Many Friends know and love Deborah Fisch. That’s not surprising, given that she is a faithful servant leader and follower of Spirit. For the past seventeen years, she has served FGC widely and well. She has shepherded many important projects (including Traveling Ministries), brought gospel ministry to meetings, quarterly meetings, and yearly meetings across the United States and Canada, and offered wise spiritual counsel to many Friends in various settings.
In spring of 2014, Deborah contracted a rare neurological illness called Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS). Deborah was hospitalized for 40 days and continues to receive outpatient therapy. Through great determination, excellent medical care and with grace of the Spirit, she made a remarkable initial recovery. Feeling progress and knowing many of her colleagues had taken on parts of her work on top of their own during her absence, Deborah resumed work part-time last fall, moving gradually to full-time during the winter. There was a common understanding that she was still being affected by the syndrome, and so some allowances would need to be made.
Deborah has been serving Friends to the best of her ability and with great love while still gripped by the lingering and challenging impacts of this illness. It was hoped that Deborah’s health would continue to improve at the same initial remarkable rate as her initial recovery, and that she would be able to resume her prior level of job responsibilities within several months of her return. Unfortunately, and despite her best efforts, this has not been the case. One of the great challenges of GBS is that the nervous system is attacked. Nerves take a long time to heal. The severity of the attack also impacts the recovery time. There is nothing doctors or Deborah can do to make recovery faster. Nerves can take several years to heal and full recovery cannot be guaranteed. Realizing that work over the last few months has taken a cumulative toll on Deborah’s health and general well-being, and that she has not been able to perform all of the administrative duties to the degree deemed necessary, the decision for her to return to full time disability was made. Deborah went on disability leave beginning September 17.
As a symbol of our love and appreciation for Deborah, and as an acknowledgement of her incredible service to Friends, FGC’s Central Committee will be holding a celebration of her ministry at its meeting in October. Though she will not be acting as staff, she will be with us for a time during Central Committee as a prayerful presence, holding the body and the work in prayer.
Deborah thanks staff and volunteers who have patiently worked with her in the months since her return, as well as all those she has worked with through the many years she has been with Friends General Conference. She is clear that God continues to call her to gospel ministry. She asks you to hold her in prayer that she recognizes when the opportunity arises, and that she learns to be patient as her body recovers from this illness.
We know that Deborah will continue to minister to Friends and are blessed to have her doing so.