Island of the ill

One of Manhattan’s neighboring islands, Roosevelt Island is often overlooked and crossed over, but this unassuming island was our ministry stop last night and is truly historical.

A cruise along the East River late at night rewards the wandering eye with a light spectacle across the East River that resembles a haunted house. A shell of a building with tall scraggly tree guts poking out the roofless top, lustrously lit, whispers to the curious passerby, eager to tell of its isolated past.

Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island was built in 1856 and was the only hospital in New York City at the time to accept victims of smallpox. Sitting grandly at the southern end of the island, Smallpox reminds Manhattanites that the strip of land sitting in the East River stretching from about 42th Street up to 86th Street was once an enclave of sickness, both mental and physical. A penitentiary and a lunatic asylum at one time accompanied Smallpox Hospital. An octagon tower, the only remains of the asylum, is situated at the northern tip of the island. In 1887, an undercover reporter revealed the gruesome “treatment” that was being given to the inmates. Already a hotbed of disease, the asylum shut its doors due to financial and sanitational disaster.  Legendary stories are passed down about this strange place – once the dumping ground for the unwanted.

AIDS Hospital…

Enough to get the full attention of our youth team of 11.

Last night we took our team to visit those in the Aids Hospital on Roosevelt Island.  The official name of this terminally ill hospital is Goldwater, but most around here call the Aids Hospital.

Meet Mr. Handy.  This precious man of God is dying.  As we sat aound him listenting to his story, we were revited.  Rivited at his joy. Rivited at his strenght.  Rivited at his hope.  My team had plans of bringing love, and maybe we did.  But Mr. Handy taught us all something.  When asked his secret for his joy he replied “The joy of the Lord is my strength…”

As we left the island last night, Shannon (who is in 8th grade) told us all “its kinda hard to have an attitude to my mom now thanks to Mr. Handy.”  Yes Shannon, I do understand.  In light of our circumstances, whatever they may be, Mr. Handy taught us all the secret…the joy of the Lord is our strength.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks for sharing that, Roy..sometimes when we see strength in those we think should be the weakest..it gives us hope for ourselves!…I must say, it humbles us! God bless Mr. Handy!

  2. I had a similar experience with a homeless man. My husband and I were engaged at the time and went with others from our college to take sack lunches and give a little bit of our time to the people on the streets.

    “Guy” was quite the character, and insisted on giving Karl and I advice on having a strong marriage. There was a lot of wisdom in that man, regardless of the fact that he was on the street.

  3. Posted by Amber on December 1, 2008 at 10:33 AM

    In 2005 I did an internship with NYSUM for my requirements to get my certificate from Elim Bible Institute. For one of our outreaches we went to Goldwater and the experience was humbling and life changing. I still think about it to this day. I’ve been meaning to get back to NYC to go back to Goldwater to visit, but it hasn’t happened yet.

    I am wondering though, what is the name of the woman who is holding the hand of Mr. Handy? I remember going on several outreaches with her and riding the subway and having to help her along, and she was wonderful. I miss her!

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