By Heather Killen
A new pastor in Middleton is hoping his Sunday sermons will inspire more everyday services for the greater community.
Pastor Sweis Ubel moved to Middleton last year with his wife and two youngest daughters. He’s now serving at Emmanuel Church where he’s working to convert once a week smiles and handshakes into some practical help for single parent families.
Growing up as the son of a pastor, he never imagined that he would be called to serve in the ministry. He said his dream was always to farm and chasing that dream, he left the Netherlands to settle in rural Alberta.
Twelve years ago he sold his farm and began studying at Prairie Bible College when he was inspired by a call to transform the passive sermons into a more engaged service for the community.
“How do you change people from being half-asleep in the pews to being excited about God?” he said. “I was challenged to inspire people to find ways to use their God-given talents to do God’s work.”
The services he’s imagining these days include, “Just Me and the Kids,” a 12-week course for single parent families. According to the latest census figures, about 20 per cent of households in Middleton are lone parent families, he said.
Family break-ups produce complex situations that affect both adults and children. This course encourages participants to express and process their feelings of pain, guilt, and anger, while offering practical help through mentorship and support.
Four families signed up for the first session that wraps up in a couple of weeks and Ubel estimates there are as many as 96 other families in town that could benefit from the upcoming January session.
Feelings of Isolation
Many single parents are living with feelings of isolation and a fear of being judged, he says. In addition to coping with the pressures of limited time and funds, they are often involved in complex legal and personal issues.
“Maybe they need gas money to drive to another town in order to see their lawyers,” he said. “Life is already falling apart and then there’s an unexpected expense and there’s no food in the fridge.”
“How do you change people from being half-asleep in the pews to being excited about God? I was challenged to inspire people to find ways to use their God-given talents to do God’s work.” - Sweis Ubel
The quality of life for many families quickly deteriorates into day-to-day crisis management. While parents feel overwhelmed, the children also have unexpressed feelings of grief, anger, and a fear of abandonment.
Parents are shown how children will repress these feelings, or act out in various ways. They are also given strategies on how to help their children heal.
“You can see the difference it makes in the children, how they’ve opened up,” he said. “The parents look at their children differently, understand what they are going through and how they express these feelings.”
The sessions always start with a home-cooked meal provided by volunteers from Emmanuel Church and then the groups separate into focus groups for children and parents.
Children enjoy a variety of activities and group discussions, while moms offer each other support and mentoring, which creates a supportive community and helps each to feel more empowered.
“They are no longer standing alone, feeling overwhelmed and helpless,” he said. “And as a church community we are honouring Jesus by serving as his hands and feet.”
This program uses video sessions and group discussions to help families process the frustrations and grief. Ubel says that they are tweaking the next sessions to offer more practical help with workshops on topics such as meal preparation.
The church is also collecting donations for a Christmas Hamper in co-operation with the United Baptist Church and Lord’s Ranch Ministry. These hampers will be delivered to families in need shortly before Christmas.
Want to Help?
Anyone who wants to help is asked to donate nonperishable food, diapers, feminine products, laundry detergent, gas cards, and toys for children of all ages.
He added the three most common requests he hears from families each week involve milk for the children, diapers for the babies, and gas to travel to the lawyer.
For more information, or to register for the Just Me and the Kids program, call 902-825-1777.