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WAYS: How did your church help you in time of personal crisis?


July-August 2015

Several weeks prior to finishing each issue of Interpreter, we send a question to all readers for whom we have email addresses, asking them to respond with a short answer of 50-75 words. We hope you will join the conversation in the comments section below..

We asked...

How did your church help you during/after a time of personal crisis?

For this issue, you said...

When I was 18, my fiancé was killed in a car wreck one month before our wedding date. My local church gave me what I needed: love, listening and support. My best support was from my minister, now retired, the Rev. Harry Scott. When I told him, there were no words; he sat and cried with me. This was about 40 years ago.

 Jacki Zeigler, LaPointe UMC, Port Clinton, Ohio

When I was diagnosed in 2011 with a rare malignant cancer, I gave up without much of a fight. However, my church family visited me, cooked meals, prayed for me and sustained me until I fully recovered. My life changed, and I saw how important having a church family that cares means to those who endure trials. Our thoughts and prayers are so important!

Jay Wansley, Wesley Chapel UMC (McDonough, Georgia) Kennesaw, Georgia

The people of First United Methodist Church, Winder, Georgia, taught me the meaning of “the hands and feet” of Christ in 1976. At 47, Dad suffered a massive stroke. Mom’s diagnosis of breast and bone cancer six months later left our family reeling and broken. I have memories of disbelief, suffering and fear. Stronger are memories of church family at our door with meals, offers to drive Mom for her treatments, men of the church with tools in hand to re-roof our home when finances didn’t allow and masses of cards arriving with just the words needed on a given day. The people at Winder FUMC taught a teenage girl (who is now a grandma) how actions of love shone when it was very dark for me personally. 

 – Anne Wade, Redwine United Methodist Church, Gainesville, Georgia

In 1998, my mother died in September, and our first grandchild died in October. The grief was beyond words. My church family gave me huge doses of hugs, kind words and abundant prayers. Our mailbox overflowed with cards. I felt surrounded by the warmth of angel wings. I am sure that getting through this difficult time was thanks to my faith and knowing we were not alone on this very rough path. God is good all the time. Thanks to my church family, I remember that every day!

Skippy Valentine, First UMC, Bangor, Maine

I have been a member of Southern Hills United Methodist Church since 1974. They have supported me mentally, physically and spiritually in several crises – tornado, divorce and emergency surgery. In 1999, the infamous Moore tornado severely damaged my house. My church family came running and helped me in many ways. They have always been a great support group and inspiration. I have had wonderful role models to see what it is to be Christian every day. 

 – Sharon Saulmon, Southern Hills UMC, Oklahoma City

Two minutes from walking down the aisle to begin worship on World Communion Sunday, I received a call that my mother had just died. Stunned, I told the church, turned the service over to a lay speaker and left. I later found out that the lay speaker led the congregation in a tearful prayer for my family and preached an impromptu message. Another lay speaker took my place at a local rehab worship service in the afternoon. 

The Rev. Linda D. Stoddard, Maple UMC, Battle Creek, Michigan

My church peeps are ALWAYS there for me even when I don't know I need them. Cards, calls, visits – all come without me asking, ever! My church is my rock. Reciprocity is the key here. One must be filled with grace to receive grace. Praise Jesus for that lesson. Praise God I was listening.

Ginny Petrie, East Shore UMC, Euclid Ohio 

A widower in the middle of chemo for lymphoma, I have been blessed with a church family who has looked in on me, helped with transportation to appointments, service projects at my home, meals, telephone calls, dozens of cards and spiritual support with their thoughts and prayers. All this has become even more important this week as I am now neutopenic [low white blood cell count] and must isolate myself from risk of infection.

John C. Nitchie, Wilmington (Massachusetts) UMC

On the evening of 9/11, my former church – St. Andrew United Methodist, Plano, Texas – conducted a worship service, with an email invitation sent to all by noon. Complete with a full choir, hymns, sermon and prayer candles for lighting afterward, it was breathtaking! One of few services in the community that night, it was standing room only and ministered to countless people who hurt deeply. I’m still in awe of how a service and a congregation came together with only hours of notice.

Julia Murray, Midway UMC, Alpharetta, Georgia

My close friend and neighbor – a longtime pillar of Midway United Methodist Church – died of cancer. We had been visiting this church for months since it was closer to home. We knew many members well but others only on a casual basis. Multiple church members called and texted me and showed up at my door with meals. I knew immediately this was a church being the church. We joined this big family a few months later.

 – Julia Murray, Midway UMC, Alpharetta, Georgia

In 1996, our son, Sam, 21, needed a heart transplant. My husband and I worked full time. Thank God, we had wonderful health insurance for our family, but there were still bills that come with a major surgery and recuperation time. Our church came together for us in so many ways. Prayers were continual and sent from all over the world. Asbury people hosted a fundraiser to help pay bills. The board of Asbury Child Care Center, where I worked, graciously offered me paid time off to be available for our son. Church members offered money and gas cards for our trips to the hospital. Groups and individuals offered meals and childcare to help our other three children. Asbury United Methodist Church walked with us just as Christ did through this difficult time. Because they shared their faith and reached out to support us, Sam is celebrating his 20th year with his new heart! 

Paul and Sara Miller, Asbury UMC, Kankakee, Illinois

On a recent Saturday evening, my wife, Bonnie, had a stroke. Rushed to the hospital, she was given a marvelous drug that started to dissolve a clot immediately. Our pastor – who had a guest preacher for Sunday – appeared at the hospital the next morning! On the fourth day, Bonnie returned home. Offers of prayer, food, phone calls, emails and other means of support poured over us from our church family. They reassure us that we are loved.

 – The Rev. James E. Magaw, retired elder, Gay Street UMC, Mount Vernon, Ohio

My wife had an accident that hospitalized her for seven and a half months. A friend who attended Sugar Valley United Methodist asked for prayer for us, and they even took up a collection for us in our time of desperate need. When we moved here, we made Sugar Valley our home church!  

 John W. Loughry, Sugar Valley UMC, Bruceton Mills, West Virginia

My church family (Wesley United Methodist Church, Fresno, California) was there for me when my husband was in a diabetic coma. Four doctors told me Robert would never wake up, would not even be a vegetable and would die before nightfall. Hugs, tears and prayers poured out for Robert, and six years later, he is still alive with full mental and physical healing. More than bloodline family, my church family helped me and prayed until Robert revived.   

John A. Jones, UMC of Palm Springs, California

A church member received a cancer diagnosis and required eight weeks of treatment. She cares for her grandchildren and needed help with transportation and meals. Other parents helped drive her kids to preschool and Sunday school. People signed up to bring meals to her home. Many prayed and wrote notes of encouragement and Scripture. Now she is cancer free, and her oldest grandson was confirmed in June! Praise God for all the ways he pours out grace.

The Rev. Carl Hetler, Evangel Heights UMC, South Bend, Indiana

Being there. Prayers, calls, cards, food, connections. Pastor Lavell, who took special care of my mom after my dad passed. Several church secretaries who went over and beyond to include my mom as a volunteer and friend. Even my home church members, who have long scattered to all ends of the USA, still keep in touch and help. A connection through God never ends.

Kellie Frissell, Bethel UMC, Stockbridge, Georgia

My friend, Laurie Johnson, has fought brain tumors for several years and miraculously survived her most recent hospitalization. Laurie’s church – Jodeco United Methodist in Stockbridge, Georgia – got a small group together to build a ramp so she could come home from the hospital and get into her house. The crew consisted of members from Jodeco and Ousley United Methodist churches. This tight little team built a nice ramp in the front of Laurie’s house.

Kellie Frissell, Bethel UMC, Stockbridge, Georgia

I was diagnosed with kidney cancer two years ago. I will never forget the night – a week before my surgery – when our small group met and prayed over me. You could feel the Spirit moving in the room. They fed us for a week after I got home from the hospital! I received a prayer shawl and lap quilt from our prayer shawl ministry. Knowing the congregation was praying for me was a great comfort. Now two years cancer free, I know that prayer works!

– Danita Forgey, Mount Auburn UMC, Greenwood, Indiana

Ovarian cancer took my wife of 59 years last January. First Glendale (California) United Methodist Church was very supportive (with) a large attendance at her memorial service and reception that followed. I also received many sympathy cards. My pastor visited her a number of times at the hospital and at my home.

– The Rev. Antonio R.  Flores (retired), First UMC, Glendale, California

When my son’s grandfather, a precious family member, passed away, I was not financially able to attend the funeral in Florida. I was sharing this with my pastor, the Rev. James C. Johnson Jr., and he stated that he knew how much it meant to me to be there. Through our Cottage Mission Funds, the church provided me the ability to be with the family during this difficult time, and I am forever grateful.

– Janet Erskine, Monterey (Tennessee.) UMC

I was never more gratified than recently when my congregation banded together to carry the pastoral load and make sure the church operated seamlessly when I was suddenly called away due to a family death. Virtually every member stepped up to take some of the load onto themselves. They further supported the family with loving and prayerful support during that difficult time.

– The Rev. Ted Fine, Delhi (Louisiana) UMC

After an abusive marriage, my children’s father and stepfather abandoned them. The children were angry and hurting. Our church family fought hard to prove to them that they were loved and that some people could be trusted. It took a long time, but the church was with us for the long haul. Today, my grown daughter is going into children's ministry, another daughter will be a missionary in Guatemala and my son, 13, has preached at the church. Through the power of Jesus, my church has transformed our lives.

Janie Detling, Evangelical UMC, Greenville, Ohio

A few days before I departed on a business trip to New York, my daughter's doctor told her she might have cancer and scheduled her for surgery. My daughter, 33, and a mother of four, insisted I travel as planned. I contacted my church's prayer chain. Knowing other people were supporting us in our feelings of terror and helplessness was very powerful. My daughter made a full recovery. We are very thankful.

Vicki Daughtry, Lynnewood UMC, Pleasanton, California

My church, St. John’s, fuels me. It is a place to find my center and gain direction and insight. Trusting that direction never fails to result in wonderful gifts from God – exactly what St. John’s gives me. The Holy Spirit is alive in that church like no other place I know!

Natalie S. Cooper, St. John's UMC, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Our pastor challenged us to study Ephesians. My beloved grandmother and I read and discussed Paul’s letter at length for months preceding her death. What a blessing! The challenge to study the Good News invited me into an opportunity to spend the last year of my grandmother’s earthly life with her in tender, spiritual growth. This will always be one of the greatest gifts of my life. I remain comforted knowing she is living her reward!

Natalie S. Cooper, St. John's UMC, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Our church family brought us meals that tasted like love, prayed for and with us, sent notes and cards, and gave my husband rides to daily radiation treatments while I worked. They even worked out a schedule to stay with him when necessary. I never had to ask; they were just there. They surrounded us so tightly that we couldn’t fall down.

– Karen Clark, St. Luke UMC, Newton, Iowa

Calvary United Methodist Church gave my band shelter when we [needed] a place to practice. As payment, we signed a contract to be the “house” band for a few church events each year. I attended a Good Friday service and found myself spiritually touched. I joined the church; provide music at quarterly community blood drives; and, when scheduling permits, give beginner guitar lessons, sing in the choir and play a special worship song during Sunday service.

John P. Bruton, Calvary UMC, Dumont, New Jersey

My church was in the process of establishing a women's support group for those facing loss when my father's illness became terminal, and he died. My husband was also facing major surgery, and I was concerned about a possible compounding of grief. The support group gave me an opportunity to discuss my fears in a safe environment. It was also free, saving me the expense of professional counseling.

Andrea Bonnar, St. Matthew's UMC, Acton, Massachusetts

In 2013, my father passed away. As death affects people in different ways, we were very lucky to have a very supporting congregation. God was also there for our family and for us. Ken Harris, our pastor, is a great person who understands people’s needs and what God is truly wanting for us. It is a pleasure to go to this church and to be around the people that call us “family.”

- Tony Birchfield, Cuba (Illinois) UMC

Dad died in 1987. I took our young son across state to Mom's for a week, leaving our fourth-grade daughter home with my husband. Someone from church showed up with a meal daily. My husband (not a churchgoer) asked why people were doing it. Charisa stomped her foot and said, “Daddy, this is what churches do.” I learned later there were two other families our very small church was providing food for that week.

Laura Beaver, Benton City (Washington) UMC

My church has an Internet prayer list. An individual can put his or her email address on the list. All who have medical or health needs can send to the designated individual who manages this project, and that individual’s name is added to all whose addresses we have. Knowing someone cares is good.

Don Ballard, Boger City UMC, Lincolnton, North Carolina