By Rev. Joe Walker, Minister of Congregational Care

“It’s hard to put into words how much those visits helped my mother. You know how the time can drag. My mother would count the hours until the next pain medication. Jacqueline helped distract her from the pain. Jacqueline was a real gift to our family.”

That’s Bonnie Hensley talking about Jacqueline Cyphers, one of our Stephen Ministers. Jacqueline was one of our church members who visited Bonnie’s mother, Ruth Shobe. Most of us know Bonnie as a caterer who provides many of the delicious meals we enjoy here at church. What you may not know is that her mother died last November after a long illness.

Ruth was in a hospital – then a rehabilitation center – near our church for much of her illness. Bonnie asked if we could stop in and visit occasionally, which we were eager to do in collaboration with Ruth’s home congregation, Lee’s Summit Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). We made pastoral visits to Ruth and took her communion, flowers and a prayer shawl. Ruth had decorative bird houses in her room, a reminder of when she had outdoor bird houses and feeders. She and I loved to talk about how much we enjoyed watching the birds that visited our yards.

When a loved one is sick for a long time, it wears on everyone in the family. I asked Bonnie if she would like a Stephen Minister who could check in on her regularly to see how she was doing during Ruth’s hospitalization. A Stephen Minister is specially trained to listen, to care, and to offer spiritual support and encouragement through difficult times whether it be sickness, grief, job loss or divorce. Bonnie agreed and eventually Jacqueline became Bonnie’s Stephen Minister. Jacqueline also became part of our team visiting Ruth.

“When my mother died, Jacqueline was so sweet,” Bonnie recalled. “She attended the funeral. She wrote me a note after that.”

Under normal circumstances, all Stephen Ministry relationships are strictly confidential. I greatly appreciate Bonnie and Jacqueline’s willingness to set aside that policy in this instance so that we can share this story. If you or someone you know is going through a life challenge, call or email me to discuss whether a Stephen Minister might be a helpful spiritual companion, as Jacqueline was for Bonnie.