Below is the testimony of a Stephen Ministry Care Receiver which tells how the Stephen Ministry of her parish helped her through one of her life’s most difficult times.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share with you a small but very important part of my spiritual journey with Stephen Ministry. My mother Theresa passed away a year and a half ago. I was a caretaker for her for most of my adult life. My mother had been sick for a long time and had an eye disease that left her blind. To say it nicely, my mother had a very strong personality, but her faith was also strong. The last year of her life I suggested that she see a caregiver from Stephen Ministry. She adamantly refused and said….”You are the one that needs to talk to them not me!” Well eventually I got mom to agree for someone from Stephen Ministry to visit with her. Sadly the day they were scheduled to come meet her she was rushed to the hospital and passed that weekend. Ann who was set to meet with mom called me to give her condolences, she then mentioned that maybe I would like to speak to someone to help me with my grieving… With my mother’s voice saying in my head “I told you so”, I agreed to go… and that’s when I met my caregiver and friend Dawn. During our meetings we talk, sometimes cry and always pray. Each week we read our special little prayer devotional book that I just so happened to find laying in a small box of my mother’s belongings. May I first say… it was not easy to run and meet with a stranger…I had my doubts… I had no time… and then I thought…where would I begin? So I opened this prayer book and the first prayer had a heading that read DOUBT… I would like to share with you this short prayer. It is a prayer written as a letter and addressed, My Daughter…
I know you are struggling with doubt, but deep inside your spirit I have given you faith to move mountains. Let my precious promises wash your doubts away. I will never leave you, fail you, or forsake you. I am always with you; you are never alone. When you feel like giving up, cast your care and burdens upon me. Rest in my arms and trust me to take care of all that concerns you. I love you. Lift your eyes to the Heavens, for I am your help. Call on me and I will restore you. Hope in Me, for I am here.
I am truly grateful to Dawn. She has been an exceptional listener. She is an inspiring prayer partner and a constant comfort, always making herself available for me. Dawn makes me feel safe and has enabled me to grow in my faith through my mom’s death. I am also grateful for the Stephen Ministry for their thoughtful and continuing prayers for me and my family. I thank you again for allowing me to share what has refreshed my spirit in my new walk with Christ and my Parish… The Holy Family Church…
This is a testimony of a Stephen Ministry Care Receiver who eventually became a Stephen Minister.
My Stephen Ministry Story
My calling to become a Stephen Minister was not without heartache. Five years ago, I came home from my part-time job to find out my husband had lost his job after being with his company for 20 years. Overnight our family income dropped 70%, our youngest son was a senior at St. Augustine, our oldest son was a senior at Drexel. At the age of 57, my husband struggled to find another job with no college degree, a lingering recession & a quick reality that you now applied for jobs online. Since he was a teenager, he never had difficulty getting a job. Now he found himself unwanted, a “has-been” & fell into a depression. This became the darkest crisis in our 24-year marriage.
I became overwhelmed, fearful of our financial problems, isolated & alone, reluctant to trust anyone for help. My husband & I drifted apart. His pride prevented him from asking anyone for help. There were things I could not tell my own family. I wondered if God heard me, my cries or my prayers. I fell into my own deep, dark well, with no ability to climb out. The time came when I realized I could not solve these problems alone, it was time to trust someone & ask for help – I reached out to Fr. Sanjai & the Stephen Ministry here at Holy Family.
Very slowly, with much patience & compassion, my Stephen Minister walked with me on a faith journey literally bringing me to my knees to ask for God’s help. Each hour we spent together, she gave me a safe & supportive place to express all my emotions, some I wasn’t proud of. She always greeted me with a smile & genuine concern & helped my relationship with God to grow. When solutions were not apparent, she taught me how to focus on the face of God, asking him to help me get through that one day, to lean on my faith as I had never done before. I learned to trust God again, that he may not always give us what we want, but to believe he always gives us what we need. Together we shared prayer & scripture, then over time, I began to see that God was present in my life all along, carrying my husband & myself. He put loving family, friends & opportunities in front of us leading us to solutions but more importantly to help save our marriage. I persuaded my husband to see his own Stephen Minister. Unexpected doors opened over time enabling us to get back on our feet financially.
Being grateful to God & wanting to find a way to give back, two years ago the opportunity opened up to become a Stephen Minister here at Holy Family. Remembering the depths & pain of my own crisis, it was important for me to learn how to share the loving grace of God, to help those so distraught, afraid & lonely. I know it was part of God’s plan that my first care receiver suffered from her own job loss. To have the ability to give back, to be the one who now listens patiently, giving my care receiver a safe, non-judgmental, trustworthy place to express her thoughts & feelings she cannot share with anyone else. To pull her out of her own deep dark well & help her see God has not abandoned her in her pain.
God calls us to lean on him, to feel the depths of his love & mercy & realize we don’t have to have all the answers when times are so bad. He will carry us through. To be able to walk with a care receiver in her suffering, assure her that she is not alone & ultimately help her feel God’s grace, his everlasting love & presence, that he will open doors for her to….. This is a gift of which I am most grateful. As we read in First Corinthians 10:13,
“God will not let you be tried beyond your strength,
but with your trial he will also provide a way out,
so that you may be able to bear it.”
Thank you for your time but especially for your service to our Stephen Ministry.
My Friend and My Angel,
It is now time to say good-bye, yet I don’t want to. This is so difficult for me. You have guided me through the worst of my journey, and I have come out on the other side ready to face life’s challenges and enjoy life for myself and children from a whole new perspective.
I have learned so much about myself as I have continued to heal emotionally and grow spiritually. I promise to continue along this path. I have many strategies in place. I will take all the life lessons into my future.
I wish you could truly feel what is in my heart right now because you would know the depth of my gratitude has no end. Each and every time I needed to look deeper into my words or actions, you were able to get me to do just that. When I needed to vent, you just listened and reassured me that my feelings were all normal. When I was not calm or patient, you reminded me that I could get to that place again.
Thank you for the journal and book. They have allowed me to reflect upon many issues that I faced. I really did not know which direction to go in. I was lost, but also knew that at the core of my being was a good soul.
You have a true gift of being a good listener, supporter and someone who can guide a person along patiently, understanding that whatever challenges the person faces can be dealt with through faith.
I believe in myself. I have learned to turn to God and the angels more to comfort me and give me strength in the toughest of times. I have opened my eyes, heart and mind. I see beauty all around me. I am a determined, sensitive, and genuine person. I know that all the good has come back to me by way of a stronger faith. I have learned to really trust in God.
I am myself again. I love that! I am at peace. Thank you, God, for who I am. I am beautiful in so many ways. I am strong. I am worthy of respect, friendship, love and commitment. I say those words today with a different meaning. There is no anger or resentment, but only belief that I am truly worthy.
Thank you, my friend, my angel, for all of the support you have given me. I knew from the very start you were meant for me. I am so grateful. I am glad I opened my mind to let you in. You have come to know me as much as those closest to me all my life.
I am crying. I am sad, and I am happy. I am truly in a good place in my life, and that feels great! I know I will live a good life and appreciate all the goodness God has granted me. I have so much to be thankful for.
My road does not end here. It will be a lifelong journey. I know how to handle the dirt, gravel, and jagged rocks. My road is now a smoother one leading only to good things that I allow in my life, while keeping out less positive things.
My kids now have a more balanced mom, one who is at peace, I will live my life filling theirs with positive experiences also. I will do my best to be patient and let the small things go. They deserve the best of me.
I will cherish you always. I will miss you. I am ready to walk down a new path, but I also know that I am never alone. God is always with me.
A Grateful Friend