"It all began soon after I moved to [a new city] to live near my family. I had just ended an eight-year relationship and was depending on them to be my support system. But a few months after I arrived, they unexpectedly had to move away—so I felt very, very alone. Not long after they moved, my grandfather passed away. It was one of the hardest times of my life."
"I knew I needed to talk to someone, but I hadn’t lived in the city long enough to develop close, comfortable friendships that I could depend on. But my new church had Stephen Ministry. When I found out what Stephen Ministry was, I talked to my pastor about getting a Stephen Minister."
"God’s love is always there, but sometimes it can be really hard to feel it, especially when you’re going through a crisis. That’s probably when people doubt God’s presence the most, when their faith is the most vulnerable. But a Stephen Minister is Jesus’ hands and feet, just being there and caring for a hurting person. Stephen Ministers express God’s love in a tangible way that care receivers can feel. Stephen Ministers help those they care for experience God during those times in life when they might be wondering, Is God even there?"
Being a Stephen Minister means being a good listener without offering advice. Having spent years in the role, I can tell you that’s hard sometimes. Often an obvious answer to your care receiver’s suffering seems to jump out at you. But our training has shown the fallacy of believing we know better than that person in the situation, and most often after listening further, I find what I might have advised would not have been beneficial anyway.
Instead, a Stephen Minister brings themselves – fully – into Christian fellowship. Being able to empathize or sympathize is important in order to get a glimpse of the care receiver’s perspective, and by praying and sharing scripture, allowing Christ to bring healing.
A Stephen Minister can’t expect to always have the right answer – situations are unique and impacts often unfathomable. As a Stephen Minister I know there is no formula for that type of healing – none but allowing our loving Christ in. The caring relationship is one with no time frame, no expectation for a "normal" process.
Although I may meet with my care receiver once a week, I believe it’s some comfort to know I pray for them every day, guided by their own prayer requests. Sometimes, I can offer a scripture when it seems appropriate, and I expect my care receivers to contact me whenever they have specific prayer needs or they’re having an unusually rough time.
We are not meant to be alone. It’s by sharing our experiences – good and bad – that we become fully human.
Are you suffering today? Contact Pastor Cameron about whether Stephen Ministry might be right for you, or drop a line to Lakeside’s Stephen Ministry.
– Quotes are excerpted from "I began to feel God’s love again," a witness from Megan, a care receiver, provided through Stephen Ministries, St. Louis.