A caring community
St. Paul is blessed to have two care ministries, both of which intentionally connect members of the St. Paul community beyond the walls of the church. The Hospital Befrienders program is a team of volunteers who visit hospitalized St. Paul people in the Quad Cities. The St. Paul pastors and Befrienders visit folks in the hospitals Monday through Friday, plus many weekends. These visits may last five to fifteen minutes at most, but for someone who’s unwell and missing home, those precious minutes are nothing short of life-giving medicine. And it doesn’t take any more than a willing spirit to say, “I can step up and step in to be that difference in someone’s day.”
The Care Companion program pairs St. Paul volunteers with members who may be homebound or otherwise struggle to get to church. It’s a rich match-making ministry that creates faithful friendships.
Christal and Joe Thiel with their friends, Betty Marriett and Cynthia Lovig
Last year, Christal and Joe Thiel were looking for ways to be more charitable and give back to the St. Paul community. Nearly every month, Christal and Joe pick up their friend Betty Marriett and attend a church service together. Prior to being paired together as part of the Care Companion program, Christal and Joe didn’t know Betty but they’ve found funny and meaningful similarities in their lives.
Betty grew up in Antigo, Wisconsin, which just happens to be near where Joe’s mother currently lives. Even though the Thiels and Betty met some 360 miles away in Davenport, they have loved connecting over Betty’s hometown and their memories of Northern Wisconsin.
And now, Betty just happens to live a short five minutes away from the Thiels. Once a month, Christal and Joe make the short trek to Betty’s house and the three catch up during the Sunday morning ride to St. Paul.
“Betty really loves going to church. You can tell it’s very exciting for her. We share a lot of photos with Betty of the places we’ve been and of our families. She likes to talk with us during our car ride to church on Sunday,” Christal said. “We really enjoy hearing about her life, her kids, and the similarities in our lives.”
“There is a feeling of connection that has come from the relationship we’ve built with Betty,” Joe said. “You form a small bond with a completely new family that you didn’t know. It’s nice. It opens your world up a little bit.”
Joe and Christal have found that Betty really loves the chocolate donuts at St. Paul and if she’s not able to join them for church that month, they try to still bring her one of those yummy treats.
Joe also connects via phone with another Care Companion recipient Cynthia Lovig each month.
“I call Cynthia nearly every week for a 30-45 minute chat. It’s always very nice. She fills me in on how things have been going for her,” Joe said. “She wants to talk about her family and I like that. She needs an outlet to be able to talk about what’s been going on with her and I like that we can fulfill that.”
Christal and Joe have gotten so much joy out of their time and talks with both Betty and Cynthia and encourage others to consider joining this care ministry.
“Pastor Sara did a wonderful job introducing us to what was going to be involved,” Joe added. “She prepared us for what to expect, different scenarios, what we might need to do or be aware of. We felt very prepared after that meeting.”
“We were looking for something to bring us happiness, knowing we were helping someone. Being part of the Care Companions has done that. You don’t have to have special qualifications to be friends with someone,” Christal said. “You just have to care.”
Hospital Befrienders and Care Companions are not experts or counselors, but those who walk alongside other church members and share their journey for a time. Friendship, presence, and prayer are their tools. Those interested can join these two care ministries at any time throughout the year. Interested in learning more? Contact: Pastor Sara Olson-Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org.