Stress and sickness are not any fun but a familiar toy is now being used to help heal those going through tough times. The Bear Ministry at one church offers a simple gift that can be an important tool for those struggling to overcome some of life’s most difficult trials.
(Locator: Elk Creek, Virginia)
In the basement of this church, nestled in rolling green hills, 13-year-old Taylor Hale and her grandmother Nancy help important guests prepare for church.
Taylor Hale, Bear Ministry Volunteer: “Ooh, this looks like a polar bear!”
He is a teddy bear, and yes, he’s going to church…along with his fluffy, stuffed brethren. Each one bears a special message of support.
Taylor Hale, Bear Ministry Volunteer: “It’s combining the love of the people who gave it to you, and people who are praying for you.”
That message made all the difference for Wayne Johnson, who received a bear from Taylor after news that he might not live to see another spring here in Elk Creek, Virginia.
(Volunteer and recipient) “You brought your bear. Yeah, sure did.”
Johnson beat a rare kidney cancer. He came to Mount Zion United Methodist to thank folks for their prayers and the huggable reminder that he was never alone in his illness.
Wayne Johnson, Cancer Survivor: “I was literally sitting there dying, I had a company of coal mines I could not even go run and here come Taylor. She was so thrilled she had gotten me this bear.”
The bear arrived with a message.
(Reading card on bear) “It has heard the Word read and taught, prayers prayed, songs of praise sung. It comes to you with prayers for your comfort, strength and healing.”
(Church service begins) “Good morning!”
Sitting beside 94-year-old Miss Ester, clutched in the arms of a 9-year-old, or perched in pews… these bears will leave this service to begin service.
Wayne Johnson, Cancer Survivor: “If their's does one-tenth or one-hundredth of what mine has for me, there will be people going through life with a different outlook.”
(Church service) “I believe that you have someone in mind. Come forward and pick up one of these little bears. They’re going to depend upon you to put them into ministry.”
Wayne Johnson, Cancer Survivor: “Everybody needs hope. This bear is a lot of hope. It gave me a lot of hope.”
The congregation of Mount Zion United Methodist Church has given away between thousands of bears. Not only have the bears touched lives in Virginia, but they have also been sent to people in other states. If you would like more information on the bear ministry you can contact Mount Zion Church at 276-655-4072.
This video was first posted on May 21, 2008 by United Methodist Communications.