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Stories of Care

Diaconate Clients | Deacons and Deaconesses

Client Stories

The Church in Action

Although my family’s exposure to World War II hardships made them cynical about churches, they were shocked by the kind of help the church has provided. My family and friends in Europe all heard about how the church is taking care of me while I recover. I’ve shared this story of redemption with nurses and doctors who treat me. Everyone around me knows that Christians from my church are helping me through this journey, proving what Jesus said: “The way the world will know you that you are mine is because they see how you love each other!” Many are touched by seeing Jesus manifested in tangible ways. My mother has abandoned her long held opinion that Christianity is a crutch and Jesus a self-created fancy I rely on to face adult life.

Taking the risk to ask for help

I moved to Brooklyn to student teach from Canada. I finished my last semester of school and decided to stay in New York to look for work. It was a difficult time. The job market was terrible. I was getting low on funds, having depleted my savings while putting myself through school. After doing some calculations, I realized that I would not be able to keep supporting myself. Under my student visa, I was restricted to only education-related jobs. I couldn’t even take a part-time retail job to relieve some financial stress. I felt hard-pressed in many ways, including in my walk with God.

While I’d heard vaguely about the ministry of deacons and deaconesses, I didn’t think that I would ever reach out. After all, I wasn’t destitute or uneducated. In fact, I’d led a successful career for years in finance. And, well, it was hard for me to ask for help. But I couldn’t sustain myself for much longer. So I called. I didn’t know what to expect. Soon after, I met with two deaconesses after church one Sunday. They allowed me to share (and cry) what I was going through, which I hadn’t shared with anyone. Eventually, they were able to generously and graciously provide financial support for a few months. This uplifted me in many ways: emotionally, financially and spiritually. The deaconesses would reach out to me here and there, which meant so much to me as well.

10 years later

The 10th anniversary of 9/11 was approaching. I was months behind on my rent. There was little to no work to be had in my industry. I was financially and spiritually challenged. As honored as I am to have served in the recovery efforts, nine months of work at Ground Zero led to acute post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I was conscious that the impending anniversary could be an emotional trigger and I knew that I needed help.

From my first phone call to the care helpline, I was treated with respect. I felt listened to and understood. I received assistance for rent and groceries. Most importantly, I was able to go into counseling for the PTSD that was overwhelming me again and have access to counseling with a specific understanding of Christianity that would have otherwise been unavailable to me. The strength that I had to work at the Respite Center at Ground Zero had failed me, which is something I am sure God wanted me to learn.

As time went on I was able to become a more active participant in my faith instead of an observer. Instead of staying in a Community Group that wasn’t challenging me, I switched to a group that was a better fit for encouraging my spiritual growth, which helped support the healing work that I was doing in the counseling sessions. My life is a lot better now. It’s still a struggle and still a financial challenge, but isn’t everyone’s? Yet today, I am able to share with you how God has brought me back.

Suffering, perseverance, character and hope

I began my sixth year of working as a dancer in New York City. I was moonlighting as a Pilates instructor, babysitter and administrative assistant. I’d been living paycheck to paycheck, accumulating debt while trying to stay competitive in a stressful and harsh industry. Life was about trying to get through each week. My health, relationships and faith had suffered. After much prayer, I planned to take a little break from dancing, relieving myself of its physical, emotional and financial toll. I would save some of my earnings while I reassessed what steps to take next. After all, God was my loving protector; everything was going to be okay.

Within a week of giving notice to my dance company, private banking institutions began to unravel. My Pilates work dwindled and I couldn’t get hired to do anything. Suddenly, I was broke and careerless. During this time my family also experienced a crisis. I sank into a depression coupled with panic attacks. My friends and my Bible study didn’t know how to help. Money and mental health are such sensitive issues. I gave up trying to reach out to those around me. Knowing I had to do something, I called the care helpline.

On my way to meet with the deaconesses for the first time, I felt ashamed I’d gotten myself into such a mess. I’d heaped so much judgment on myself, I didn’t think I’d be able to take any more from someone else. Admittedly, our first meeting was extremely uncomfortable for me; it’s not easy to talk about the things you are most ashamed of with strangers. However, I was encouraged because I did not feel an ounce of judgment from them. They listened, empathized and helped me to receive practical assistance. In addition to helping me pay my rent, they enabled me to get help from the counseling center, a service I could have never afforded on my own.

Over time, I was able to see God’s mercy on me through all the painful circumstances and my own despair. During this time I clung to prayer and I met Christ in a way I never had before. Suffering truly can produce “perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us,” as the word says in Romans 3:5.

Prayer support

I appreciate the weekly prayer times I’ve had with the deaconess who’s working with me. If we don’t have time to get together, we pray on the phone, sometime two or three times a week when I need it.

Deacon and Deaconess Stories

God’s greatest work

God’s greatest work in us and through us is when he combines his truth with our service in order to bring restoration to those lives in need.

The helper is helped

I had the opportunity to be ministered to by a recipient of care who had gone from owning his own financial firm to six figures of debt — losing his family, a close friend and his security along the way. Lost and searching for identity in his mid-50’s, he found the Lord and eventually our church's mercy ministry. Listening to him during our many sessions, I was deeply touched by how well he articulated the joy and peace the Lord provided him despite his circumstances and the relative newness of his faith.

Risking to help

When I was approached about becoming a deacon I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I was happy to have a chance to serve God and those in need at Redeemer. On the other hand, I felt unqualified to pray for and provide godly counsel to people in trying situations. Nevertheless, I decided to take the plunge. It was intimidating to me at first, not always being sure of what to say and how to say it and questioning whether I would use good judgment in my assessment of a client’s spiritual and financial needs. However, gradually recognizing that God is always there, I learned more and more to rely on him to put the right words in my mouth at the appropriate time. I also learned to be a better listener and to overcome my natural impatience. On the contrary, I have found that by exhibiting patience, God in turn has patience and is graceful towards me, enabling me to better minister to others.

We are all in need

Through theological examination and training, I learned a lot and grew a lot. But personal circumstances helped me supplement the process. Two weeks into the training I blew out my knee, tearing my ACL, MCL and meniscus. It was a significant injury and required surgery and months of physical therapy. It was also many months of daily pain, of limited mobility, and of needing to ask for help. I have always valued my independence and self-sufficiency, and this experience taught me that sometimes we all find ourselves in places where we just cannot manage on our own. It is hard to admit that we are weak and need help, and it can be hard to accept help, especially when we have nothing to give in return. But this is the fundamental human problem. We are all sinners in need of mercy, and there is no way we can earn God’s grace or repay him for it.

As I have worked with people in the church who come to deacons and deaconesses for help, I have often repeated the lesson I’ve learned: “Sometimes we are in a place to give help, and sometimes we are in a place where we need help.” When someone unexpectedly loses their job and can’t find another before their savings are almost gone, we can help pay for their rent and basic needs until they can get work. When a personal crisis hits someone who was just barely staying afloat, we can help pay for their counseling and make sure they are supported financially, emotionally and spiritually until they can get back on their feet.

And when at the end of a service someone finds themselves with a heavy heart or a troubled mind, we can pray with them and help them remember the hope we all have in God and his unending love for us. We all need his help, and we can all rest in his mercy.

An instrument of change

God has shown me that he calls me to be an instrument of change in people’s lives. We have resources available to help people in their circumstances; but what God is really calling us to is heart change. As people talk to me about their struggles, I take a look at myself and how I respond to my own struggles. As I talk to a client about their fears, I have a chance to look at my own fears and idols. When I talk to a client about God’s love and mercy, I see God’s love and mercy at work in my own life.