At Christmas, people who are suffering grief, loss of a job, divorce, illness, or any number of other problems often feel even more isolated and lonely than in other seasons. The joy of the season highlights their lack of joy, painfully.
During worship service one Sunday in Advent, our Stephen group gives a presentation and hands out ornaments as a reminder to the congregation of our responsibility as Christians to reach out to those who are hurting in whatever way we can. We also remind them that Stephen Ministers are here to help, too. If they or someone they know might benefit from having a formal caring relationship with a trained Stephen Minister, we invite them to talk with us or our pastor. No one should suffer alone.
I'm pretty much the only crafty member of our group (one lady scraps, but she doesn't stamp), and over the years, my design for our ornaments has become increasingly, ahem, basic. Y'all know I intensely dislike mass-production, even for an amazingly awesome cause. This year, I found some ready-made tags at Marco's Paper, bought 250 of them, and set to work designing our easiest ornament yet.
I'll admit I'd be happier if the tags were white, but hey, they don't even require cutting and tying on strings (you'd be surprised the complaining I heard last year regarding that step!).
This year, our presentation will be on Advent's first Sunday...the Sunday we light the Candle of Hope on the Advent wreath. I stamped the tags with an old Impression Obsession alphabet and Brilliance cosmic copper ink. The verse we're putting on the back of each ornament is Jeremiah 29:11, one of my favorites:
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future."
What a lovely, comforting thought. I'll write a speech to go along with that and post it on my other blog (transforming common days) that Sunday.
We're printing the verses on Avery address labels and attaching them to the back of the tags. One of the Stephen Ministers volunteered to help with that...she's nicely OCD and will put them on straight!
I cannot begin to tell you the amazing ripples sent out by this small thing. We have people ask for extras to send to their family and friends who are grieving or who have some other challenge in their lives. We have at least a few referrals to start new caring relationships with Stephen Ministers. We see the ornaments used as bookmarks in Bibles. We've received thanks from the most unusual sources...all for providing a simple, paper ornament that offers comfort to those who need it.
I'd love to hear from my readers about things they, their churches/synagogues/mosques/temples, or other religious or community groups do to reach out to hurting people during the holiday season. The comments for this post could become a wonderful idea board for others to take up the challenge of reaching out to others...in the holiday season and throughout the year.
And if you're interested in more information about Stephen Ministry, visit the links below or email me. I'm a passionate advocate for this ministry!
What is Stephen Ministry?
Care Receivers Tell Their Stories (all the videos are amazing...have a hankie handy!)