A deacon is in the waiting room of a community walk-in clinic. There is a woman beside her, slumped in her seat. She is dozing lightly; she looks exhausted. After a number of minutes, the woman seems to abandon hope of a nap. She stretches, sighs and sits up. The deacon beside her begins a conversation. It doesn’t take long until the woman shares how tired she is. She doesn’t have a bed and is having difficulty sleeping on the floor. Not to mention the nagging cough that has plagued her for months. As the deacon’s name is called and she rises to go and see the doctor, she tells the woman she wants to help and asks her for her phone number.
On Sunday at the deacon’s church there is a notice in the bulletin, asking for the donation of a bed and mattress. There is prompt response and the deacon calls the woman from the clinic to arrange a time to bring over the bed. The woman tearfully accepts the gift and begins to share more of her story. It is a story of broken relationships, untapped potential, and a lack of opportunities. There is so much behind the story and the deacon is sure the church can continue to help.
This is now more than a bulletin announcement, more than the donation of a bed. It has become about Carol. About her life. Her future, her gifts and her needs. Hopefully it will become a long-term relationship. There is beautiful potential here, which will only be fully realized by a church prepared to walk alongside and a diaconate which has discussed and decided how they are able to help.
Although this story is only loosely based on an account told by a CRC deacon, the usefulness of guidelines for helping and benevolence is real. Who will we help? How often? What boundaries might be needed? Where can we refer those whom we cannot help? Guidelines are intended to help deacons establish a framework for responding to people who request help.
Does your diaconate have something in place?
If not, check out these tools developed by Diaconal Ministries Canada staff.