Stephen Ministry has been around since 1975, when Kenneth Haugk, a pastor and clinical psychologist, began it to increase caregiving in his congregation in St Louis, Mo. As the ministry grew, so did awareness. Gail Vaughn and Janet Johnson heard about the it and since First United Methodist Church has a history of searching for ways to reach out and help others, they went to a training program and became Stephen Leaders. We have been a Stephen Ministry congregation for over twenty years!
Since then, they have trained numerous lay caregivers who are available to provide one-to-one Christian care to individuals facing life challenges or difficulties. These trained volunteers listen, understand, accept, and pray for and with those they are working with through a crisis or tough time. TRUST is essential to the relationship, and Care Receivers can be assured that everything shared remains CONFIDENTIAL
Those of us who have been through 50 hours of training along with follow-up supervision by our leaders have been blessed to be a part of this ministry. We have walked alongside those struggling with Grief, Divorce, Loss of a job, illnesses, and many other difficulties. Over the weeks and months we spend time together and build a relationship and often a friendship that continues after the crisis is past. We have many memories!
One of our Stephen Ministers was asked to support a pregnant woman whose marriage was not going well. The marriage eventually ended shortly after the baby was born. The Stephen Minister was there to listen and offer ongoing support even being part of the baptism ceremony. That baby is now 18 years old and the relationship continues.
Another story involved a parent who lost a child unexpectantly. This tragedy was overwhelming for the Care Receiver. However, through God’s Grace, bible study and weekly visits, this mother survived. She and her husband then passed their healing forward by starting a support group for parents who lost a child.
All of us have many reflections and memories of how God has grown us through these journeys with others. God gives us what we need in each situation to listen and care but HE is the cure-giver. We are only His ears, His presence, His reminder of HOPE and LOVE.
We ask God to grant patience and compassion as we meet with our care receivers. We ask for healing and peace as they accept the help they need. Help us all to make First United Methodist Church the caring and loving community God has called us to be. If you are interested in training to become a Stephen Minister please talk to Gail Vaughn. It is time well spent and will make a difference in your life!