Stewardship Stories – How the Kirk Does Great Things with our Pledges
My name is Betsey McFarland and I am pleased to share a stewardship story. My instructions were to share a story of how the Kirk has changed lives. Inevitably I think we are prone to envision the downtrodden and destitute when we think of the church changing lives; the hungry, the broken, the ill and infirmed, the uneducated. Those in other countries, speaking other languages, looking different than us – living in huts; little children in tattered clothes.
And the Kirk has had a hand in serving all those. God’s call to us has been clear – and we have answered it. After all, the bible says “When you do for the least of these, so you do unto me”. And so we hear that challenge and we make our pledges or give weekly to the Kirk to support the work of the church in all the aforementioned areas, and many more closer to home that we are familiar with – the Total Life Center, Dorcas Ministries, Koala, WIHN, the community garden, Presbyterian Relief ministries, The Carying Place, college ministries, Alliance Medical ministries, SAFEChild. The needs of the mission field are endless.
But, I would submit to you that WE are THEY. That we have but to look in the mirror to see the changed lives that the Kirk means so much to. Every single one of us are both recipients of the mission of the Kirk and its missionaries.
I moved to Cary in August 2011 with my three sons. Having completed their adoptions, we came to start our new life together as a family. In Tampa I had an identity, a history. Here I had no job, no house, no friends and 6 months of living expenses. I was leaving behind 10 years of an acrimonious divorce and custody struggle, years of depression and migraines, two daughters who were determined to live in chaos, and a revolving door of less than fulfilling jobs. I also left behind the love and support of my church family at Palma Ceia Presbyterian – those who had prayed with me, loved me, lifted me up –literally, supported me financially, helped me care for and loved on all the foster children who were part of our family, welcomed me as an elder, entrusted me with their youth, fed me spiritually in worship. Palma Ceia was my lifeline. And so I knew that a church family was going to need to be an integral part of settling in to our new community. God provided me a safe place to land. I didn’t realize when I first visited the Kirk that Jody knew John DeBevoise at Palma Ceia. In fact, I came when Jody was on sabbatical. But I felt a warmth and a welcoming spirit here. I loved the peaks in the ceiling of the sanctuary. I loved the many kids I saw here at the Kirk. It was important to me that there were women in leadership in the pulpit here at the Kirk. So many new things, and yet familiar things. Being an introvert at the core, I had to force myself to be present, to participate, to volunteer, to ask for help. I really had to rely on the voice that said, “He never brings you to what he will not lead you through”. And 4 years later I have not looked back.
And so I guess the message really is that OUR lives are changed here at the Kirk. They are changed by the caring, dedication and faithfulness of our staff. Our lives are changed because of the safe, peaceful, comfortable sanctuary that we worship in. Our children’s lives are changed thanks to the dedication and love of countless volunteers in our children’s and youth ministries. Just take a look at your bulletin insert or the Krier on a regular basis. Women have a place here at the Kirk. Men gather here at the Kirk. Musicians, seniors, Seekers, Faith Fellowship, crafters, gardeners, bible studies, Eat w/ 8 K groups, Stephen Ministers – ALL these lives are changed. If I haven’t mentioned you specifically – just hang around long enough and your life will be changed too.
ALL of “this” happens because I, you, WE – give our time, talent and treasure. It’s like a stool. It wobbles, and may break, if you take away or shorten one of the legs. Our current challenge is to keep the stool strong, to make the stool big enough, for us to give more, to support the Kirk’s ongoing needs so that it can continue to change lives – OUR lives.
I’m Joel Huenemann, 30 year Kirk member and our part-time office assistant. I was asked to tell you how the Kirk impacts lives. I could tell you how the Kirk impacts lives far away – in Guatemala with our partnership with the village of Palá and by our efforts with Stop Hunger Now. Or I could tell you how the Kirk impacts lives in Wake County – by sponsoring and helping to build Habitat homes. Or I could tell you how the Kirk impacts lives in our own church family – by providing financial assistance, meals, hospital visitations, and many other forms of support for our members and visitors. But I think you already know of these activities.
Instead, I want to tell you how we impact people that you may not ever see or hear about. Many people come through our door each year looking for help. They may need money to pay an overdue electric bill or to buy food. Some need money to avoid being evicted because they can’t pay their rent. One of the pastors, and it is usually Stephanie, meets with the person to hear their story to determine how the Kirk can help.
A good while back, one fellow came in asking for financial help. After Stephanie met with him, she found out that what he really wanted was a chance to earn some money to help him provide for his family. He had been in prison and just could not get a job. As he later confided to me, “When an interviewer sees that I was in prison, the interview comes to an end quickly.” Stephanie devised a plan. We hired this fellow as a part-time maintenance man so (one) he could earn some money, even though it would not be much, and (two) he would have current employment to list when applying for jobs. Steph also led him to the Jobs for Life program and they helped him develop his resume and they had some job contacts. Even though he had no formal training, he loved to cook and hoped to work in food services. He applied for and got a job at a restaurant and is now on his way to a cooking career. So, just a few months of employment with the Kirk and some sound advice from Stephanie allowed him to get past the rejection bias of being an ex-con.
All of our pastors care about persons in need. We are really fortunate to have Stephanie on our staff. She is such a spiritually mature, mission-minded leader, wanting to make the world a better place for the poor and disadvantaged. She is one big reason the Kirk is a place that strives to offer more than just a handout. She helps us be a place offering God’s love.
Our pledges make it possible for Stephanie to be here and for us to be able to offer aid to people our congregation may not ever see. Thank you to all who support our Kirk. By increasing our pledges, we can impact even more lives.
My name is Sanja Subasic. I was born and grew up in a Balkan country called Yugoslavia. To me, during my childhood and youth, that was the best place to explore life in a most positive way – to enjoy family and friends, to study and travel.
In the last decade of the 20th century, living in Europe, like hundreds of others, I never thought that anything would be changed. And I was very wrong. The change that came had a name. It was called not just war, but the civil war. To describe all the ugliness and misery of what the civil war brings to the people who are caught in it is just impossible. Those 4 years of suffering, killing, loss, and hunger seem so surreal to me from this time distance. Still those years were my reality that changed me forever. It seems odd now that in that madness, I got married and had our daughter Jelena. Our child was the only light and the reason to keep going.
With this being said, one of the many moral lessons that my parents tried to pass onto my sister and me, was, that the only time you should look down on a person is when you are trying to give them a helping hand while their hand is reaching up to you.
I have never thought of that until I became a refugee. I looked for somebody to pull up my hand and for a long time, I didn’t see anybody.
If somebody asks you right now, right at this moment, to name a few worst things that can happen to you, what would you say?
Even after 20 years leaving in America, with all the ups and downs in my life, my answer would be the same – one of the worst things that can happen to any of us is being a refugee. There is not a single thing that I can name, that is under your control when you are in that situation. You, just like all others around you cannot control where you are going to sleep or eat (if any food is there), or where the next moment will take you. Your only choice is either fate or misery.
Mine was fate. While my family was waiting in Serbia for the possibility to go somewhere safe, a group of people from the Kirk decided to pass all the obstacles and bring a family to the U.S.
In February 2016, it will be 20 years since the Kirk had sponsored my family, my
husband, our daughter, who was 16 months old then, and me.
We had no idea where we were going, we had two bags and no money. Just each other.
Many of you remember how lost we were at that time. I can write a book about how many friends from the Kirk changed our lives.
The Kirk stretched that hand to pull ours, when we were down. They provided us an apartment to live in, furnished our place, helped my husband find a job, donated a car, and provided preschool for our daughter. Many friends from the Kirk spent hours of their time driving us to the SS office, doctor’s appointments, grocery stores, helping us get our drivers license … and the list goes on.
Thanks to the Kirk who became our family, we got that long lost feeling back
that we can provide for our family and take some control in our
lives. And that feeling was priceless.
We bought our first home, we learned, and are still learning English, we created our circle of friends and had our second child, Stefan, who is now a senior in high school; Jelena is a junior at UNC Wilmington. We were able to find ourselves here.
While spending time with many of you from the very beginning, I noticed that you have changed many other lives, not just my family’s. I have seen many of you helping tremendously and I couldn’t just stand and watch. I wanted to be more involved and give back. The Kirk is the place where I learned about and got involved with meals on wheels, babysitting, WHIN program, Guatemala mission, etc. Recently I got involved with teaching adults some basic English. Our son Stefan enjoys being involved in ASP, and other volunteering activities along with our daughter and my husband, who always look for some opportunities to give back.
You gave us water, food and shelter when we needed it. With your support, we were able to give back to the community. Your stretched out hand pulled us up.
Our pledges help make this and many other programs possible. When we increase our pledges, more lives will be changed. I know for sure it changed mine and for that my family is always grateful. THANK YOU!