The rain patters lightly on the window as Pat Kinney and I sit at her kitchen table adorned with cheerful yellow flowers and two mugs of tea, and she shares about the widows’ ministry she’s been tending to for the past year. It’s a fairly small ministry, mostly unsung and unproclaimed to the Arbor Road community, but one which provides vital provision and love to women who have suffered the loss of their husbands and are in need of a network of support and encouragement (especially after the flurry of condolences and casseroles have subsided). The warmth and compassion radiating from Pat’s smile as she speaks about her work is a reflection of God’s heart for the widows and fatherless emphasized so ardently in His Word: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” (James 1:27).
Pat felt the Lord lay this need on her heart in the wake of her own husband’s death in 2014. Though during that difficult time she received an abundance of care and support from her church family, her new acquaintance with the loneliness of an empty, quiet house ignited a passion within her to be a consistent and readily-present voice of love and companionship to women who were struggling through the same thing.
The seed for this ministry was actually planted, however, many years before when she was attending a friend’s memorial service, and the pastor said to the friends present, “It is wonderful that you are all here to give support and encouragement to the family, but when they’ll need you the most is three months from now”—meaning that the initial wave of sympathy and support from friends and church family wouldn’t be enough to sustain a grieving loved one, who would continue to battle loneliness and the inevitable memories of the past.
When she experienced her own loss, she finally realized what her pastor’s words meant. This realization propelled her to reach out to other widows. This ministry that the Lord has given her is also a fulfillment of the confidence that a pastor shared with her, when he told her that he was sure God had something very special for her to do in the life of the church.
It is not an “official” ministry—no staff, no weekly meetings, no strict agendas. It is organic and personal – a small list of women that Pat keeps, for whom she prays regularly, calls, sends emails, invites over for dinner or tea, and perhaps even the movies. And because they desire to be active together, the women have formed beautiful bonds of friendship with one another so that they will be able help look out for one another, relieving the pressure on Pat to shoulder all the responsibility on her own. If some of the women are physically unable to leave the house, she goes to them, and spends the afternoon with them in their homes. In whatever they converse, she always feels the Holy Spirit in their midst. He is always there, blessing them, encouraging them, comforting and guiding them.
She has found the heartbeat for the ministry in the book of Philippians:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things”(Philippians 4:8, NIV).
She knows that the hardest days for a woman recently widowed are when a sound, or a smell, or a sight will suddenly and unexpectedly trigger a memory, and eclipse that day in sadness and loneliness. These feelings are battles of the mind, and so she stresses the importance of meditating on that which is pure and lovely and good—to focus on the wonderful things to come in the future, and the things for which to be grateful in the present.
Because of this, she stresses the vital importance of initiating that encouraging phone call or card, even if it is outside the realm of our comfort zones. When thinking about the incredible power of initiation, she turns to one of her favorite quotes: “When a friend is in trouble, don’t annoy him or her by asking what you can do. Think up something appropriate and do it.” Those bold acts of love that we take upon ourselves to do for those we know are hurting are so incredibly meaningful, so much so that we can never know how far they go—and this doesn’t just pertain to widows. We all have pain, all have sorrow, all have reasons for loneliness, which can be lightened and eased by the simplest acts of love. “Extend an invitation of a smile,” Pat says, “let them know God cares for them, and that we care for them!”
Story by: Ariana Warde