New Christian support group for chronic pain
Winchester — People with chronic illness can find support and fellowship in a new support group/Bible study that aims to meet the emotional and spiritual needs of those with acute and/or chronic illness or pain in a Christian environment, according to the group’s leader, Betsy Frazier.
The new group, HopeKeepers, meets at Calvary Baptist Church at 844 Amherst St. in Winchester and offers a time of praise and worship, Bible study, sharing and prayers, said Frazier, who has lived with chronic fatigue syndrome for many years.
Frazier and her husband, the Rev. Doug Frazier, moved to the area last May when he took the position of senior pastor at Calvary Baptist, she said. They had previously been at a church in Palmyra.
As a result of her chronic illness, Frazier found she could do fewer daily activities and for a shorter duration before she needed to rest.
“It’s a debilitating exhaustion. Everything I do makes me tired. Simple things will wear me out, like talking on the phone, taking showers, or grocery shopping,” she said from her Stephens City home.
She had her own business as a personal organizer and she was active helping her husband in his church ministries for the past 25 years, but she found herself having to leave her job and cut back on what she could accomplish each day, she said. She became depressed and “wondered if God was through with me,” she said.
But through prayer, “I realized God wanted me to work with a new group of people,” she said.
She had attended a HopeKeepers meeting in Mechanicsville a few years ago to seek help for her daughter, who has fibromyalgia.
With her past experience in starting new ministries with her husband, she knew that launching a HopeKeepers group in Winchester was what she was being called to do, she said.
The group here, started last summer, is one of six across the state and hundreds across the country, she said.
Chronic illness is pervasive in our society. Seven out of 10 deaths among Americans each year are from chronic disease, according to the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Heart disease, cancer, stroke, arthritis and diabetes are among the leading causes of death and disability in this country. In 2005, 133 million Americans, or almost half of all adults, had at least one chronic illness, according to the CDC.
HopeKeepers is for anyone who has chronic illness or pain, cares for someone with chronic illness, or wants to learn more about living with chronic illness, said Frazier. It’s a Christian ministry and support group that meets at Calvary Baptist, but people who join the group won’t be pressured to join the church, she said.
“We want to open this to anyone who might benefit in this community. It’s the only Christian-based group for people with chronic illness in the area,” she said. “As Christians, we can all find strength in Jesus Christ, even though we all have different health issues.”
Topics to be addressed include coping with chronic illness, keeping a positive attitude, avoiding toxic people, dealing with depression, and more, she said.
It’s meant to be a safe, confidential environment and “whatever is said in the room stays in the room,” she said. About 20 people are currently in the group.
Nina Fleenor of Winchester has been attending HopeKeepers since it began here. She has a chronic eye problem and was diagnosed last year with Stage I breast cancer. The group offers spiritual hope and rapport with others who understand the fears and worries that often accompany the diagnosis of a chronic illness, she said.
“We talk about our illnesses, our fluctuating emotions, physical changes, coping skills, our restrictions to daily activity and also what we are able to still accomplish,” she said.
HopeKeepers meets at 10 a.m. every Tuesday at Calvary Baptist Church and is lead by Frazier.
It also meets at 5:30 p.m. the second and fourth Sunday at the church and is lead by Shannon Graham.