I love dogs and have seen first-hand what a dog can do for those needing companionship, compassion, comfort and care. I saw the comfort my mother felt as my German shepherd collie mix, Roxie, laid her head on the side of my mother’s bed waiting for an invitation to gingerly scale the bed to lay alongside my mom’s pain filled body. And for a moment or two, my mother didn’t feel the intense pain of metastatic breast cancer to her bones. For just a while her grimace of pain turned into a smile of contentment.
With the announcement that our church and school would soon have a comfort dog ministry and was looking for 10 members to become handlers, I felt God’s nudge to become a part of it. I was so moved I had gooseflesh!
So I put my name in the hat without truly knowing what was going to be expected of me. And with each requirement and expectation I realized God was taking me out of my comfort zone and was placing me in the mission field. Could I learn new ways of interacting with a working dog and not a pet? Would I have the stamina to persevere despite the challenges. Would I be worthy enough for this ministry?
Moriah is part of The Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry. Its purpose is to share mercy, compassion, presence and proclamation of Jesus Christ to those who are suffering and in need. Moriah and her handlers would visit schools, churches, nursing homes, hospitals, events and in disaster response situations. When the Surfside Condominium in Miami collapsed, 12 K-9 Comfort Dogs and their handlers from all over the United States spent three weeks providing comfort and care to those affected – including first responders.
Moriah is 2 ½ years old and has spent 2,000 hours in training even before we met her. That means she has put her trust in the trainers and now us, her handlers to further the mission of this ministry. In essence, Moriah was training us as much as we were training her.
Nine of us “Handlers” spent three days of intense training in the January winter lands of Illinois before we journeyed home and began a one-on-one relationship with Moriah. As Team Moriah, we worked in pairs helping one another, learning from one another, practicing and videotaping each other so that the trainers in Illinois could insure that Moriah continued her training as it had been taught to her and to us. We received weekly feedback and the intensity of this training left many of us drained of energy and feeling like we might never achieve success.
This program taught me to move through the program in faith, even when the protocols seemed foreign for us “experienced” dog owners. We needed to trust the process believing that whatever the outcome, God had a purpose. As we worked together for the benefit of Moriah, St. Luke’s Lutheran Church and School and this ministry; I learned persistence, patience, and consistency. In order for this ministry to be at its best Team Moriah, all 10 members, needed to work together, to help, and to support one another. As we helped each other, made suggestions, commiserated with one another, and prayed for each other’s success, it reinforced God’s message that we must remain in community and fellowship.
In life it’s not what we do once but what we do every day of our lives. We need to show up in life, to be present every day and to be there not just when things are successful but even when we feel doubtful that we can ever achieve what needs to be done.
I learned that I need to control my words as well as my physical actions – all at the same time. This was difficult because it required proper verbiage, proper hand movements, eye contact, all done with the precision of a marching band. At 67 years of age, my body, mind, and verbal skills do not work with much precision at all. I often wondered if I could acquire the skills needed. But as I pursued and practiced the techniques I realized that this work was a metaphor for living life because we are constantly being refined and renewed to draw ever closer to God and his purpose for us. Our words and actions are the beacon that shows we are Christ’s children and on a mission – His mission.
Through this ministry, working with Moriah and one another we are being trained and raised up to do God’s work. In the end it’s not about us, or Moriah; but it is about spreading God’s love, His words, and the proclamation of Jesus Christ. What a gift God has given us! Each of us answered a call to help God’s mission come to fruition but God used this mission to help us.
Yes, it is a mixture of high intensity, challenging body, mind and soul. It is both a bit scary, as it is exciting and fun. I have definitely spent the last three months out of my comfort zone and the ministry has just begun. But I will heed what God has placed in my heart and have faith that God doesn’t call the equip, He equips the called.
Are you searching for a call to ministry? Are you currently in a ministry? Are your out of your comfort zone? If so, what do you do to remain calm and carry on? Please join in the conversation.
Want to see Moriah? She has her own Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=moriah%20comfort%20dog
For more information, about Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry and to have Moriah or another Comfort Dog come to visit contact St. Luke’s Lutheran Church & School, 2021 West State Road 426, Oviedo, FL 32765, 407-365-3200.
Thank you for reading my post. If you have found it encouraging please consider liking, commenting or sharing it. Feel free to even re-blog – may these words take flight!
I have additional insights I’d love to share with you found in the pages of my debut book: Surviving Medical Mayhem – Laughing When It Hurts. To order a copy or learn more go to my website at www.lorettaschoen.com
Blessings for Health & Wellness.