The value of compassion and connection
A coordinator for a Linking Lives regional befriending project shares a story of a connection through their service that had far reaching results …
In 2019 we received a phone call from a lady who was calling about her husband, John.* He had undergone some major surgery and was tired, struggling and shutting himself off so she wondered if we could spare a volunteer to befriend him. Although not many schemes will take people on a referral if they have a spouse/partner they live with, I could hear in her voice what an impact this was having on her too so decided to take the referral.
I visited their home to carry out an assessment and discovered he was a very poorly man. In my mind I instantly felt we could impact his wife, Sue*, maybe even more than we could impact John.
I was at the house for 20 minutes, and in that time John became very sleepy so I sat quietly and prayed for him and his wife. As I got up to go, he thanked me for praying for him. Although I was silent and praying in my head, he said he had felt the prayer!
As John was so poorly, I agreed to visit until he could handle an hour then pass him to a volunteer. Each visit I would ensure I had time for a chat with John and a coffee with Sue. John had a strong faith and had been actively involved in church work and especially helping with youth in the church they had attended, so I discussed junior church with him – what they had learnt the Sunday before, what hymns we sang and how the children had absorbed the teaching – and we talked about favourite hymns and passages, and I always prayed for him and Sue.
After I had been visiting for seven weeks, I had just arranged to introduce John to a volunteer when he sadly passed away. Sue rang me to tell me how grateful she and her family had been for the input from our befriending project. When John had visitors, he would be tired and struggle to engage in conversation with them, however he looked forward to the visits from me on behalf of the befriending service. He enjoyed time talking about faith, appreciated the prayers, and smiled when Sue reminded him I was visiting and would be happy while I was there. Sue loved to see him engaging in conversation and happy. I was so pleased to have been able to make a difference.
On every visit, I had also ensured there was time for Sue too, in the hope she felt supported. When John passed away, she was keen to re-access various groups and enjoy her community involvement so we closed the door, with an open view that should Sue need us we were only a call/self-referral away.
However, when lockdown was thrown on us early last year, knowing Sue lived alone I called her once or twice in each lockdown period to say hi and to ensure she knew we were thinking of her, she was in our prayers and if she needed anything we were here. Then at Easter I dropped a gift pack of chocolate and activities in to her, as we did with all link friends.
On Sunday, there was a new lady in our congregation, and when I looked back I saw it was Sue. Lockdown had indeed had an impact and she wanted to reach God and enjoy a church service once again, so she came to us.
Our service that Sunday was great with a local preacher preaching about friendship – loving one another and about the effects we have on others, specifically that our outreach in the community through our befriending service is like throwing a stone in the river, with ripples that last a while and reach far and wide but we don’t always see the effect immediately. How wonderful for Sue to have attended that day for her first time.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy