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Report on the 2017 SWCA Synodical Women’s Organization Winter Gathering

by Dona Kintzi

It could have been snowing outside and it wouldn’t have mattered, because the climate inside at the Winter Gathering was warm and inspiring. About 84 women (and a few brave men) gathered at Bethania Lutheran in Solvang on January 28, 2017. Many Southwest California Synod congregations contributed to make this a wonderful time together. We truly thank those who came to share, to enjoy, to support, and to learn more about caregiving.

Many are called upon to care, whether professionally trained or not. Those in need arrive in our lives through a gradual process or come as a complete surprise. Ready or not, the caregiver needs to gather resources, build support, and “pray” the course.

After being greeted with Danish rolls and Kringle (a delicious Danish pastry), breakfast casseroles, and fruit, our Saturday began with song, a welcome by Karen Moyer (SWO President), and devotions by Pastor Chris Brown.

Exploring the Beatitudes, Pastor Brown shared about Jesus calling us forth to be a blessing, comforting those who are in need, and extending brotherly love as in our theme for the day-Romans 12:10 Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.

Soon after, four remarkable presenters elaborated on their calling and expertise in the areas of giving and receiving care. It was a day of sharing and informing, caring and discussion as panelists touched on key topics around “Being a care giver” and how to care for one’s self or another.

Suzanne Hollrah, who has spent many years working at Atterdag Village caring for the residents, takes a special interest in the listening and preserving of their stories. She invited us to be present when caring, to actively engage in conversation, and respond with grace.

Pastor Chris emphasized our need to stay consciously healthy during times when called upon to be a caregiver. When entering into the role by being close to someone who is injured or aging physically or mentally, each of us needs to be nourished as well. Our soul needs replenishment to face the mental and physical challenges of this type of personal interaction. We need to fight off the negative shadows of self-doubt: “I don’t know what I’m doing” or “I’m not any good at this.”

Nola Huss, MSN, RN, FNP, reminded us that being a caregiver is demanding and lonely. There are many resources and a great place to start is with finding your local Area Agency for the Aging (AAA). This agency is a nationwide network, which serves the elderly populations (60+) in their local areas. Some of the services include information about paying for costs of Senior Care, types of Senior Care, a resource Locator Tool, and Paid Caregiver Programs. We know that being a caregiver can be exhausting and challenging. It is easy to become overwhelmed and mistakes are OK. Nola encouraged us to build support and seek out the agencies nearest to us.

Russ Gordon, family therapist, listed warning signs to be mindful of such as; fatigue, not enough sleep, weight loss, deterioration of personal hygiene, difficulty making decisions, or depression. He encouraged us to be intentionally mindful to make healthy choices in eating and exercise, making sure one’s sleep is not disrupted, journaling, or go outside and get lost in the awe of God’s creation.

The day was perfect. We all wanted to stay longer and continue our discussions. Many hands went up to relate personal stories and problems looking for solutions, grace and understanding from our articulate, passionate, and well experienced panel who so graciously shared with us all. The wealth of information that each person brought to the table blessed our time together. The room was full of compassion and hope, as we deal with this timely subject of being a caring, careful caregiver. The offering was collected and half was given to the Atterdag Village Arts and Crafts program. Karen Moyer thanked everyone for coming and shared which congregations were represented, inviting women to stick around to greet one another and/or talk more in depth with the panel. The meeting adjourned at 12:30pm.