One Caring Listener Leads to Beauty

Four years ago, I was in the last month of my teaching career and feeling lost. Education had been the center of my life and my driving purpose for over a decade, and I was faced with losing a piece of myself.

Enter my church.

They were starting a local chapter of a program called Stephen Ministry and were seeking volunteers by sending out invitation letters. It sounded interesting, but I wasn't sure I could do it. Over the summer, I asked God if this could be my new identity. Each time I looked at the letter on my dresser, I felt drawn closer to the idea. I anxiously called to set up an interview, then three days later I was accepted into the group.

The program was founded on two main concepts: that people experiencing pain, difficult changes, or some form of crisis can benefit from expressing and reflecting on their feelings within a caring, nonjudgmental space, and that as Christians, we are called to serve these people.

Each volunteer caregiver, after fifty hours of training, is matched with a care receiver. The pair meets once a week for about an hour for as little as two months or as long as several years. 

It's not converting people or saving souls. It's not giving advice or solving problems. 

It's showing God's compassion, patience, week after week, regardless of the care receiver's situation or beliefs. It's building trust and maintaining confidentiality.

During a meeting, the care receiver leads the conversation and often does most of the talking. 

The caregiver listens, asks open-ended questions, gives affirmations, and offers prayer if wanted.

Since my commissioning in November 2014, I've had three beautiful caring relationships. Each woman has trusted me with her deepest secrets, her worst fears, and her greatest joys. And I've seen God's presence in all of it, from the perfectly matched pairings, to the profound discussions, to the meaningful growth of each woman.

Now I can't imagine my life without this ministry. Though it's designed to serve others, I have repeatedly been blessed by my care receivers, and my faith has grown stronger.

When was the last time you truly listened to someone for an hour?

Do you have a person in your life who would truly listen to you?*

When we take time to actively listen, putting our own needs, stories, and advice aside to focus on the words of those around us, we can bring beauty and light to our world.

*If you or someone you know could benefit from this type of caregiving, please check your area churches for the nearest Stephen Ministry program. (you can also do a search on Google for Stephen Ministry near me)

Some doorways from this week:

  • I watched Brene Brown's Netflix special and was inspired by her beautiful message about courage and vulnerability.
  • I was moved to tears when I heard that Buddhist monks were praying for Sri Lankan Christians, showing the true heart of religion through tolerance, acceptance, and love.
  • I saw Harry Potter in Concert and was awed at the beauty of the symphony as the muscians played the movie's score.
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