The “After” People
By Barb Mazarakos
Life is tough. We all know this. We’ve heard it many times, often by people who are well-meaning but don’t know what else to say to help you when times get difficult. But sometimes tough love isn’t enough to help us get beyond what weighs us down. Sometimes what we need is an open heart and listening ear, someone who isn’t going to judge (intentionally or not) and will listen to us long after that last family member or friend pats us on the shoulder and gives us a gentle brush off. For those times our congregation has been blessed with the wonderful people of Stephen Ministry, a group which started here at Christ Lutheran in 1998 and was first manned by Pastor Ledogar, Geri Bandauski, Jeanne Scheel, Cheryl Guse, and Beth Girdick.
Stephen Ministers are commissioned after they go through months of specialized training. They are called by Jesus to this mission of compassion and firmly believe He is with them as their companion throughout their time of ministry. They will listen and support members going through a variety of personal issues and hold their conversations in the strictest of confidence, even taking a solemn oath to God to maintain that confidentiality. As group leader Gerry Bronzell puts it, they are the “after ” people. The ones who are there after “… the phone call you hoped you’d never get; … the divorce papers are served and the bottom falls out of your life; …the funeral, when everyone has left and the emotions you’ve had at bay come crashing in on you; … the doctor says, “I’m sorry, but there’s is nothing more we can do; … you find a pink slip with your final paycheck; …your family and friends have heard your story one too many times, but you still need to talk it out; …the baby arrives, demanding more of you than you ever dreamed possible;…the nursing home director shakes your hand and says, “Welcome to your new home.”; … the last child honks the horn, waves, and drives away—-the house suddenly seems empty.” They are the “after” people, and their help is invaluable.
The newest Stephen Ministers are Carl and Julie Jancik, who were commissioned on January 31st of this year. Married for 33 years, these parents of two (and very proud new grandparents of little Phoebe Faith, born just this March!) found the transition into Stephen Ministry to be one that happened over time. A number of personal and business issues over the years including a life-changing injury Carl suffered to his foot in 1998 that left him with a debilitating nerve disorder, Julie’s battle with Leukemia, and the death of each of Carl’s parents helped groom them for this position to help others get through the valleys of life. Julie has been very impressed with the confidentiality of the SM group, stating that “Even in the meetings when all the SM are together, no one speaks of their care-receivers by name. The care-receivers do not need to worry that what they are confiding will go anywhere other than to their SM.”
Going through this process together has been an experience Julie and Carl say they would certainly recommend, calling it “a gift and one that should be shared”. It is clear from the way they talk about this experience that the Jancik’s have grown not only in their ministry ability, but in their own relationship. Julie, who feels that pain and suffering serve a purpose, calls Carl her “rock”. And Carl says, “I found a deeper me. My wife is a very giving person, she questions herself and she shouldn’t. ” It looks like these two Concordia University graduates have found a way to put their college minors (Theology for Julie, Psychology for Carl) to good use!
For anyone who would like to talk with a Stephen Minister (either in person or via phone, whatever you are most comfortable with), please contact Pastor Ray or Gerry Bronzell. They will make the connection with the Stephen Minister best matched to help you in a confidential manner. You don’t have to struggle alone. God has put the right people right here- to help you with your “after”.