FIRST-PERSON: When tears arrive
PENSACOLA, Fla. (BP) -- You slowly hang up the phone and close your eyes. "Lord, use me!" you pray. "Help me know how to ease her pain."
When death comes to a member of your church or to an unchurched acquaintance, your acts of ministry can remind the bereaved of God's love for them.
The days between a death and the memorial service can be difficult. What role can you play? As soon as you learn of the death, ask God to give you wisdom in how to minister to the family.
God gives us this assurance and encouragement: "He gives us comfort in all our troubles. Then we can comfort other people who have the same troubles. We give the same kind of comfort God gives us" (2 Corinthians 1:4).
When a time for bereavement ministry, try some of these ideas:
The Hand-Holder. Your presence means a lot. Never overstay, of course, but when you're there during crisis, it's a reminder of God's love. Share a prayer. A hug. A tear. A Scripture written on a note card.
The Food Organizer. Five dishes of macaroni might be too much of a good thing. If you're organizing food for their guests or a funeral meal, consider using one of the many free online schedulers, such as TakeThemAMeal.com.
The Book Sharer. Find an encouraging pamphlet or book to share. Be sure it's heavy on Scripture, the best words of comfort. I often give Joyce Rogers' book, "Grace for the Widow" to recent widows. On the inside cover, write a note to tell something you loved about the deceased.
The Gesturer. Carefully observe needs, then help meet them. Do they need a pet-sitter? A phone answerer? Babysitter during funeral? Help with airport pickup? Mow the lawn. Offer to pick up kids at school. Deliver flowers from your garden to brighten their home. Write your phone number on a card and offer specific help.
The Rolodex King. When requested, a member of our church would help a grieving family to finish making personal notifications. After they'd called their closest friends, the volunteer sits in the kitchen with their list to complete the calls.
The Bag Lady. Early preparation enhances ministry. Stock up on sympathy cards. Keep a frozen casserole, soup or cookies for quick crisis ministry. Prepackage a grocery bag with paper towels, plates, cups, napkins, toilet paper and plastic utensils, and when you learn of a death, deliver it immediately to help with their guests. Plan ahead.
The Elephant. (No, I'm referring to memory, not size.) The moment you learn of the death, mark that date on your calendar each month for at least a year. This will remind you to pray, call, send a note or take him or her to coffee. Listen with love. Pray with them.
When death comes to those around you, act quickly. Move gently. Love largely. When someone in your church or community dies, your timely touch in Jesus' name shows that you and your God truly care.