Some years ago the Jewish theologian Martin Buber was asked where he saw God. He did not give a standard response such as “in scripture” or “in church or synagogue”. Instead he said that he saw God when he saw people together and more specifically in the spaces between those people. I believe that he meant that somewhere in a genuine loving relationship between people God is present and visible in that relationship. As time has gone by I have come to understand what he meant and have had the same experience on many occasions.
I have felt this presence when I have participated in caring ministry – as I am certain many of you have as well. Stephen Ministry has been one of these experiences in my life. I have had the privilege to sit with a care receiver in a time of crisis and walk with him as he dealt with that crisis. His degree of faith and courage was no less than mine but he was going through a difficult time and I was in a place where I could be with him, listen and offer support. We came to know and care about each other. We came to share hopes and fears and I think each of us grew in the process. And somewhere in the process I felt God’s presence and I sensed that the care receiver did as well.
What is Stephen Ministry?
It is difficult to adequately explain this ministry but I would like to try as I feel that many not involved in it fail to understand its true nature. At its core it is simply one of God’s children being present for another during a time of need. It does not mean that the one providing care is “more faithful” or “stronger” or “wiser” or better in any way than the one receiving care. Nor does it suggest that the care receiver is lacking in faith or strength. It simply recognizes that most, if not all, of us will go through times when life presents challenges that we could perhaps face alone but that could be better and more easily confronted with a friend walking with us during such a difficult time. It is the recognition that we are not alone and are not meant to be alone – especially during times of trial. It is one believer reaching out to another and helping them see and feel God’s presence in a tangible way when that might otherwise be hard to experience. And all of us have times (perhaps many times) when we need that help from out fellow Christians and other times (perhaps many of them) when we are in a position to offer that help to others in need. It is a ministry of brothers and sisters in Christ helping one another. We are in fact trying in our own way to be Christ to the other. And somehow in ways I do not understand or pretend to be able to explain God enters the relationship and provides peace, love and healing. It is not to say that all problems are solved as we might desire or plan – but there is a presence that helps us through the problem however it is ultimately played out.
If you would like to share in this experience please feel free to contact Maureen Webber, Barry Lamkin, the church office or any of the Stephen Ministers. We would be happy to talk to you about the Ministry whether you wish to be a care receiver or Stephen Minister. It is not a matter of having or not having faith – it is a matter of where you are in life. It is a chance to be together in a truly loving and meaningful relationship and, in the process, you just might get to see and experience God. I think you would agree that is not a bad way to spend an hour a week.
~ Barry Lamkin