Monday, April 28, 2008
7 News Features: Kidney Club
What would you do for a family member? Probably almost anything. Now, what would you do for a stranger? Give them a part of your body? You might be saying no, but one group is doing that. As Patrick Fraser reports, they are a part of what some people call a cult, others call saints. They're members of the Kidney Club.
WSVN -- You have seen this many times: members of a religious group handing out their literature.
But, trust me, you have never seen a religious group like this.
Jayme: "Do onto others as you would have them do to you."
Jayme has come to Boston for this woman.
Silva: "Both of her kidneys failed. They don't function anymore."
Jayme's gift to Laureta, a part of himself.
Jayme Kronmiler: "I'm here to donate one of my kidneys to somebody in need."
An extraordinary gesture, for a simple reason. Jayme is a member of Jesus Christians, a small religious group that believes in helping needy people.
Jayme Kronmiler: "I personally feel like God is saying, 'Do it,' but that's a decision that every person has to come to on their own."
Incredibly, Jayme's brother Jeremy made the same decision last year. The identical twin donated one of his kidneys.
Jeremy Kronmiler: "No regrets. If I could do it again, I would do it again."
Twin brothers who gave away everything they owned, left their homes, their friends to travel the country as Jesus Christians, spreading the word of God.
Jeremy Kronmiler: "What we're doing is kind of an experiment in life, as well. It's been referred to as a 'new monasticism.' Like, we're new monks. We're modern monks. Although we interact a lot more than the monks of old, so we do practice celibacy."
The group has 25 active members, 21 members have given a kidney, have come to save the life of people like Laureta.
Laureta: "I'm good. I'm happy for tomorrow. I'm happy. Last day, we're going to do it! Thank you, Jayme. Thank you so much."
What the Jesus Christians do is life-saving, amazing, but, of course, there are critics, people who say the members are brainwashed, are a cult, are a danger to others and themselves.
Father: "Officer, that is my son and the Jesus Christians have brainwashed him, sir. His mother is so hurt."
That is Joe Johnson's father. Joe, left his family to join the Jesus Christians, and the family was left convinced he was out of his mind to join the group.
Joseph Johnson: "I am not brainwashed. I can think for myself. I can speak for myself. I like to think that I am an individual with important things to share."
But Joe's family was so upset, they allegedly attacked and beat Jeremy and another Jesus Christian. In return, the members put Joe's family through a mock trial.
Jeremy: "I hereby judge you as guilty and deserving 25 lashes."
Then the Jesus Christians, including Joe, volunteered to take the floggings for the family, on camera, for everyone to see. Critics of the Jesus Christians were shocked at the member's unusual behavior.
Rick Ross: "They will give up kidneys for this man. They will be flogged for this man. It's clear that they would do almost anything for Dave McKay."
Dave McKay is the man who founded the Jesus Christian group.
Dave McKay: "They don't even know what a cult is, nobody does."
McKay says no one is asked to donate a kidney or take a lashing. They do it on their own, and when they are criticized for it, they refer to the bible.
Dave McKay: "For us, it's just another part of what Jesus taught, to kind of expect that, to expect persecution, to expect people to say things about you that can be hurtful. If you look at his example, Jesus himself, his own family, thought he was crazy."
Instead of a brainwashed cult, they say they are just devoutly generous followers of Jesus who would do anything for everyone.
Ask Jill Morton about them. Five years ago, this Fort Lauderdale woman's kidneys failed.
Jill Morton: "And then this girl walks up to me, and she says, 'Jill, i'm Vicki. I'm your donor,' and she looks like me. She just walks up to me, and I said, 'Vicki, what can i say? Thank you so much, so, so much,' and she goes, 'Don't thank me, thank God.'"
Vicki was a Jesus Christian who donated a kidney to save Jill's life.
Dave McKay: "She totally changed my life, not only in giving me a new health and life and able to live and what she did for me changed my whole perspective. It's incredible. When I do think about it, it's kind of overwhelming. It's, 'How could that happen?' You couldn't even imagine it."
Laureta now feels the same way. Jayme kept his promise.
Jayme: "The surgery itself was pretty good, pretty good, kind of non-eventful."
A couple of days after donating his kidney, he was back at work spreading the word of God, while Laureta and her daughter could look forward to something they didn't expect, a healthy future.
Silva: "I think it's unbelievable. I have no words of describing it. I'm overwhelmed.
A small group of extraordinary people giving an amazing gift, and, Jayme says, maybe beginning something that will spread around the world.
Silva: "I'm able, I'm perfectly able to do it. I'm healthy and just to kind of get other people to think about that because somebody's got to start the domino effect. Somebody's got to hit the first one and, hopefully, that can inspire others to think along the same terms."
Think about becoming members of a giving club. Members of the life-saving Kidney Club.