LyNae Schleyer began her ministry by extending care to people experiencing difficulty in life. When her own life circumstances put her in need of care and support, a new community and calling arose. This personal calling story is part of a series on purposeful living.
T hroughout my adult life, I have been blessed to be surrounded by strong, faithful women. Some were my mentors (whether they knew it or not), some I was privileged to walk alongside in leadership roles, some are now in heaven. Each one of them I called “friend.” They demonstrated grace, humility, patience, hospitality, leadership, diplomacy, faithfulness, and love—all beautiful traits I have prayed to learn from and demonstrate.
“The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed.” –Proverbs 11:25a (The Message)
In my early years, I thought being strong meant being independent, not sharing personal challenges and holding on to that “I’ll do it myself” mentality. What I came to understand and realize later is that this is not at all what being strong is all about. Rather, and through firsthand experience, I’ve found that strength in faith and managing life’s challenges is really about allowing others to walk alongside you, pray with you, and lend a hand when needed.
My personal ministry began when I joined a group of lay congregational members in Stephen Ministry training to provide one-to-one care to those experiencing a difficult time in life. This style of caregiving fit perfectly with my ministry passion, allowing me to build personal connections with individuals, often during some of their darkest days. Through the individual care of each woman I was partnered with, I witnessed God at work, transforming lives and deepening faith. Each woman was a strong, faithful woman facing a moment in her life when personal connection through prayer, conversation, and support was a part of God’s healing hand.
A few years into my Stephen Ministry work, my husband suffered a significant stroke that left him homebound and partially disabled. It was a life-changing moment but even with the knowledge and first-hand experience of God’s care through my Stephen Ministry work, it took me several years to recognize that I did not have to hold on to the “I’ll do it myself” mentality. I was living with the idea that caring for my husband and managing the household was what my marriage vows called me to do. And while this was true, God did not intend for me to be alone on this journey. I began to discover other women serving as at-home caregivers to their spouses with long-term, terminal illnesses. Each woman I met felt they, too, were alone with their fears and challenges, all while adjusting to the major changes in their married lives. So, by God’s grace, a group was formed. For a few hours, we could talk openly about our struggles, losses, concerns. It was a time of prayer, tears, stories, and reflection. Life-long friendships were developed, and through mutual care and support, the journey for each of us didn’t seem so dark.
Interestingly, while we were truly ministering to each other, this group did not feel like a ministry to me. It was a group that I needed just as much as we needed each other. We were fully aware of God’s hand in our lives and God’s bringing us together, but the organic nature of our connection and the informal way we helped each other felt more like a team effort. We were lifting up one another during the ebbs and flow as life brought joys and sorrows.
Over the course of time, each spouse was called home. But the need for caring is ever-present. God continued to show me ways to walk alongside women seeking care. A new calling—support for widows—became my new passion. Not particularly liking the term “widow,” this group is called New Hope and is open to any woman walking this journey. Sadly, it is an ever-growing group; currently, no woman is older than 75 years of age. During our monthly gatherings, conversation topics cover anything from home management to who God is calling us to be as individuals without a spouse. Once again, the need for community among common need is greater than we can imagine. But God knows.
I hope that God is also calling and equipping each one of these women to share these experiences for their own personal ministry. Gathering with others who share a similar story offers helpful resources, healing, camaraderie, hope, and strengthened faith. I have been blessed to help others start their own small groups specific to personal needs. For example, a friend of mine is leading a group of spouses, all of whom are caring for their spouses suffering from Alzheimer’s. If the need exists, you can be certain there are other people also in need of that community.
My calling has been to recognize the value of like-communities and to bring people together in support of each other and the challenges they face. So many times, I heard, “I thought I was the only one dealing with this issue. I was so alone and didn’t know there were others out there just like me going through the same thing.” Truly it is a blessing to walk the road together.
Small groups or one-to-one ministry does not require a lot of planning, marketing, or training. The most important aspect is the recognition of the need and the invitation to others to be a part of the conversation. No one should do it alone or by themselves. As 1 Thessalonians 5:11 instructs, “encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”
I have been so personally blessed to see the hand of God at work in those he has allowed me to connect with. God has called me to this ministry of care. I am the conduit; God is the healer.
Are you living your purpose?
LyNae Schleyer is a member of Christ Community Church in Lemont, Illinois, an RCA community focused on living and loving like Jesus. She is a trained Stephen Minister and the organizer of New Hope, a community of women walking together through the loss of a spouse.