All of us have been care receivers throughout our lives; we’ve received care from our parents, teachers, doctors dentists, pastors, children, and friends. Most of us have also been caregivers to our children, parents, students, or friends, and some of you reading this are professional caregivers. Remembering the importance of receiving care from a particular person or at a specific point in our lives is often an encouragement to step up and care for others.
Kenneth C. Haugk’s book Christian Caregiving: A Way of Life is beneficial in a number of ways. First, it is a valuable resource because Dr. Haugk is a pastor, clinical psychologist, and founder of the Stephen Series system of lay caring ministry. He writes from experience and his educational background.
Second, Dr. Haugk frequently uses the words “distinctively Christian,” pointing out the unique opportunity Christians have to care for the whole person - what a great way for us to connect people to life in Jesus! God made us whole persons. Physicians treat our particular physical ailments; some only discuss the physical concerns, while others are good at including emotional, mental, and even spiritual aspects when treating health issues. “Distinctively Christian” does not mean only spiritual, rather it refers to the whole person. ”Distinctively Christian” is a way of love, and we love others because God first loved us. In 1Corinthians 13 Paul reminds us Love is the Greatest: “but if I didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”
Dr. Haugk’s book covers many helpful guidelines for Christians to follow in reaching out to others no matter when or why. Based on his education, experience, and passion, he addresses his book to answering, “How?” Knowing how to engage with individuals in talking about difficult topics is so critical. It is easy to speak from our experience and try to convince someone of what we believe would be helpful in certain situations. But we don’t always know what will be helpful to someone else, who will always have a different perspective. Caregivers encourage discussion, listen well, and ask more questions. It is so important to allow the Holy Spirit to speak into the situation; God knows what the person is in need of and will guide the process, as we pray and encourage others to pray and listen to the Holy Spirit.
Often times knowing where or how to start a conversation is the biggest hurdle. Care Notes -- typically a 6-page booklet dealing with life issues and concerns -- can be an ice breaker. Sharing a booklet with someone can show you care and are concerned, and can easily lead to questions, discussion, and opportunity to pray with an individual. Care Notes have been available on the wall across from the mailboxes in the back hallway by the restrooms (at our Fitchburg site). Recently Sharon Kelly organized the booklets according to topics that are now available in two plastic bins in the Church library under the TV. The booklets cover a wide range of topics such as aging, illness, dying, and grief, to name a few. Many titles begin with “How to Cope with…” There are specific booklets for Teens and for Kids and Prayer Notes. For assistance in locating the booklets or finding a specific topic, ask Sharon or me or any of the church staff.
At some point in their lives, we hope everyone has received a meaningful smile, a genuine “how are you?” question, a prayer, or a hug. We all are, and are called to be, caregivers to family, friends, and neighbors wherever God has placed us. Finding yourself in the position of caregiver can be overwhelming. Dr. Haugk’s book is one helpful resource, the Care Notes another. Caregivers themselves need caring for. If you have a need or have a passion to be part of Caregiving, there is a place for you at the Church to receive or give. Feel free to talk with me or Pastor Matt Wipperman as a possible first step. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Allow God to do the work. Be an instrument of God’s love as a distinctively Christian caregiver. Our world is in desperate need of such care, and God is with you as you care and are cared for.