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Stephen Minister relationships with their care receivers are confidential.
The following tribute to Charles McLeod, written by Stephen Minister Charlie Harris,
is printed with the permission of Charles' daughter, Catherine McLeod Burgess.

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In May 2003, ten members of MPC were commissioned as Stephen Ministers. This ceremony was the culmination of over 50 hours of specialized training in assisting fellow church members in a one-on-one relationship based on Christian care giving. The Stephen Minister is the "Care Giver" in this partnership and is assigned a "Care Receiver" who is in need of Christian support and care. I am privileged to be one of those Stephen Ministers and would like to share some of my experiences from the first year of this program.

I was assigned my first Care Receiver in June of 2003. He had made his request for a Stephen Minister known and had been matched with his Care Giver by MPC's Stephen Leader. I had known my Care Receiver for nearly 20 years before we began our Care-Giver/Care-Receiver relationship, but I got to know so much more about him over the following nine months. We had 50-some contacts during that time, generally meeting for about an hour each week at his home. I admitted early on that I felt guilty that perhaps I was getting more out of our relationship than he was. Later, there were weeks that it was very painful to witness his progressively failing physical health and his loss of memory. I often left our meetings wondering if I was offering to him that support which he needed. Mostly, though, I came home from our meetings with renewed respect for a man who, regardless of his troubles, was always more concerned about the needs of others than those of his own. Our last few visits were held in Prince William Hospital where I was able to offer him calming words while holding his hand and trying to help him through his uncomfortable and agitated state.

Typically, a Stephen Ministry relationship is expected to last for a period of as little as a few weeks or as long as two years or more as together the Care Giver and Care Receiver work in a process oriented manner to cope with the stressful life situation that had led to the request. The Stephen Ministry relationship would conclude when the Care Receiver and the Care Giver agreed that the need for this formal relationship had ended, though it is not uncommon for the two to continue a special friendship in the following years. Sadly, the relationship with my Care Receiver had a different ending. A few days following our final visit in the hospital, he died and is now in the hands of the Master Care Giver.

In his final days, I prayed that God would take my Care Receiver away from his pain. Still, it was very painful when he died and I will continue to miss him and our time that we spent together each week. I had lost my Care Receiver, but more importantly, I had lost a close and treasured friend. When he died, I felt as though I had lost a second father. And I do not believe that it is coincidental that I developed a better relationship with my own father during those months that I spent with my Care Receiver.

Having been through this experience I have witnessed first hand the power of the support that was offered to me by my fellow Stephen Ministers and I am now even more committed to the program and to the Christian care that is offered, with God's help, by this group of caring individuals.