Finding Hope

This week’s eNewsletter feature
was written by Julie Ruchniewicz,
FPCE Parish Nurse.

Dear friends,

By now, you have been inundated with messages on the virus: how many tested, how many deaths, possible vaccines, phases of reopening, and how this will affect our lives going forward. You have listened to the news on racial tensions, police brutality, looting, and violence – all valid and extremely important information. Sometimes, however, I find myself sifting through all the words, anxiously awaiting to hear just one: HOPE! That intangible, but profound, sense of hope.

We here at FPCE have made sure that HOPE is alive, well, and very tangible through our many ministries. We have heard so many stories, from our staff and from all of you, of the amazing work that is being done to help others. We so appreciate our essential workers, but I hope you recognize that the work you are doing is essential also.

In many treasured movies, favorite books, and in the Bible, there are references to building up foundations, whether they be literal foundations for buildings and homes, or metaphorical foundations for nurturing a family or one’s own character. We are taught that you need sturdy footing in place for when the winds of change shift. We, as believers, have laid the groundwork in our commitment to Jesus Christ, so when the storm of the virus raged, our foundation didn’t collapse.

Back in March, when it became painfully evident that life was going to be different from now on, there was much brainstorming. I knew that my ministry was going to have to adapt quickly. The Buddy System was created and put into place. Our pastoral care team thought of all the people in our congregation that are vulnerable, for a variety of reasons, and paired them up with other members of our church. They would become buddies, helping our church to stay connected with them while helping each other at the same time. I talked to some of our beloved congregants about how the Buddy System was working and this is what I heard.

“The Buddy System is a treasure.”

“Knowing that you’re in someone’s thoughts and prayers is most comforting and you know you’re not alone.”

“Our phone calls go well and we talk to folks that we wouldn’t normally call, so that has turned out well. I was able to inform a member about the weekly church service online.”

“I have a lovely woman that calls me weekly. I really look forward to hearing from her and sharing how I am and my prayer requests. We have known each other for years, but this has given us an opportunity to become good friends. It is very helpful to keep the larger church in the loop of how I am doing.”

“I have never met the wonderful person that calls me, I cannot wait until the day we can get together in person.”

“It has been very encouraging to know someone cares and is checking in to make certain all is well since we can’t be in church together.”

“I have two women whom I call each week. I’ve known both for many years, but I didn’t know either one well. It’s been a joy for me to call them and catch up on what they’ve been doing during this unusual time. I think they’ve cheered me up more than I’ve cheered them. I think many times when we minister, in the name of Christ, to another, we’re the ones ministered to and that’s been my experience with these two women.”

“I’m so glad our church is reaching out to others during a time when each one of us feels disconnected at some point. This is a meaningful way to remind us that we are, indeed connected.”

“Let me tell you about our First Pres buddies, official and otherwise. The phone calls are such a lift. We have known our buddies for years, but with both of us in isolation I found that we both came to know each other in a new way.”

“Even in our isolation, we feel so connected.”

After my sister-in-law passed away in May, we received so many cards in the mail. We have a bay window in our home, and as each card was delivered, we read it and placed it in the window. It brought such comfort to see the collage of colors on the front of the cards and the compassionate words that lived on the inside. As the window filled up (see the included picture), so did our sense of comfort that all these loved ones and friends had thought of us.

It was decided: a team of volunteers could send out cards to others in the church. It would be a simple way to stay connected and provide reassurance that you were thought of that day. I know that a number of creative people were already sending cards to our most vulnerable, but this project was meant to reach out to more of our congregants, especially during the quarantine. I talked to some of those who are receiving cards and this is what they shared.

“I have received a couple of cards and they have been lovely, on the last one they wrote out the complete blessing from the Book of Numbers.”

“We have enjoyed receiving the notes, and the pictures are so beautiful that I keep them out where we can see them each day.”

“I feel good about sending out cards because on the receiving end of cheerful cards will be a blessing and a feeling of encouragement, knowing they are not forgotten.”

“I have received two handwritten notecards from a deacon whom I do not know. She has been very thoughtful to send these notes, and to receive a handwritten note these days is quite special.”

“I’ve begun a collection of cards displayed over my fireplace.”

“I so appreciate getting cards from my wonderful friends at First Presbyterian Church of Evanston.”

“The card ministry has been a wonderful encouragement to me. It’s encouraging to receive cards telling me that folks are praying for me. I covet prayer very much because I know that my life is in God’s hands and it is he alone who can heal me. I have even received cards from strangers who ae a part of the card ministry and that touches my heart.”

“I cannot wait to meet my new card friend in person.”

“I am so grateful for the cards that have arrived at our home in the past few months from our church family. They are cheerfully written and it is nice to be remembered during troubling times. What is so neat is that we received several cards from young people who said we are praying for you and included an appropriate scripture passage.”

The Bible talks about the wise and foolish builders in Matthew 7:24-27.

“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”

The foundation of First Presbyterian Church of Evanston was tenderly laid, brick by brick. Over the years, with your hard work and dedication, the construction grew and formed into a sturdy and resilient structure of which we can be fully proud. It was Winston Churchill who said, “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us”. We shaped our church; thereafter it is shaping us. That, my friend, gives me HOPE!

 

Julie Ruchniewicz
FPCE Parish Nurse

 Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.

 – Leo Buscaglia