Pastor suffers stroke, finds blessings in recovery


by Martha Barron
Spiritual Writer

“I just felt different, so I took my blood pressure and it was high.”

Pastor Tony Sirten of Church of the Living Water (COTLW) explained the beginning symptoms of his recent stroke and subsequent recovery, which began in June of this year.

His ordeal thus far has included a week in intensive care, a week in the hospital and four weeks of physical therapy.

A caregiver himself as assistant director of Nursing for Madison Health Care, Pastor Sirten was impressed with the level of care he received. Especially impressive was the courtesy and attentiveness given to his spouse of 10 years, Ronnie Rogers.

“My parents and Ronnie were at both hospitals, Tennessee Christian and Skyline, but the staff treated Ronnie as my spouse and talked to him and not my parents. Even during rehabilitation Ronnie was taught, along with other spouses how to care for me. Never once was he treated any differently or any prejudice shown because of our relationship.”

Surviving a serious health issue is always a miracle but perhaps the most amazing part to this story is what happened during the actual recovery.

Almost from the onset of the stroke, the fruit of Pastor Sirten’ ministry began to ripen and bloom. A gospel concert had been previously scheduled with Ada Perez, Fred Francis and Sam Samson. At the news of the stroke, it was turned into a benefit to help defray medical expenses. The house was full of family and friends, some of the folks from the businesses Pastor Sirten has worked with over the years through Madison Health Care as well as family members of former patients of MHC. Enough money was raised to nearly cover his portion of the medical costs.

“From the moment I was hospitalized, someone–either family or from the staff of MHC or from COTLW–was with me at the hospital to attend to my needs. Some of the families of MHC’s patients visited, flowers and cards came from all over. A 90-year-old widow of a former patient sent me a card every week. My room looked like a florist.”

COTLW has several ongoing ministries and according to Pastor Sirten, “Everyone just stepped in and took over and nothing missed a beat including the once a month service at the nursing home or the twice a month dinners where I am usually the cook!”

There was a pause as Pastor Sirten reflected on the not quite so obvious miracles of his recovery,

“I am thankful for the impression God’s ministry is making on people, even those outside of our ‘community,’ thankful that maybe people have a different impression of us than before, that we are breaking the stereotypes–black, white, gay, straight, even more.”

“I am touched by the ministry God is doing…thankful to know I was able to touch peoples’ lives through Him. Life is going to go on without you and can go on. You don’t want it to just stop but it’s comforting to know that when you are gone the ministry you have worked to build won’t die with you. That’s not something you get to learn very often without actually having to die.”