A Changed Heart

I am one of two, soon to be three, deaconesses at GRC. My primary role on the Diaconate has been to work with Mercy Fund applicants who are seeking financial assistance mostly with rent and utilities. This is work that impacts the lives of many people we serve, but as with any work we do, it impacts and changes us too. An incident that happened last fall is a result of that kind of change in me.

Have you ever been in an Uber where the driver takes a personal phone call? When this happened to me, I was annoyed and thought, “how rude!” After a couple minutes, she asked if she could stop the car for a moment to look up something on her phone to give to the person she was talking to. By now, I had overheard parts of the conversation and realized the driver, a thirty-something woman, had applied for rental assistance from an organization and needed to give them more information. So I agreed to let her stop the car. As a deaconess working with the Mercy Fund, I had spoken to many women requesting assistance and my heart went out to this woman, Vera. During the remainder of the ride, Vera recounted her story, how she was left alone to support her three children because of a family emergency, how she was unable to keep up with bills and rent on her paycheck alone, and most importantly,  how her faith in Jesus kept her from total despair. I didn’t invite Vera to apply to our Mercy Fund for assistance because she lived outside our geographical area. Instead, I encouraged her by listening and reminding her of the Lord’s presence, love, and provision in her struggles. When we arrived at my destination, she enthusiastically accepted my offer to pray with her. Through the prayer, the Holy Spirit blessed both of us, sisters in Christ, and her burden felt lighter that day even though her financial needs remained unchanged.

When I look back on this incident, I see God’s fingerprints all over it, orchestrated by him for us to meet. I see God’s handiwork in my life changing me from someone who rarely initiated conversation with strangers to someone who was able to reach out and encourage a stranger and point them to Christ.

God had also changed my attitude about the role of the church in caring for the poor. Four years ago when I joined the Diaconate, I didn’t know how I would serve. I finally decided, on a trial basis, to work with Mercy Fund applicants. I was reluctant because I came from a church that did not do this kind of work and taught “social work” did not belong in the church. However, through Diaconate meetings, which began with devotionals and discussing books we were reading together, God began to change me. The books underscored the heart of God for the poor and the importance Jesus placed on helping them. These truths are the biblical basis for helping those in poverty. After a year or two God moved my heart to be more aligned with his and I began to embrace this ministry of assisting the poor. This change had ripple effects, bringing that new heart into other areas of my life, including the encounter with Vera.

During this season of officer nominations, I would encourage everyone to be on the lookout for men and women who have the qualities to serve as elders, deacons, and deaconesses as outlined in 1Timothy 3 and Titus 1. And I encourage those who are nominated to prayerfully consider serving and be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We respond to our call hoping to make an impact on those we serve, but when we serve, we may be impacted even more, as I was.

Shelley Hahn serves as a Life Group Leader and Deaconess at GRC.