Steve Kummer was introduced to Woodland Hills in September 2001 through Love Lines, a Twin Cities telephone helpline ministry. “I was contemplating ending my life. A few days after that phone call, I attended a church service at Woodland and made a decision to accept Jesus.” He has been a regular in-person attendee ever since.
In 2018, Steve experienced a significant tragedy in the sudden loss of his parents. In June, his biological father suffered a head injury, slipped into a coma and died. In July his step-father died from leukemia. Only a few months later, his mother passed away from liver and kidney failure.
The stress was so much that Steve’s marriage and work suffered. But in this lowest of times, Steve found it was community that carried him through. He says, “There would have been no way that I would have gotten through the trauma of all of this without community. Friends, siblings and family really helped me bridge the gap.”
The reaction of his friends was split. “I had long-term friends who I thought were close back off; but I had friends who I thought weren’t so close step up. Those are the good ones—and they come through when you least expect it.”
Those true friends made all the difference.
“I have two friends from high school in the Milwaukee area that I regularly converse with. Those two became absolutely instrumental in helping me deal with the shock of my mother’s passing. When I was at the hospital, they were there. They both had remote jobs like I did; we sat around at the same table all with our laptops open like a bunch of nerds making phone calls and conducting work meetings. When I had to manage the physical part of my mother’s estate, they helped me move stuff out of her house. Another friend from the Twin Cities was also there through the entire ordeal, helping with the estate and holding me accountable through my time of healing in my marriage.”
Relying on friends in such a significant way doesn’t come easily. Steve explains, “It’s scary to lean on others when you’re used to believing you have control. I had to let go of that.”
Reflecting on friendship Steve says, “Bonds can form between human beings that transcend bloodlines. The same reasoning applies to racial and ethnic lines and transcends even language barriers. The identity of a friendship can look like family, and vice-versa.”
Ideally the church should be a place where this happens, as we are called to be true family to our sisters and brothers in Christ. Steve shares, “I have found church family at Woodland, and even if I am not personally acquainted with everyone at Woodland, I feel comfortable enough to wear my weirdness on my sleeve. It’s a unique place; for me, no other church body has extended acceptance like I have experienced at Woodland.”
Because Steve experienced the good and bad of friendship during his own crisis, he has some advice on how to be a good friend when someone you love is suffering:
- Meet people at their level, ask them about their needs.
- Gently offer help, but be sure it’s out of a center of kindness and that you have the ability and commitment to meet the need. If you can’t help, be honest and forthright.
- Listen and validate. Expect pregnant pauses and uncomfortable silent moments.
- There are times that the person in crisis will push people away in anger or despair. Step away and give space, but don’t abandon. Be willing to try again tomorrow, and suspend your own need for validation and common courtesy in supporting others in crisis.
- Never offer platitudes and under no circumstances say that God had anything to do with causing their situation.
We are glad Steve is part of the Woodland family, and hope his story encourages you as you walk with friends through hard times.
For more thoughts on friendship, check out Woodland’s recent series, “The Lost Art of Friendship.”