houses down to church, alone–in all the years since, she’d weathered too much. It was like life had given her a box seat to loneliness, and despair. “I’d look back across all of it and wonder where God had actually been. Why I’d had to trudge through, so alone.
In time I guess I just began to doubt God: His goodness, His power, just God in general.” But now, here was Carl, gently offering prayer, and a peace that was visceral. And, he kept coming. “After we left the hospital, I told my husband I wanted to track him down, to see if we could attend his church for everything he’d meant to us, in the hospital.” She went as a thank you, she says, that first week, but she came back the second week because she’d brushed God…again. “It felt like He was present. It’s so hard to explain. It felt personal. It felt like I belonged here. I’m painfully shy, usually…but what I keep on experiencing at Hope is making it hard for me to keep quiet. I can’t stop talking about it.”
In late October, Dawn asked to be baptized.“I warned the pastor I can’t recite one bit of Bible,” she laughs. “Maybe I’m good for some fragmented hymns. But…I’m wanting more of God. Every week, I’m craving what’s next. God is showing Himself to me. I went, initially, as a thank you…but now it’s changing my relationships. I’m getting to know the Bible, and truth. I’m getting to know God and what it actually means, this idea of belonging to Him, to know He’s changing you.”