5 Questions About… helping people in pain

The next in our “5 Questions About…” series!! Patty McGeever is my best friend from college.  When John met her he said, “I can sure see why you guys are friends!”  She’s fun and funny and compassionate and wise, and has all-together the best laugh ever.  She has been on an amazing life-journey where God has been using her to come alongside people in pain, or resource people helping others in pain around the world.  This picture was taken this May when our paths crossed in London.  She had just come from Nigeria and was on her way to Turkey and then Azerbaijan. Crazy, eh? 
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You have a background in counseling and social work.  How did you discover that God had given you gifts in this area? 

I didn’t discover this. My father was the one who recognized this for me.  He was diagnosed with cancer when I was 16 and treated for 9 years at MD Anderson in Houston, TX.  During that time, he got to know 2 Social Workers and shared with me that he thought I would like their job.  As I began studying this in college, it was the one subject that I made good grades in without a lot of work.

Upon graduation as I sought where God might want me to work I read:

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Suddenly, it was like all the pieces of the puzzle were put together.  This was a job I could do well and God had created me this way because He knew the path my life would take. He had equipped me in ways I had not realized.  

2.  Can you share a story of a time when God used you beyond how you felt you were capable?

Always.  

But you asked for one.  

My family and I had moved to Papua New Guinea to serve with a nonprofit organization there.  I was a counselor in a community of over 300 ex-pat workers from over 14 different countries.  The students had gone on their annual retreat.  Early one morning, I received a phone call informing me that a 17-year-old girl had been gang raped by 3 Papua New Guinea men.  A helicopter would be bringing her back to our compound and I was to meet her with our doctor at the clinic. 

I was overwhelmed.  How could I help this young woman, her family and the youth on the retreat and then the entire community who would know that this event had taken place?  

I had not received any training that would prepare me for this type of scenario.  But I was the counselor there. I had to cling to God to provide the words I did not have. 

In looking back, I realize that God could have picked someone else who had experience in this but He didn’t.  He picked me with all my weaknesses.  He must have His reasons for doing that and I just need to show up.

3. What’s one lesson you’ve learned over the years about helping people in pain?

Bad things happen to good people. So much of the time I encounter well-meaning, really wonderful people who are experiencing really challenging things. There isn’t an easy explanation for this either.  Somehow telling people that ‘in all things God works for the good to those who love him’ just wasn’t helpful or appropriate.  The truth is that so much of the time the good seems very far away.  I had to learn to trust God even when I didn’t understand why things were happening in a certain way.

4. Even those of us who don’t have specific gifts in this area want to help friends who are hurting.  What are some mistakes you see people making?

People try to fix the other person’s problem when most of the time the best thing we can do for a friend is listen.  

People worry about saying the ‘right’ thing. Often there isn’t anything to be said. The best thing you can do is be there and stop thinking about you.

5. What advice do you have for those walking alongside others in crisis?

  • Listen, listen, listen.  
  • Ask questions to help them continue to tell their story… like ‘what happened, what was the hardest part for you, or what else happened’?
  • Don’t make judgments.  No one needs to hear that they are doing something wrong in the midst of their crisis.  
  • The process of telling their story will bring healing.  

Additional resources Patty recommends:

How You are Part of Her Story

Last night we arrived at our destination on the Zambezi river in Zambia in time to see this sunset while zebras grazed behind us.

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This afternoon as I write this I am sitting under an umbrella on the same deck, looking at a herd (a pod? a bunch? John and I can’t decide and we don’t have internet access to Google it) of Hippos in the water about a hundred yards out.  Every once in awhile (of course never when my camera is trained on them) one will lift his head high, open his mouth and roar.  How crazy is that??!!

Quite a contrast to our day yesterday when we bumped and lurched for hours in a Land Rover over narrow dusty paths through the bush in an area called Moyo.  Over tracks not made for vehicles, but worn through the grass instead by the toughened bare feet of our sponsored children, cared for by World Vision.  We had the privilege of visiting all three of our precious kids for the second time in two and a half years yesterday. Continue reading

Two Phrases to Frame the Music of our Days

My husband, John, has gotten into the habit of listening to the Brandenburg concertos as he spends time with the Lord in the morning.

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The other day we were sitting at Starbucks together and he said, “Did you know that a lot of people talk about how Bach put ‘SDG’ – ‘Sola Dei Gloria’ at the end of his compositions meaning ‘to God alone be the glory’.

But most people don’t know that he also put ‘JJ’ – ‘Jesu, Jusa’ – ‘Jesus, help me’, at the beginning of each composition.” Continue reading

What do you do with Jesus on the Corner?

I caught just a glimpse of Jesus as I turned right from the exit ramp off the highway and onto Excelsior Boulevard Sunday afternoon.

But He looked like a she.  She was young and round and sweating in the hot summer sun; holding a sign that said “Pregnant and Homeless”.

Only, apparently she hadn’t taken “Homelessness 101” because she wasn’t standing in the “right” spot where homeless  folks camp – the spot where cars have to stop and it’s easy to hand something out the window.

Continue reading

On Slaying Dragons and Whistling

It’s Fearless Friday and one of my favorite people in the world graciously agreed to guest post!  I know you’ll be blessed by these thoughts from my talented friend Sharon Sampson.  She’s the Director of Communications at our church (Christ Presbyterian Church, Edina) and this year has started her own consulting business called Open Book Communications 

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There’s an old Stephen Sondheim song I like called “Anyone Can Whistle” because it points to how fear tends to work its way into my life. In the song, a seemingly strong, capable woman sings this:

“Anyone can whistle,

That’s what they say — easy.

Anyone can whistle

Any old day — easy.

It’s all so simple:

Relax, let go, let fly.

So someone tell me why

Can’t I?”

Continue reading

You’ve? Got This!

We’re on vacation this week.  Hope this re-post from October of ’11 is encouraging to you!  

I’m a terrible tennis player.  Seriously terrible.

This past summer I started playing tennis.  I’ve kind of dabbled before, but back issues put any play on hold til I had surgery and now I’m good to go.  Ok, “good to go” is totally relative.  I play on a tennis team, but it’s like the “Bad News Bears” of tennis teams.  We’re the worst of the worst.

In spite of being seriously bad, I have fun and as I play matches now, I’m reminded of all the hours I spent cheering for our daughters Katy, and Maggie as they played.  One of the common refrains from spectators and fellow teammates was “You’ve got this!  You’ve got this Katy!  You’ve got this Maggie!”

The implication was “You’ve got all the skill and ability necessary to win this match.  You have it in you.”

It struck me the other day that this is what God would like to remind me of each morning…not that I’ve got this, but that HE has it.  He’s got this momentthis daythis seasonmy life in His hands.

He has all the power, and understanding and patience and resources for anything we face today.  He is sufficient.

And BECAUSE He’s got this, you’ve got this!

In what area of your life do you need to hear God whisper, “I’ve got this” today? Maybe it’s something specific to today, or general for this season of life.

If you want, you can post just one word or a short phrase (or a paragraph if you want!) in the comments. Work?  Relationships?  Parenting?  Health?

Here’s mine: Laura – A couple of hard conversations I anticipate today.

We can list anything and hear God say, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor. 12:9                                                                                             He’s got this.