Ministry offers help in time of crisis |

Ministry offers help in time of crisis

Stephen ministers discuss efforts with those they are helping.
Jim Grant | The Record-Courier

With so many Carson Valley residents living away from their families, something like the loss of a spouse or a serious health issue can be doubly devastating due to isolation.

Stephen Ministry is a way to help people who just need a friend in troubled times.

“We’re an older community and it’s common to be affected by the death of spouse,” Stephen Leader John Hamer said. “A lot of people don’t have family around.”

Key to the Stephen ministry is getting people to seek help.

“People are intimidated by asking for help, they’re nervous or don’t know what to say,” Hamer said. “We become an advocate for them, and help them with forms and other things to get them back on an even keel.”

The Stephen Ministry got its start in 1975, and there are about 11,000 people enrolled nationwide, but it’s only a year old in Gardnerville.

Hamer said the team of Stephen ministers and leaders has worked with about 20 people so far.

“We have worked with people in divorce situations, individuals with serious medical scenarios and folks dealing with the loss of a loved one,” he said. “Once we get people some help and walk through the process with them, we commit to be there on an every other week basis for two years. We’re just Christian friends, walking along with someone who’s having tough time, sometimes.”

While based out of Trinity Lutheran Church in Gardnerville, Hamer said they have ministers from other congregations.

“We’re not recruiting people to join the church,” he said. “We have ministers from other churches.”

He said the group is preparing for another class in January to expand their ranks.

When a Stephen Minister agrees to help someone they undergo a pre-interview to explain what the minister’s limits are.

“The care receivers sign a document that acknowledges that we’re here to help with steps in life that are difficult,” he said. “But it also authorizes us to call in a professional if there’s something that’s beyond our abilities. We’re not trained counselors or mental health professionals.”

Anyone interested in participating or in need can find out more by visiting Trinity Lutheran’s web site at and clicking on the Stephen Ministry link.