Compassion Born of Experience

Help in time of crisis.

Richa Stevens is a registered nurse, M.P.H. and phone consultant for Ministry Care Line (MCL). Her husband, Dan, is a pastor in Kettering, Ohio. This article appeared in Ministry Careline, November 1993. Used with per­mission.

Assignrnent to our third district in six years of pastoring meant moving from our home in the country to a city apartment. The unsold home added huge double housing costs to the in­creased expenses of city living. Thus, I juggled care of our two small boys with seeking part-time employment. I grieved the losses of my homemaker role and that of being an active participant in "our" ministry.

Following a stressful day of job interviews (trying to convince employers that they needed a nurse who hadn't worked in seven years!), I picked up our boys from the new sitter (still a relative stranger to us all) and trudged home to begin "second shift." Wearily postponing preparation of the evening meal, I opened the mail in hopes of find­ing an encouraging message from loved ones. Instead, the mail yielded an alert from my physi­cian regarding abnormalities in test results with recommendation for surgery; an IRS letter an­nouncing our second audit in two years; a tax bill for $400.00 on our unsold house....

The ringing phone brought a brief welcome distraction, but there was no comfort in our realtor's messages. Mysteriously caused flooding in the unsold house necessitated immediate replacement of pump and carpet. Further, the renters were moving out and, without any new pros­pects, the much needed income their rent had provided was about to become a mere memory.

That night, already over­whelmed, we were forced to deal with a disturbed drug addict at­tempting to break into our home.

Faced with increasing de­mands and depleted resources, we were heading into crisis. Our car, through no fault of ours, was badly wrecked. My husband suffered from throat nodules and could not use his voice. Without an associate pastor, all the pres­sures of a large city church seemed to funnel into our lives. Basic food funds were inade­quate .

Lonely, frightened, sick and "flat broke," with two small chil­dren and a large church depend­ing on us, we clung to each other and to God in despair. Repeat­edly, He assured us of His love by sending help when our need was greatest. Even so, we longed for another human whom we could trust; one who would just listen. We were blessed by a won­derful ministerial secretary named Roy* . . ."God's love in skin." Listening and caring, he suggested ways by which we could better care for ourselves and our ministry.

Very close to burnout by the time we sought his help, I had wondered, "Who cares for the caregivers? To whom can the pas­tor (and pastor's family) go when they need a 'pastor'? Among so many workers, there must be oth­ers hurting as we hurt . . ."

True, the tide eventually turned. My surgery revealed no cancer. My husband's nodules healed. We were able to move to a safer neighborhood. We sur­vived our audit. Our house sold . .. four years later ...

Yet, even now, as I read my journaling of that difficult time, I know we would have gratefully used MCL,+ had it existed. How comforting it would have been for Dan to talk with a caring pastoral counselor such as Bob or Al. How wonderful it would have been for me to hear another ministers's wife like myself, or a counselor like Gaylon, LoNita, or Lorraine. That crisis of mine . . . 10 years ago . . motivated me, through God's leading, to work for MCL.

Some of you, as well as some of your employees, are likely to be in the midst of crisis now: fi­nancial, marital, work, family. Others carry concerns that, ex­plored with a Christian profes­sional, may be clarified and more readily resolved.

Call us at MCL. We are here to "minister to those who minis­ter." I especially have a burden for fellow ministers' wives. If you wish to talk with me, call MCL and ask when Richa is on next. However, each of us is honored to share in your concerns and cares . . . whatever they may be. We pray that, should you need a listening ear or another perspec­tive, you will be impressed to call MCL.

(Discovery that Roy' had, early-on, made MCL's services available to his workers was not a surprise. But, the vivid re­minder of his compassionate sup­port once more brought tears of vulnerability, relief, and appre­ciation.)


MCL is an employee-assistance program for pastors, teachers, and staff, plus their spouses and children.

Confidential help when you need it from Christian mental health profes­sionals.

Call: (513) 299-5288. The hours are Monday to Thursday, 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. and 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time). MCL is a service of Kettering Clergy Care Center, 1259 I Dorothy Ln., Dayton, Ohio 45419. The director is Robert Peach.

* Note: Roy is a pseudonym.

+ Ministy care line

Richa Stevens is a registered nurse, M.P.H. and phone consultant for Ministry Care Line (MCL). Her husband, Dan, is a pastor in Kettering, Ohio. This article appeared in Ministry Careline, November 1993. Used with per­mission.