News - Calling: Care for the Caregiver

Calling: Care for the Caregiver

Calling: Care for the Caregiver

Pastor Chad Abbott ’00 recalls his sister’s phone call as a watershed moment. She expressed concern about their 90-year-old grandfather’s health and wellbeing—concern so compelling that it moved her to take on the role of his caregiver. The months that followed opened Chad’s eyes to parishioners who also cared for loved ones, and the incredible—and incredibly overlooked—ministry of caregiving.

Can't Go There

I discovered just how many of my parishioners cared for their loved ones. I noticed that when I asked after their loved ones, they easily responded, "Oh, mom . . . she has her ups and downs, but she is okay." But, when I asked how they, the caregivers, were doing, they struggled. Way too often, through tears, they responded, "I just can't go there."

They felt isolated, lonely, and exhausted. I pondered how we as the Church might respond and how we might provide community, strength, and healing.

When One More Commitment is One Too Many

What would be the best for the caregivers themselves? My first thought turned to programming that would give caregivers a break on a monthly basis. But, the last thing a caregiver needs is one more added responsibility to an already full life.

Then the Spirit spoke. What if we did something simple? What if we created an event that met needs in three areas:

  • a catered meal on us, that relieves caregivers of responsibility for an evening and joins them with other caregivers in the community;
  • the pleasure of enjoying a concert from a world-class entertainer; and
  • a blessing of strength.

Three hours of relief, community, strength, and healing—the seed had been planted in my head that this was what God was calling me to do. It resided in the back of my mind for months . . . but, then the Spirit moved.

Wanted and Found: A Healing Stage Presence

I was on the elliptical machine at my local YMCA listening to Krista Tippett's podcast On Being when the Spirit spoke.Carrie Newcomer

Tippett was interviewing renowned folk singer Carrie Newcomer about how music, spirituality, and faith have intertwined in her life. It was a terrific interview that took place on a stage at one of Carrie’s concerts. Carrie knew how to interact with the crowd in a way that was healing. She made them laugh. She told stories. She connected.

I knew that she was the kind of musician that we needed for an event like the one I imagined. But, my negative mind immediately turned to, "Oh, but she will be way too expensive. This will never work." Ha! God had other plans.

Wow, This is Doable

I emailed Carrie Newcomer's manager just to see prices. He called me and listened to my story about hearing Carrie on the podcast and the caregiver event.

He replied, "Oh Carrie would love this. She is coming out with a new album around the time you are having the event. Can I run this by her?"

Of course he could, but what about the cost? My mouth hit the floor when he said only $3500. I was waiting for $10-$12,000. I thought, "Wow, I could raise $3,500!"

In just a few days, he called to say she loved the project and wanted to book the gig. He would mail me a contract and we would go from there.

On the Scary Ledge

The contract arrived a few weeks later. As I stared into the heart of this event, I began to panic.

  • How could I sign this contract? We would be liable for paying her if we couldn't raise the money.
  • How would I get that much money . . . plus money for food, decorations, and publicity?

Panicked, I was ready to quit this wild dream then and there. I called a friend who had been party to my thinking.

"Nicole, I am on a ledge here,” I said. “I have this contract in front of me, and the idea of raising the money for this seems too daunting. It is scary and I am thinking of backing out. Talk me off this ledge."

Leap and Trust

Nicole’s response was nothing but Holy Spirit. She said, "Chad, this is a good idea and should be done. Caregivers deserve this. I know it seems daunting, but think of it this way. If in the course of your entire ministry the things you do don't occasionally bring you to this ledge where you just want to quit because it seems too scary, then perhaps you aren't doing it right. Ministry is about going out on faith . . . so take that leap and trust God with the process."

The very next morning I had breakfast with a clergy friend of mine who was familiar with a group that ministered to the aging. I wanted to tell him about my event idea and ask him to introduce me to folks in the group so that I could get their input before moving forward.BATCG poster

I told him the story of this call to care for caregivers and he immediately responded, "Chad, I have to tell you that I have a lump in my throat. You know that my wife just recently died and I was her caregiver and that I have a handicapped daughter that I also care for. You absolutely have to do this and here is $1,000."

I was shocked! Twenty-four hours earlier I was ready to throw in the towel and the very next morning the Spirit moved me to take that leap of faith. I signed the contract with Carrie Newcomer and began raising money— nearly $7,000—to cover the entire event.

Blessed Are the Caretakers

September 25, 2016, we will celebrate the inaugural "Blessed are the Caretakers Gala" with a catered meal and Carrie Newcomer in concert. To date:

  • Caregivers have requested tickets.
  • Churches in my denomination have pitched in to volunteer.
  • Organizations including the Alzheimer's Association, Council on Aging, and local Hospice have lined up to have booths.
  • People are spreading word about the gala on Facebook.

We anticipate sending 200 caregivers back to their work caring for others, with greater strength and a blessing from the God who made them, who loves them, and who deeply loves the persons in their care.

What I Have Learned About Calling

I have learned:

  • There are moments in our work as people of faith where God's voice calls us to something very substantial, yet we pass it off as too difficult and scary.
  • We have the capacity to offer every excuse under the sun as to why we should not do it.

But, is this not the story of Jonah? I wanted to run from this event. I hate raising money. But, my dislike for raising money could not outweigh the benefit and care and healing that caregivers needed.

I have discovered that my work as a pastor is to root myself in the spiritual discipline of holy listening and discernment first. When I am still enough, I will hear God speak. But, from there, it is a matter of having the courage to take that leap of faith.

It is my prayer that this event is successful, and that in five years we will host it in some big ballroom with hundreds of caregivers who simply need community, strength, and healing. God knew that this is what caregivers have needed and I am just glad I listened.

To learn more about the Caregiver's Gala, contact Chad:

GC Vision: We inspire our students to embrace God’s call. Go here to share your story about calling.

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This story was published on September 06, 2016

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