I have been through some things in my life that I needed help with. It is hard to ask for help. I am a high energy person with a strong faith so I should be able to handle life, right? Not! We all have burdens and sometimes we need others to be there. I am blessed to have a close knit family who I can go to but sometimes you need an outside person to confide in. “You do not want to burden your loved ones” is what we tell ourselves. I believe Jesus sends people into our lives during these times. Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Here at Pine Valley United Methodist Church we are blessed to have Stephen Ministers.
Stephen Ministers are the “after people.” “Stephen Ministers are there: ...after the phone call you hoped you’d never get…...after the divorce papers are served and the bottom falls out of your life….after the funeral, when everyone has left, and the emotions you’ve held at bay come crashing in on you…..after the doctors says, ‘I’m sorry, but there’s nothing more we can do.’...after the nursing home director shakes your hand and says, ‘Welcome to your new home.’....after the last child honks the horn, waves, and drives away - and the house suddenly seems empty…..after the gavel goes down, the handcuffs go on and your loved one is led away….after the baby arrives, demanding more of you than you ever dreamed possible….after you find the pink slip with your final paycheck….after your family and friends have heard your story one too many times, but you still need to talk it out.”
The mission of the Stephen Ministries organization is based on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Ephesians 4:12-13, “To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.” There is extensive training - usually 20 weekly sessions of training that teach them how to provide Christ-centered emotional and spiritual care to others. They come alongside a hurting person and meet with them on a weekly basis. They listen, care, encourage, pray, and provide emotional and spiritual support. Men are paired with men; women with women. Stephen Ministry is entirely confidential - no one knows the identity of a care receiver except for his or her Stephen Minister and the leader who paired the two together.
Someone shared with me the close, personal friendship that their case turned into. When someone was going through the death of a spouse they requested a Stephen’s Minister. A true friendship developed. When the spouse was diagnosed and nearing the end of their life, the Stephens Minister was still there. This person would introduce her Stephen Minister to her family and friends as her Stephen Minister. There was no embarrassment, just pride that the church showed support in this way. This person had a close family but they found it easier to talk to someone else.
Because it is hard to share a story due to confidentiality, I will share these I found on the Stephen’s Ministry website. “‘I began to feel God’s love again.’ A young woman describes how her caring relationship with her Stephen Minister allowed her to experience Jesus in a personal, tangible, life-transforming way.” “‘I’m so grateful for Stephen ministry!’ A man shares how he and his Stephen Minister built a high trust relationship, apart from his regular circle of friends, so that he could move forward through a tough time in his life.” “The story of an army captain who lost his foot in an explosion in Iraq, trained as a Stephen Minister, and later returned to Iraq better equipped to care for the soldiers under his command.” “‘A steady reminder of God’s presence.” A woman tells how having a Stephen Minister, during a family crisis, gave her a spiritual anchor and the opportunity to focus on her own needs.” One concern the Stephen Ministry has here at PVUMC is that there are few men coming forward for help. Needing a Stephen Minister is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of courage to recognize you have a problem and that you need help. There are male and female Stephen Ministers waiting to be assigned to someone in need. They want to walk with you in love, listen in confidence, and love you unconditionally.
Jesus showed compassion and Stephen Ministers attempt to exemplify this compassion. Matthew 14:14, “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
Nahum 1:7, “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him…” If you need hope, help, or healing please contact Ray Holder, the leader of PVUMC Stephen Ministry. Your call will be confidential.