The phone in my office rang a couple of times. I answered it and my antenna shot up. The pain and fear in her voice was loud and clear. She loved her husband, her life with him, and their two small children. She loved the Lord. How could she have cancer? How could this be? Was there anyone who could really help her? Just weeks before the dreaded “C” word had become a horrifying reality in her world. She had been healthy all her life. Eating judiciously and years of disciplined exercise made no difference for this predator. She was eaten up with cancer. She needed someone to talk to. Her parents and immediate family were coping as best they could. She needed someone just for her, someone outside the family, someone who was a Christian, and someone with whom she could talk regularly, without having the conversation repeated all over Houston.
A Stephen Minister was the answer: a person (this time a woman) who had successfully completed 50 hours of class instruction, was sworn to complete confidentiality, and someone who could meet with her for an hour every week, for as long as it took. A female Stephen Minister from our church was assigned to her not long after that phone call. Initially they talked in an empty room of the church. Later the Stephen Minister went to the hospital or to her home. They talked. They cried. They laughed. They prayed. The cancer continued to do its dirty work in her body, but she was not alone.
Over the next year-and-a-half these two women met. Her wigs did not always sit right on her head. Her skin color and weight changed. Talking became difficult. However, she knew that her Stephen Minister caregiver was committed to be there for her. Even when out of town, her Stephen Minister called to have their weekly hour together. These two women. These two. And the presence of the Holy Spirit.
The role of her Stephen Minister was not to cure her disease, but to listen, listen, listen, to be present with her. She did that, even to the end. In the last hour of her life, her husband was lying beside her in the bed, cradling her in his arms. Sitting beside the bed, holding her hand, was her faithful Stephen Minister. Her whispered last words were “God is good…all the time. All the time…God is good.”
In addition to our pastors, St. Luke’s equips and empowers lay caregivers—called Stephen Ministers—to provide high-quality, confidential, Christ-centered care to people who are hurting. If you would like to talk to a Stephen Minister, or if you are interested in training to minister to someone else, contact Rev. Bill Denham at firstname.lastname@example.org or 713-402-5156.