Grief Brings Joy

This article was written by Karen Knowlton, Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Play Therapist at STCH Ministries.

You would think that this title is an oxymoron, but I will explain this title as I go on with my story. Grief Share was introduced to me about two years ago. I had to participate in order to lead a group through the course. During that time, I was able to deal with some of my own unresolved grief. I had lost my Mom, my Dad, and then my brother-in-law that I had known since I was about eight years old. He became family when I was about eleven.

Going into this group I did not think that I had unresolved grief. I quickly discovered I could not deny my feelings. That group was the beginning of my grief journey. I didn’t start out my counseling career thinking I would focus on grief! As I sat there I thought to myself, more people need to be able to find the relief I did through this program.

Here are three stories from the Grief Share groups that I have led. This program has now served people from numerous communities in South Texas.


DORIS*

Doris joined Grief Share 14 days after her husband passed away from cancer. Doris was angry. Doris was very angry. The people in the group poured love into Doris every time she would lash out her anger at God, at the doctors, and at the hospital. Several told her that she may not be ready for Grief Share, but Doris insisted on staying and made every session. At the end of the Grief Share experience, Doris was mildly better and had her anger somewhat under control.

Doris came to the next round of Grief Share and during this time she was amazed that she did not remember seeing the videos or remember many of the discussions.  She was saved when she was young but had strayed from her relationship with Christ. Through Grief Share, her relationship grew deeper as Christ began healing. Doris was finally beginning to deal with the death of her husband. During this group she gave the testimony that if it weren’t for the previous Grief Share group she probably would have wrapped her car around a tree to end her misery. But, she wanted to come back to Grief Share and tell us that we were wrong and she was right in her anger! Doris admitted at the end of the second round of Grief Share that she was the one that was wrong and that she still needed help in dealing with her feelings of grief. She needed to learn how to move forward with her life, as she has a thriving business to continue to run and her only son had kept it afloat during this time.

Doris returned for the third round of Grief Share and was open to learning and sharing and helping others in the group deal with their feelings and anger. Doris just completed her third round of Grief Share and stated that if it wasn’t for Grief Share she wouldn’t be able to function in life.


MONA & JENNY*

Mona & Jenny are sister-in-laws who had both lost their husbands within a year of each other. One lost hers to a long illness, while the other discovered her husband in the fields where he was working, dead from a heart attack.

Mona was suffering from severe anxiety and could not drive without becoming hysterical. Jenny would drive her sister-in-law places and check on her, and then her own husband died unexpectedly, leaving the two women to depend on each other and God. The pastor of their church had heard about Grief Share in Beeville and suggested they contact FBC Beeville to find out about classes. They showed up during the 6th session and fit right into the group.

After a few weeks Jenny related a story about having trouble with her children and processing all the legal ends of the death. One day after a particularly arduous day, she was driving home and pulled over to the edge of the highway. She pulled a gun out of the glove compartment that she always kept there and sat for two hours contemplating using that gun. Jenny felt as though she lost her husband and now was losing the relationship with her daughter and life just felt too hard to live anymore. She remembered her dog that she got when her husband died to help keep guard of their place in the country and wondered who would take care of her dog. She placed the gun back in the glove compartment and continued home that evening. Jenny stated that Grief Share has shown her ways to deal with her feelings, shown her that there is still purpose in her life.  She is now active at her church.

Mona testified at the end of the 14th session that she was finally able to drive in the daytime and had begun volunteering to help keep her mind off of her problems. She continues to be active in her church as well.

Both ladies now feel that they are ready to face their lives without their husbands, knowing that God isn’t finished with them yet. They say they are still lonely but have dealt with the underlying anger of being left behind by their spouses.


DESTINY*

Destiny came in on week 7 of the group. She had lost her mother nine months previously and her husband three months earlier. Destiny was feeling lost and lonely and was angry that she was alone. Destiny committed to Grief Share and opened up each time, sharing through tears of all the things that she was experiencing not having her husband to come home to every night. She talked through her feelings each week, with the other ladies sharing their similar feelings, and began her process of healing.

Destiny came to the celebration of Grief Share ending and stated that she had a story to tell us. She shared that before she came to Grief Share that she sat on the side of the bed one night with a gun in one hand and a bottle of pills in the other, trying to decide which was the best route to take to end her misery. Destiny was a dedicated Christian, and knew that this was not the right answer, but she was so lonely she couldn’t see going on any longer. She finally went to sleep and the next morning called the hospice group that had handled her husband’s case and they referred her to our Grief Share group. Little did any of us know that Destiny was that close to ending it all, and that our group was her last reach to God for help in her situation.

Destiny plans to return to our next session of Grief Share to continue her journey of healing.


* Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality.

I share these stories with you to tell you that I have learned two things:

1. Grief is every bit as life threatening as cancer and if left unresolved it can destroy a person.  Anger plays a huge part of grief.  Anger also destroys relationships.  Depression is also a part of grief and has a negative impact on the person who is grieving.

2.  Obeying God’s lead is so important.  When God plants that desire in your heart to do something, whether it is teaching a Sunday school class or volunteering for VBS or whatever the case may be, God has a plan and a purpose that is beyond your knowledge and following Him could save someone’s life.

The first time it was shared with me that one of these ladies almost chose death over life and gave credit to Grief Share and my leading the class, I took it with a grain of salt and thought it was coincidental. But God has always known that I require more confirmation than a one-time story.  He has allowed me to hear story after story.

Last night when I heard Destiny’s story, I shared it with my husband and I just broke into tears as he told me it was due to my obedience to Christ that these women are looking to me, trusting me, and listening to God again.  It was such a moving realization of the impact we have on people when we follow God’s lead and are obedient to His will.

Trust me, after working a full day in counseling and then adding three more hours in the evening, I have thought I’m not doing this again, but if you noticed, two of three of these cases came into group mid-way and needed to go through the course again.  Knowing that kept me going.

I feel so blessed by hearing, and finally believing after last night, that maybe I did make a difference in someone’s life today.  And that my friend is where I find that grief brings joy!

To find out more about Grief Share, contact STCH Ministries Family Counseling at 1.833.83.STCHM.

Communicating with Love

Mary is a young mother in Phase I of Homes for Families who recently got into a disagreement with another resident. After staff intervened, she felt the need to get her Bible and looked up ‘communication’. This led her to James 3, which talks about it only taking a spark to start a fire.

Mary recognized that God was telling her that she was that spark, and went to the other resident to confess that she was wrong. Mary heard something that didn’t sound like herself, knew it was God speaking, checked it with scripture, and took action!

We are amazed by the work that God has done in Mary’s life, and look forward to seeing her continue to mature and grow closer to Him.

* Names changed for confidentiality.

Sponsoring the Future

“My goodness, how you have grown!” How many times have we said those words to others whom we knew yesterday as small children? Days melded into months and years so quickly, and it seems overnight that the child has become a young adult. We have experienced similar moments with our sponsored Samuel’s Fund children, especially during the mission trips this summer.

It seems only a short time ago that we carried food and resources to the home of a Samuel’s Fund child. How their eyes widened and glowed at the sight of bread and milk, and special treats like peanut butter and cookies! Now some of these same children, grown into young adults, have joined our mission teams as translators. They assist in delivering food and resources to other sponsored children and their families and help with construction projects, orphanage ministry, and VBS classes.

Recently we asked Harold to share his testimony with a missions group. He is married to Sara, a lovely Christian girl, and works for Fed Ex. He expressed his gratitude for the sponsorship that paid for his schooling and allowed him to learn English. Today he is a leader in the IBQ church and pastors another “daughter” church during his off time.

“Samuel’s Fund sponsorship enabled me to get an education and learn English. That is the reason that today I have a good job and can support my family and my church,” he says.

Harold is just one of many examples of the impact of the Samuel’s Fund sponsorship program. It is an investment in the future of churches and families in the Dominican Republic.

Stitched with Love

“Gifts of handmade quilts wrap people in God’s love and symbolically demonstrate that Jesus and His disciples care;
the quilts represent the ultimate security blanket.” – Stitches of Love Quilting Ministry vision statement

For nearly as long as European immigrants have been on our soil, American patchwork quilts have represented comfort, security, and a place to belong. For more than sixty years, STCH Ministries Homes for Children has provided the same for children in crisis. For thirteen years now, the quilting ministry, “Stitches of Love”, of University Baptist Church (UBC) in Houston has partnered with Homes for Children to create unique quilts for each graduating class. These handcrafted gifts ensure that the assurance of comfort, security, and a place to belong continue long past high school graduation for the young people in our care.

Erin DeCola has lived at STCH Ministries for almost three years, and she is one of the five high school graduates we celebrated at Homes for Families this spring. After receiving her quilt, Erin tells us, “I really love my quilt and it means a lot that these ladies made it. It is something that I can pass down for many generations to come.”

Kyrenda Lambert grew up watching both her grandmother and mom quilt by hand. She remembers the wooden quilting frames that hung from the ceiling at her grandma’s home where the women gathered and worked together. When she and her longtime friend Donna Bennet saw the opportunity to take a quilting class at San Jacinto Community College, they were hooked. Stiches of Love is the result of that class.

“It’s about fellowship and living life together. We minister to each other as we sew, “ Kyrenda says.

Stitches of Love functions as both fellowship for believers and an outreach ministry for the church. The group is described as “women of all ages (early 30s – 93 years old) who enjoy quilting, coming together for learning, sharing experiences, working on their own quilts, and working on quilts that will be donated as an outreach to those within and beyond our walls.” Kyrenda and Donna wanted the group to have a purpose, to create ministry quilts for people experiencing difficult moments in life.

Every year, UBC quilters create a personalized quilt for each of the high school seniors who graduate while in care at Homes for Children. Each blanket is personalized to showcase the teen’s interests and favorite colors. In 2018, the graduating class received their quilts during a special graduate celebration of “Senior Chapel” at Wednesday night Chapel on Boothe Campus.

Isaiah, Haley, Erin, Joshua, and Mary we here at Homes for Children are proud of you. Our prayers and support go with you, we hope the quilt is a physical reminder of that support as you move forward to the next step God is showing you. Ezra 10:4 states, “Arise! For this matter is your responsibility, but we will be with you; be courageous and act.”

Volunteer Spotlight

Julie Strayer has a passion for teaching money management, and she can’t imagine not doing so.

As a volunteer teacher for STCH Ministries Faith & Finances, Julie helps individuals, couples, and entire families learn how to make a spending plan, manage debt and loans, live more simply, and set goals for saving.

“Faith and Finances is the best title in the world to me,” Julie explained, “because I’m sold out on people getting their finances in order and I’m sold out on faith.”

“Julie Strayer is one of the most passionate and high energy volunteers we have ever met!” said Jimmy Rodriguez, Director of Faith & Finances in Corpus Christi. “She is a busy and successful businesswoman who finds time to follow her calling to help others, and she also recruits business colleagues and fellow church members to help out.”

Julie’s conviction that wise money management is the key to a successful life runs deep. She and her husband Stewart both grew up in homes that modeled how to spend and save wisely. Their habit of always setting aside reserves enabled them to survive three-month stretches without a paycheck as they built a small business and raised their family.

It stirs Julie’s heart to hear students’ stories about the consequences of poor money management.

“One sad situation is people taking out payday loans to hold them over until their next paycheck,” Julie shared. “God says the borrower is slave to the lender, and these six-month payday loans are charging 60 to 70 percent interest! We’ve got to do something to help people overcome the obstacles that keep them trapped. Faith & Finances classes are a beginning.”

“I love that you don’t have to be brilliant to learn about personal finance,” Julie continued. “You can be normal and average and become financially secure. Managing finances is a basic life skill you have to learn, just like driving a car. It burdens me that people aren’t learning it. The world is broken, and it encourages us to be broke…to spend every penny we have. When you are financially broke, it is easy to get beaten down. Before long, every aspect of your life gets broken. But, when a person is willing to look at their finances and begin getting them in order, other areas of their life start falling into place. I truly believe that!”

STCH Ministries is grateful for volunteers like Julie who serve others through the things they are passionate about. What is your passion? To learn how you can serve, visitwww.STCHM.org/Ways-to-Help.

Loving the Functionally Fatherless

Living in the light of God’s Word is convicting. James writes that religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27).

Many of our kids come from functionally fatherless situations; it may be that there was a divorce, a death, absentee, or situational fatherlessness. The children’s home does not receive the parental rights to the children when they come into care. The individual placing the child remains the one with rights to the children. We are called to come alongside, ministering to the family and children with the love of Christ, being family-like.

As Father’s Day came this year, as in previous years, my phone received many text messages of “Happy Father’s Day!” As I age, I can gauge the era in which the sender of the text lived at the South Texas Children’s Home. If the text refers to me as “Greg”, then the sender lived here during the 90’s; and if they call me “Mr. Huskey”, then they were from the 2000’s. I am grateful for having all these kids in my life. Whether in church, at school, or at the home, I have never tried to be a father to the students. However, I have tried to be “father like” to all.

Thus, that brings me back to why we are called. We are called to love. Love is what God did for us to the point of the death of His son. No greater love than a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). Love is more than words, it is a call to action, a call to love “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40), to show the love of our Heavenly Father. He is our Daddy, Abba, and Father to the functionally fatherless.

And a final thought: without receiving God in our lives, we are functionally living, but spiritually fatherless. Let us freely give what we have freely received.

Submitted by Greg Huskey
Boothe Campus Administrator
STCH Ministries Homes for Children

Marriage Counseling

A husband and wife in the San Antonio area felt hopeless about their marriage so they turned to STCH Ministries Family Counseling. Over the course of their sessions, they got very intentional about spending time together and reading the books suggested to them by their counselor. They made sure to never miss a counseling session and took to heart the topics discussed in each session. They were diligent to show forgiveness to their spouse and sought understanding too.

Recently they reported that their three daughters have noticed such a big change in their marriage. Their middle daughter, who had completely withdrawn several months ago, is now going on daddy/daughter dates and has become much more open. Their family has also experienced many other successful moments since this couple began marriage counseling.

We have no doubt that God will finish the amazing work He has started with this family!

Submitted by Family Counseling – San Antonio

Suicide Is Preventable

Suicide is preventable and mental illness is manageable—and you don’t have to walk this journey alone. This is the message that we share with parents and teens.

Recently a local pastor called our counseling office in San Antonio thanking our staff for sharing this message with him, his staff, and families in his church. The presentation raised awareness about suicide prevention, depression, grief, and steps to follow when someone is suicidal. Because we were able to have these hard conversations, this pastor new exactly what to do when one of the teens he ministers to approached him about having suicidal thoughts.

A tragedy was averted, help was available, and hope was restored for this teen and family!

Submitted by Family Counseling – San Antonio

Restoration

God has redeemed Maria from a life of drugs and many hardships. She has been a resident of Homes for Families for six months and has done very well in the program. She was even baptized earlier this year! Our supportive staff have helped Maria address the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs that she and her two teenage daughters have in order to find hope for their future.

At a very young age Maria had a son who was raised by her mother. We have rejoiced with her over the last few months as she has reconnected with her son through phone conversations. Her son has recognized the change and peace in Maria, and they have begun to develop the relationship they never had.

Last month, Maria was able to spend a weekend with her son and grandchildren for the first time in two years. Praise God for His restoration of this family!

Blessed by the Ministry

Boothe Campus
Bee County, Texas

Recently a woman excitedly walked into one of our counseling offices in San Antonio and shared her “STCH story”. She once lived at Boothe Campus with her siblings. Her father had been left alone with several children and could not take care of all of them, so he placed them at South Texas Children’s Home. She told our staff member, “The children’s home saved me and my siblings.”

She spoke fondly of her memories at the children’s home–it was amazing to bear witness to the fruit of those that have poured countless hours of compassion and love on those who need it most. Now, as an adult she was able to look back on her childhood with memories of her time at Boothe Campus and share what a difference her stay had made on her life.

Sometimes the people we help come back to thank us, but more often than not as helpers we may be left to wonder if we helped. Being thanked isn’t the reason why we do what we do–for all of us that work in the helping profession, no matter what the role, we do it because ultimately we are called to the work and we are living out a passion that God has borne in our hearts. So we know that our work is never in vain. This woman and many, many others are a testament to that work.

Submitted by Family Counseling – San Antonio