Mary Larrabee’s life was a mess! Her marriage ended in divorce, she underwent two major surgeries, and then her grown son was murdered.
It was as though a manure truck kept backing over her and dumping on her. She was matched with Kathy, a Stephen Minister and a fellow member of her church, who met with her each week for about a year.
Kathy would hold her hand and listen and pray with her. She didn’t give Mary specific advice as much as she just validated her pain and affirmed her struggle and gave
hope through her own faith and faithfulness.
Although it wasn’t the case for Mary, in many instances, a care receiver in time becomes a care giver. Do you know someone who could use a good listener and whose faith
might light the way for someone else?”
Joel Bretscher became a Stephen Minister in his 20’s. He trained in his Phoenix, Arizona, church, expecting to be matched with a man of about his own age. However, Joel’s first care receiver was an 82-year-old widower who left church when his wife died, never to return until he decided to make peace with God.
At their first meeting, the two discovered a mutual love of baseball and moved on from there to his love of his wife and his need to deal with his loneliness. Joel volunteered to go to church with him so he wouldn’t be alone. But the man suffered a heart attack and didn’t go after all.
Joel built a stronger relationship with him as they traveled together through his illness and hospitalization, After Joel left town to celebrate his marriage, he learned that the man’s upcoming
surgery, promising as it had seemed, had not saved his life. Despite Joel’s grief over the loss of his friend, Stephen Ministry came to mean to him a life well lived and a faith practiced by caring for others. “Christ’s presence with us,” Joel says, “transformed us both!”
Bill Arnsparger, six-time coach of Super Bowl teams, retired after 23 seasons with the NFL and entered training to become a Stephen Minister. Bill never thought anything would match his coaching experience, but Stephen Ministry has.
Asked about similarities between Stephen Ministry and football, Coach Arnsparger said, “Stephen Ministry builds confidence, both in the Stephen Minister and in the care receivers. It takes teamwork among Stephen Ministers and their leadership team to bring comfort and support for each person. Every opportunity to care is a new challenge, a new experience, just as each game is in football!” As he says, “The experience has brought Bill Arnsparger closer to the Lord!”
Steve Feith, a retired naval officer married with two children and four grandchildren, loves to ride his motorcycle, smoke cigars, and play golf. He learned about Stephen Ministry at church, but thought it wasn’t for him. He just wasn’t into “emotional” stuff.
Yet, as a naval officer, it had been his job to fix problems sailors brought to him. In training for Stephen Ministry, Steve, a fix-it person, learned that Christ, not himself, would fix people – people who were struggling and people who were dying and needed someone to listen to them.
As the program teaches, Steve respected his care receivers and walked alongside them in confidential relationships. Steve says he no longer sees people in terms of problems needing to be fixed but as people who need others to walk with them and reflect Christ to them.