Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
I write to you about a personal matter. We often think leaders’ lives are different than others. Sometimes leaders do not share personal things because they become vulnerable or they fear people will see them in a different light. Sometimes I have been guilty of this in my own leadership. Today I want to share a piece of my life that is hard to share.
In December of 2015, my mother died of congestive heart failure. Through my mother’s death, my brother and I reconnected with our younger sister, Susan. My sister went through a very difficult life. She married a man who was abusive and aided in her becoming addicted to drugs. The family and my parents in particular, continued to do everything we could to help my sister. As hard as we tried, including calling authorities, it just didn’t work. Susan became homeless and we were disconnected from her.
She came to my mother’s funeral and my brother and I worked with her to rebuild trust. We were able to get her into an apartment. I was handling her finances and she was beginning to budget her expenses. She started going back to the Philadelphia church where we grew up. Things were looking up. And then yesterday, I learned she was murdered. There is currently an ongoing investigation and I will be traveling home from the Council of Bishops meeting today.
My sister had a hard life and she was a caring person. I will miss her.
These are hard days for my brother and me, and our families. My family and I are devastated. Bad things happen, and it is made more difficult when tragedy strikes people who are making progress.
I want us to remember that there are things that happen in our lives that we have no control over. Sometimes we do everything we can to help someone and things don’t work out.
All of us have tragedies in our lives and wrestle with the demons of this world. Leadership and discipleship are shaped in the midst of the struggle. We can chose how we will live in the midst of the tragedy. My family will mourn the loss of Susan, and curse violence, drug addiction and homelessness. We will also continue to love, pray and even forgive and work toward a better world, a world more like the kingdom of God.
After a hard life, Susan was finding her way home, and she is now at home and at peace. I give thanks for the resurrection through Jesus Christ.
I feel blessed to be a part of GNJ because you are a loving and caring community of believers. Your prayers have sustained my leadership and will sustain our family during this time. Thank you for your love and prayers during this season.
Keep the faith!
John Schol, Bishop
The United Methodist Church
of Greater New Jersey