The next in our “5 Questions About…” series!! Patty McGeever is my best friend from college. When John met her he said, “I can sure see why you guys are friends!” She’s fun and funny and compassionate and wise, and has all-together the best laugh ever. She has been on an amazing life-journey where God has been using her to come alongside people in pain, or resource people helping others in pain around the world. This picture was taken this May when our paths crossed in London. She had just come from Nigeria and was on her way to Turkey and then Azerbaijan. Crazy, eh?
You have a background in counseling and social work. How did you discover that God had given you gifts in this area?
I didn’t discover this. My father was the one who recognized this for me. He was diagnosed with cancer when I was 16 and treated for 9 years at MD Anderson in Houston, TX. During that time, he got to know 2 Social Workers and shared with me that he thought I would like their job. As I began studying this in college, it was the one subject that I made good grades in without a lot of work.
Upon graduation as I sought where God might want me to work I read:
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
Suddenly, it was like all the pieces of the puzzle were put together. This was a job I could do well and God had created me this way because He knew the path my life would take. He had equipped me in ways I had not realized.
2. Can you share a story of a time when God used you beyond how you felt you were capable?
But you asked for one.
My family and I had moved to Papua New Guinea to serve with a nonprofit organization there. I was a counselor in a community of over 300 ex-pat workers from over 14 different countries. The students had gone on their annual retreat. Early one morning, I received a phone call informing me that a 17-year-old girl had been gang raped by 3 Papua New Guinea men. A helicopter would be bringing her back to our compound and I was to meet her with our doctor at the clinic.
I was overwhelmed. How could I help this young woman, her family and the youth on the retreat and then the entire community who would know that this event had taken place?
I had not received any training that would prepare me for this type of scenario. But I was the counselor there. I had to cling to God to provide the words I did not have.
In looking back, I realize that God could have picked someone else who had experience in this but He didn’t. He picked me with all my weaknesses. He must have His reasons for doing that and I just need to show up.
3. What’s one lesson you’ve learned over the years about helping people in pain?
Bad things happen to good people. So much of the time I encounter well-meaning, really wonderful people who are experiencing really challenging things. There isn’t an easy explanation for this either. Somehow telling people that ‘in all things God works for the good to those who love him’ just wasn’t helpful or appropriate. The truth is that so much of the time the good seems very far away. I had to learn to trust God even when I didn’t understand why things were happening in a certain way.
4. Even those of us who don’t have specific gifts in this area want to help friends who are hurting. What are some mistakes you see people making?
People try to fix the other person’s problem when most of the time the best thing we can do for a friend is listen.
People worry about saying the ‘right’ thing. Often there isn’t anything to be said. The best thing you can do is be there and stop thinking about you.
5. What advice do you have for those walking alongside others in crisis?
- Listen, listen, listen.
- Ask questions to help them continue to tell their story… like ‘what happened, what was the hardest part for you, or what else happened’?
- Don’t make judgments. No one needs to hear that they are doing something wrong in the midst of their crisis.
- The process of telling their story will bring healing.
Additional resources Patty recommends:
- How People Grow: What the Bible Reveals about Personal Growth by Cloud and Townsend
- Lay Counseling by Siang-Yang Tan
- The Anatomy of the Soul by Curt Thompson. He connects neuroscience and Scripture and growing in your relationship with God. Not many do that.