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Jean Kirgiss: Transformed by Community

Posted: January 17, 2017

Jean Kirgiss at November's Cookie Baking

Jean Kirgiss at November's Cookie Baking

I thank SOTV for creating a place for me. I came to this church through a circuitous route, but each step along this path has been aided by the generous and loving support of individuals and the programs you have put in place to help those in need. After all, personal relationship and hands-on support are examples Jesus taught during his time with us, and are the means of keeping our community alive.

Years ago I brought my parents to live with me as they neared their ninth decade. They found great comfort and joy in coming to a worship service that was so reminiscent of their church in northern Minnesota, which they continued to support and call their church home. It is where they had their final good-byes.

After spending several years at Augustana, I brought my mom back to live with me after my Dad died. I called SOTV regarding volunteers that might be available to visit her. I learned of the friendly visitors program, and requested their assistance. I have never been so richly rewarded. I have thanked Parish Nurse Susan Ferber many times for sending John and Helen Eidem to care for and love my mother. No way in this world could I have found a more perfect match. Their backgrounds and life experience allowed my mom to tell her story in a new way.

They are also responsible for keeping me at SOTV through what I call my transition period. After the loss of my Mom I had some serious adjusting to do. The life change of going from full time caretaking to nothing puts your life value at zero. I had to figure out how to bring meaning back in my life. It had become easier to care for others than for myself.

SOTV came again to the rescue. I attended a Purposeful Retirement program about finding meaning in our life after work. It allowed me to rediscover the things I cared about prior to taking care of my parents. I am so grateful to Kristi Kuhnau for initiating this program.

Jean (center) with the Racial Truth & Reconciliation Team

Jean (center) with the Racial Truth & Reconciliation Team

My life’s work had been about social justice, so I decided to get involved with a new racial justice group that was starting up. The Racial Truth and Reconciliation group has made me feel at home, supported, and encouraged. There is much work to do. I want others at SOTV to know people from different backgrounds, and through conversations and experiences, become more
inclusive and empathetic. Everyone is welcome to join us in this endeavor. You can see some of our upcoming events here.

Around the same time, Helen also kept me involved and encouraged me to attend a cookie bake. Now I'm not into cookies, so I mixed, rolled, baked, and packed these cookies with some reticence. But the lesson of the day was in delivering them to people homebound or in nursing homes. I learned the purpose of our work and the importance of face to face contact with those we are serving. I came back to bake cookies this year with a much better attitude.

2016 has allowed me many opportunities to pursue the things I feel called to do. Thank you SOTV for keeping me connected to community, and leading me on a transformative journey.