Faith Matters: Making it with help of Hopekeepers

“All the Places in the Bible” by Richard R. Losch
“All the Places in the Bible” by Richard R. Losch

Through her physical pain, Jan Riché has grown spiritually.

Riché, of Baton Rouge, has long suffered daily chronic migraines that caused her to give up her career as a school counselor. The debilitating illness, diagnosed about 12 years ago, has prevented Riché from taking vacations and even going to church on a regular basis.

“When I have a migraine, I just have to desensitize everything,” Riché said. “There’s no lights, no sounds, no anything. It’s just me and God basically. I’ve grown much closer to God. My faith has increased. … My dependence on God has increased.”

Not being able to regularly attend her church, St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, mainly because of the fluorescent lights, didn’t hinder Riche’s daily communion with God, she said.

“I may not get there as much as I’d like, maybe once or twice a month, but my day-to-day with God is strong,” she said.

Riché is hopeful that God will deliver her from her chronic pain and heal her.

In the meanwhile, she finds hope by sharing with others dealing with chronic pain and physical and mental illnesses. She leads Hopekeepers of Baton Rouge, a nondenominational support group, which she started 10 years ago.

The support group meets at 11 a.m. the first Saturday of the month at St. Margaret’s, 12663 Perkins Road.

“We look at spirituality, but different aspects of it and how it can enhance our healing through getting closer to God or the divine or however we want to call that experience with God,” she said.

People come who suffer from all sorts of illnesses, including anxiety, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, back problems and lupus, Riché said.

“Mainly, it’s knowing that someone else feels the same way … we know the experience of why doesn’t my family understand. Why don’t my friends understand that at the last minute I have to cancel,” she said.

Many of those who attend the meetings — some of whom are Buddhists or other non-Christian religions — share in the belief of supernatural power of God to heal.

“All of us have some belief in spiritual healing,” she said. “I think we struggle with it. Why do we have to struggle I think is the question we all ask.”

Riché said her pain gave her a greater insight of the suffering of Jesus and she shares that.

“Jesus certainly suffered on the cross,” she said. “I have struggled with that all of my life. And once I started suffering, then I kind of understood his suffering. We kind of learned that you can’t grow without suffering. We have all grown in wisdom in that way and sympathetic toward one another.”

Riché, a native of Lake Charles, said she’s suffered from the migraines all her life “but didn’t know it was a migraine.”

Over the years, Riché said she’s tried an assortment of neurologists and medications. While some of the prescription medications bring relief, they are not recommended for daily use.

After college, Riché taught school for six years and worked as a school counselor for another six years before having to quit.

“I loved my job, and that’s been a deep loss for me,” said Riché, who is able to qualify for disability assistance. “I went to school and a lot of trouble to get that degree and worked at it. My boss was very good working with me. We tried everything and it just didn’t work. We finally got to the point where I was just in pain all the time and wasn’t dependable.”

Riché said she was able to enjoy annual family vacations until about five years ago.

Yet Riché said being home has opened doors for her, such as being able to take in and care for her 87-year-old mother. She also said “an understanding” husband also helps.

“I manage to function for the most part,” she said.

Hopekeepers of Baton Rouge, which is sponsored by the International Rest Ministries, is small group with a “handful of people,” Riché said.

“There are four to six that are pretty regular then the rest come and go,” she said.

For more information, call (225) 337-1633 or go to hopekeepersbr.wordpress.com.

‘All the Places in the Bible’

Bible students and casual readers will appreciate “All the Places in the Bible” (Xlibris), a comprehensive A-Z handbook documenting biblical locations, from Jerusalem to the more obscure Dilean.

The book was compiled by Richard R. Losch, an Episcopalian minister who says it’s important for Christians to understand places referenced in the Bible.

“In my studies of the Bible and the Apocrypha, I have discovered that an understanding of the place involved often adds a whole new meaning to the stories and events,” Losch writes. “In many cases the background, topography, history and culture of a place either help to make sense of an otherwise rather enigmatic situation, or enrich and flesh out a statement or event.”

Losch, who was educated at Yale, the Berkeley Divinity School and North Carolina State, saves serious Bible students the time of researching the more than 1,500 places mentioned in the Bible and Apocrypha. The majority of the book gives details on the most significant places, while the appendix lists every place mentioned regardless of its importance.

Readers will find countries, cities, villages and other places mentioned in the Bible, such as “Heaven(s).” In that, Losch writes, “In the Old Testament, the term ‘heaven’ or the ‘heavens’ means only to a limited degree the place of blissful everlasting life. Rather, heaven is a little more than a physical barrier, basically referring to the sky that keeps the waters of chaos from enveloping the earth … In the Bible, the word ‘heaven’ is used in two ways, usually distinguished only by the context. A somewhat limited use refers to the ‘firmament,’ a domelike barrier that holds back the cosmic waters.”

“All the Places in the Bible” includes a bibliography and closes with six pages of maps.

Losch has written has several books, including “All the People in the Bible” in 2008.

Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Terry Robinson can be reached at (225) 388-0238 or email trobinson@theadvocate.com.