Posted on September 13, 2008. Filed under: Share Your Story | Tags: beyond casseroles, christian counselors, chronic illness ministry, church invisible illness, church resources for illness, encourage people with illness, invisible illness week, pastoral care, pastors, reaching out to chronically ill in the church, rest ministries |
Michele Williams, who spoke Friday about “Faith and Illness” at our virtual conference shared how faith has gotten her through the most difficult times. What she didn’t share as on the radio program, however, was the many ways her husband, the pastor, has supported her efforts, and how many years she has been involved with spreading the word about invisible illness to the families in the church.
Since we began in 2002, she has ordered brochures, had a table with resources during National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week, and this year they ordered copies of the book Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend to distribute a copy to each household that attends their church.
(To quote myself…) Founder of Invisible Illness Week, Lisa Copen says, “I find it so encouraging and refreshing to know this little book with 505 ideas will be floating through the hands of nearly 50 households in this church. I can’t wait to see what a difference it makes in the church and even their community. No one is expected to do 505 things… or even 5 things! If we all chose 1 or 2 things we could do on a consistent basis for anyone who is hurting–not just those with chronic illness–our society would literally change. Can you imagine how many hurting people who feel like no one understands what they are going through would feel validated and encouraged?”
I’ve found that it doesn’t take trips to Disneyland or a new X Box to make a difference to a family whose child lives with diabetes. It takes a caring committment to say, “How are you REALLY?” It takes a hug when words can’t be found. It takes a call to the mom to say, “Let’s go get coffee today. I just want you to unburden yourself and share your worries. Let me know how I can specifically pray for you this week, something no one else is praying about.”
I know many of you out there have taken the cards to your pastors, to your church leadership. Some of you will be having a table set up after your service. Some churches have even said they’d stick the cards into the bulletins. We’d love to hear from you!
And some of you have enthusiastically gone to your church and asked, “Could invisible illness somehow be acknowledged this week?” and you’ve been turned away. I won’t share details but let’s just say that people who have known me since I was 1-year-old have responded with “Maybe we can talk about this in the future sometime.” Despite the fact that some little churches have over 80% of their congregation dealing with illnesses or cancer, they still insist on “tabling” the idea for another meeting.
So let me encourage you. Sometimes you will feel like you are hitting your head against a brick wall. Not everyone will be receptive. Unless a family in your church leadership is specifically impacted by illness, they may not have any clue how devestating it can be… and nothing you say will make a difference. This is the point where you graciously step aside and pray that God opens their eyes. And then be ready when they approach you with “their idea” to reach out to the chronically ill. I know first-hand how frustrating it can be sometimes. But I’ve also learned to wait on the Lord, and have seen amazing things happen in His timing.
What is your church doing? We’d love to hear. And… if you approached them and they said, “thanks but no thanks” we’d love to hear that too, so we can better understand how we can reach them in the future.
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