Grace Calls Us to Care
Many people know the grace of God through the blessings of their lives. But what if grace does more than give; what if grace calls?
What does the call of grace sound like?
It was quiet at first for Kay Van Fossan. So quiet she didn’t realize what was happening. Years ago, she was there – first for her mother, and then her husband, caring for them as they struggled with illness. Kay remembers learning the ups and downs, the joys and struggles of being a caregiver. No Stephen Ministry training for her back then, only God’s grace “making her stronger, more understanding and faith-filled,” she recalls.
The voice of grace calling got a little louder as Kay thought about becoming a Stephen Minister, a lay caregiver offering support to those walking a difficult or distressing path. “My favorite word is BELIEVE,” she says. “With me it means Jesus is my Lord and Savior.” Basing her life on that word, Kay recognizes God’s grace. She heard it call too, deciding to be trained and become a Stephen Minister. After two and a half years of Stephen Ministry, grace began to shout. Kay describes the voice of grace:
“It sounded like Pastor Pam, and it hit my heart! It asked me to think about training to be a Stephen Leader and becoming the Leader Team Coordinator. My first thought was ‘am I capable and worthy of this position?’ The only thing to do was go to God. After hours of praying, sleepless nights and making a pro and con list (I couldn’t come up with any con’s,) by the grace of God, I accepted and embrace this wonderful opportunity to serve our Lord!”
Grace called Kay to care through Stephen Ministry.
Where does the call of grace take you?
Steve Lashbrook would tell you that grace leads you from one journey to another. After the death of his wife, Nancy, Steve was having a conversation with Pastor Greg, who suggested he might want to talk with a Stephen Minister. Stephen Ministry is always confidential, and Stephen Ministers never reveal any information, but those who receive care can talk freely about their experience. Steve gladly shares his journey:
“My first meeting with Kurt went very well. He assured me that anything that we talked about was strictly confidential. Kurt’s personality was such that I felt comfortable that this was someone I could confide in at a time that I most needed, rather than put on a brave front. We talked about our backgrounds, our families and that he had experienced the same loss that I had. I knew that he would understand the challenges I was dealing with daily. We met once a week. Kurt was very generous with his time because our planned hour meetings rarely finished on time. He is a great listener, and frequently emphasized how critical our devotion to God is the most important part of the grief healing. As example, he remembers the anniversary of Nancy’s passing and prayed for me that I would have strength that day. Time has passed now, and our official Stephen Minister relationship has ended. I will always be grateful for Kurt’s guidance, and value the friendship we now have.”
Steve will be commissioned as a Stephen Minister this coming March. “I am now looking forward to becoming a Stephen Minister,” he says, “so that I too can give someone else the help, support, and kindness that I received.
Grace called Steve from a journey of grief to a journey of caring for others as a Stephen Minister.
How do you know grace is calling?
Ummm . . . you just know. At least Heather Reiss just knew. As a teenager, she woke up one morning, and just knew. “I don’t think I recognized it then as a calling from God,” she explains, “but I just knew I wanted to be a nurse, and have never wanted to have any other career.” In nursing school Heather wanted to be an ICU nurse. Again, no reason, she just knew. Nineteen years later, she is still at someone’s bedside in the ICU at Memorial Hospital.
Grace met her in a big way through the pages of a book by Max Lucado, Grace, and changed her relationship with God forever. “I had always known the concept of grace,” she remembers, “but after reading this book, it hit me like a lightning bolt. Grace has been given to me and is not dependent upon what I do or don’t do. I realized that it wasn’t just that I knew I wanted to be a nurse. I was called by God to be a nurse.”
Heather took this new courage, energy and strength and said “Here I am, Lord.” She became more involved at church, but still felt she wasn’t tapping into her strengths. Then it hit her. “Duh! I am a career nurse! Bring this gift to your church family!” She connected with the Parish Nurse group at St. John’s, now called the Faith Community Nurses Ministry Team.
So what is Faith Community Nursing and what do we do here at St. John’s? The primary focus of the FCN is the intentional care of the spirit. It is about healing, rather than a cure. It is about being rather than doing. Here at St. John’s, we have big plans for the FCN ministry. Right now we are focusing on providing all kinds of health and wellness information in the form of health teaching, education, flu shots, blood pressure checks, and follow-up calls to people in the congregation who have recently been discharged from the hospital to check on them. Janet Moulton leads the FCN team at St. John’s which consists of several licensed RN’s. Two of our nurses have completed the 40-60 hours of extra training to become certified FCN’s.
We plan to grow Faith Community Nursing at St. John’s and bring our congregation many more opportunities to benefit from our training and education. We are so excited to bring you more, so be looking for programs and health screenings coming in this January and February.
Grace called Heather to care through Faith Community Nursing. She just knew it.
What does the call of grace feel like?
Like a soft tap on the shoulder. Yep. That’s how it has happened for many St. John’s disciples whose lives have been touched by cancer. The grace of God worked through those in treatment, in caregivers, and in survivors connecting them in a network of support. And it all happened in a very “Lutheran” way (quietly, without fanfare.)
One of our faithful disciples was volunteering at the church one day when another disciple tapped her on the shoulder and said, “I had the same cancer you have eight years ago. If you ever want to talk, I’m here for you.” And so began a relationship of care and support as questions were asked, advice shared, and both tears and laughter flowed freely.
Grace has called lots of St. John’s disciples into this network. It’s the old idea of “paying it forward.” Those who have been helped by a survivor, reach out to the next person. But what about the person whose diagnosis isn’t made public? How could the network become available to someone who didn’t want to be so public about their cancer?
Several disciples came up with an answer. They formed a Ministry Team, received training from “Cancer Companions,” an organization out of St. Louis, and began planning to “official-ize” the network. The Cancer Companion Ministry Team will begin offering supportive companions this coming January. Companions will support those in treatment, post treatment, and family members through one-on-one contacts.
Anyone interested is encouraged to visit the Cancer Companion display tables the week-end of January 12-13 and talk with a member of the Ministry Team. Information will be available then about how to get connected with a companion.
Grace called survivors to care through Cancer Companions.