Do You Fear God or Man?

Since moving to Missoula, life has not been easy. We arrived the day after Missoula County declared masks to be mandatory in all indoor public spaces. We were able to enjoy a few days of our new home in peace before experiencing the tyranny. We had no idea what was to come.

The first incident, we walked into Walmart and were immediately stopped by a “Health Ambassador” (someone get me a barf bag). He was at the door like he’s really important, with the same stance as if he was a security officer or a bouncer. Anyways, he stood over me, intimidated me, and humiliated me. Imagine being stopped at the entrance of a large store with people surrounding you knowing they are watching as they pass by. It was embarrassing. He addressed Sam and asked if he had a mask. Sam answered that he has a medical condition and he was good to go. However, because I was not prepared and felt intimidated and embarrassed, I caved and put the mask on. Let me just say though, I made sure to give him the meanest glare.

This incident followed me the rest of the day. Why was I so upset? Why did I let this guy with a silly title pretending to be a bouncer outside Walmart (of all places) really bother me like that? I’ll tell you why. It’s because he was imposing his will upon me. I felt like my privacy and my free will was violated. I was angry. I felt so defeated and that I had been wronged. Because I was. After having time to reflect, Sam helped and coached me through this. I realized that the man was just doing his job. I don’t agree with it at all, but at the end of the day, he’s only doing his job. I started to feel compassion for him. A few days later, we went back and the same guy was standing at his regular post. You better believe I had more confidence this time. We walked in, he addressed us, and we both told him we have a medical condition. End of story.

It was shortly after this that we wanted to visit The Good Food Store. We barely made it in the door and we were instructed to wear masks. We informed them that we both have medical conditions and are exempt. The kid at the door seemed confused and flustered so he escorted us to the customer service desk to speak to the manager. It didn’t matter how much Sam said “ok but we have medical conditions.” Their reasonable accommodation is to offer curbside pick up in the back of the store as if we were alley cats being given table scraps. No! I want to enjoy the shopping experience with the same privilege as anyone else. I want to look around and see what’s new like everyone else. We were there to pick up an item for a friend and we asked if we could grab it and go. The manager said he would be happy to grab it for us and bring it out to our vehicle. Yes. They made us wait outside in the hot sun. Needless to say, I will not set foot in that store ever again.

One night, Sam had a sweet tooth and wanted to get a candy bar. Everything else was closed at this hour except for the gas station down the road. Sam experienced no problems until he went to check out. The guy behind the counter was rude and showed no compassion. Again, Sam stood up for himself and explained that he is exempt and he’s got a doctors’ note. He was very polite but firm. The next morning he decided to call the manager and bring it to her attention, he was not looking to get the man fired, only to inform her of the incident. She was very understanding and apologetic. She said she would talk with him and that was the end of the conversation. It was very civil and both were able to understand one another’s point of view. This was probably the last time we received kindness like this.

The job that Sam accepted with Mountain Line prior to moving to Montana requires that he take a physical. That’s not a problem. The issue arose when the clinic called to confirm his appointment and said “….and you must wear a mask.” He then explained his health condition and stated that he is exempt under the governors order. Their only exception for him was to wear a face shield. You might think, “Ok, that’s fair. He can breathe.” Let’s put things into perspective. He gets claustrophobic. Besides that, can you imagine how embarrassing it would be to wear that? Everyone would be watching, even though they’d be pretending not to. You’d be standing out when you don’t want to. The CDC states that you must stay 6 feet apart and if that’s not possible, then a mask is recommended. My question is, couldn’t he maintain 6 feet apart from people as the reasonable accommodation? They say the masks are to protect others from yourself. So if Sam was the only one to walk into a facility without a mask, why is this so offensive?

So, this phone call did not end well. They quickly became hostile and rude. Sam asked for the manager and they would not transfer his call. There was no compassion, there was no budging. You wear a mask or face shield or you do not get your physical. After he hung up, he did his homework. He called the governors office, they said he is, indeed, exempt. He called the county health department and they said they would help but he got tired of waiting on the phone and decided to physically go to the health department office. Would you believe that he was kicked out of their facility? The lady behind the counter was nasty and unpleasant. She would not listen to him and promptly ordered him to leave.

He had nobody to turn to. A few hours later he received a call from Mountain Line. They heard from the clinic that Sam was rude and hostile and so they rescinded their job offer because, in their words, he refused to take his physical. That’s not true. Providence Occupational Health discriminated against him and projected onto him. Mountain Line would not hear him out, would not allow him to take his physical at another location and, thus, lost his job opportunity.

This motivated him to do more research. He wrote down each name and organization that violated his exemption. He then wrote a strong e-mail with documentation proving the exemption. That same day Sam and I wanted to go into the office of Mullan Reserve, where we reside, and see where the gym was. The conversation was very civil and polite. We had walked in several times before with no grievance. When we came back to our apartment, we discovered an e-mail from management that the barrier we had for our patio was not conducive and needed to be taken down promptly, which we did. Sam decided to get the mail and stop back in the office on his way to let him know that the barrier issue was taken care of. Instead of a polite response, they were startlingly offensive  and told him to leave the building immediately. Mind you, this is only 30 minutes after we had just been there and they were polite. Something within that 30 minutes switched.

They could have responded with respect. The manager didn’t have to order my husband to get out. They were unnecessarily dramatic about the whole ordeal. Sam then sent an e-mail to them and they never responded. Throughout the coming days, since he still had not heard from them, he sent a couple new ones in hopes that they would finally respond. The silence remained. We did finally hear back with a letter from their lawyer. Basically it said that if we are found anywhere on the property without a mask, then we will be evicted. Sam called for clarification and the lawyer was downright rude. He would not hear Sam out, he would not express any compassion at all. Instead, he said “Don’t be a jerk,” and “you won’t be evicted so long as you behave yourself.” From there it’s been a constant battle.

A friend of ours located a lawyer for us who is passionate about this topic. He agreed this is a violation and will fight for us pro bono. We have been trying to get Thomas Orr to revoke the letter, but he stands his ground. Sam has not left the apartment because he doesn’t feel safe. I don’t feel comfortable leaving when I head to work or let my dog outside. I am afraid that they will see one or both of us outside without a mask on and will report to their lawyer. Our lawyer has been in contact with theirs and he will not revoke. We took note that other residence walk around the facility without masks on and do not receive retaliation, so why do we have to be discriminated against?

You might have seen our interview. We had no idea we would be interviewed. We were asked if we would be open to it, we hesitated at first but agreed because the people have to know. We have been blown away by the amount of support from the American people and the world. People sending donations, people sharing our story. It’s been incredible. So far, we have not heard of another case like ours, and we want to advocate for those who are in the same position.

For two years I have had an estranged relationship with my family. For reasons I do not want to get into at this time, but there have been a lot of misunderstandings and hurt feelings. About a week ago I felt in my heart very strongly to write a letter to my parents. Of course I didn’t want to, but I knew this was the Holy Spirit and I had to obey. The words flowed through my fingers and onto the keyboard in no time at all. I sent it and I had no expectation. If they respond, they respond, if they don’t they don’t. I had a feeling I would not hear back for another day. But I still kept checking my e-mail for a response. The following day as I was getting ready for work, Sam called me with an urgency and said “your dad just sent us a donation.” I was in denial of it and my husband walked me to the computer to show me. I broke down and cried and immediately called my parents. I haven’t spoken to them in two years. I never thought I would see the day that I would talk on the phone and make our amends.

I say this because God works miracles. Even when it doesn’t seem like it. Even when you may think all hope is lost, God is STILL good. I have a renewed relationship with my parents and sister that I never thought I would have. Sam and I still have the eviction notice hanging over our heads, but we serve a God who is greater and bigger than these circumstances. I know that He will provide for us and He will carry us through.

“What can we say about all of this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

“Am I saying this now to win the approval of people or of God? Am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ’s servant.” Galatians 1:10

“But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the Gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.” 1 Thessalonians 2:4

Who do you fear? Do you fear God or do you fear man? It will be tough. The Bible said we will face persecution. But God. He can heal any disease, any relationship, any circumstance. Let our story be an encouragement to you to stand for the cross and stand for what is right. I challenge you to keep praying and do the next right thing that God asks you to do.

Love,

The Leal’s

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