Ending Stigmatization

Dawn was baptized at St Paul’s Lutheran Church in Litchfield, and came to Zion when she and Jay were married eleven years ago. She sees much of Zion’s strength as lying in Children and Family Ministries.

Living in Colorado when her children were babies, Dawn belonged to a mission church, Redeemer Lutheran in Fort Collins.

Working alongside other young families and Laborers For Christ was a remarkable experience contributing to my personal growth as a Christian. It was extraordinary to see God use each one of us with our respective gifts, rich memories! The church has grown exponentially. God is good!

Her favorite hymn is “It is well with my soul.”

I think of the Spaffords losing their children and facing the Chicago fires, then, to write and sing a hymn revealing their strong faith remains a constant reminder for me that only Christ can offer us peace and healing and this peace passes our human understanding.

More recently, Nadia Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran pastor and author, has had a big impact on Dawn’s faith.

Her book “Accidental Saints” brought me full circle with my own experiences, where God “shows up in the least unlikely people.” I feel that if we don’t overcome our ingrained stigmas and learned judgments, we are not going to have a generation to keep the church alive. Nadia’s grasp of the true meaning of grace helped me push through some of my own barriers. In this book, she asks,

“What if that person you’ve been avoiding is your best shot at grace today?”

This got my attention….that’s powerful.

Dawn’s work was focused on counseling those with Substance Use Disorder (SUD), and health issues have recently forced her to transition towards retirement. This has led her to get involved with new volunteer opportunities, particularly working with the families of those battling SUD. This includes facilitating the Buffalo PAL Support Group at Zion on Tuesday evenings.

The group is part of the Parents of Addicted Loved-ones (PAL) network. Dawn attended “Let’s Talk About It” resource fair in October and found herself repeatedly clarifying, “oh, but it’s not only parents …” So now the Buffalo PAL Support Group prefers People of Addicted Loved Ones.

I am most fulfilled when serving these families, whether to facilitate an intervention, provide education, or assist with finding appropriate resources. Misinformation only contributes to stigma and I’m enormously committed to ending stigmatization.

Dawn sees God at work in the PAL group.

We know He’s present in the meeting room Tuesday nights. Oftentimes, with confessed fear, a new group member will take a seat in our circle and words aren’t required. His/her exhaustion and pain are evident. Then, after a few months of education and support, s/he is empowered, confident and self-assured. That’s God’s hand at work – and it’s a beautiful thing to walk along side of someone in support of their personal growth.

It is, and always has been, my firm belief that addiction is a spiritual deficit. I have never been able to counsel without sharing my faith experience; that forgiveness is the power of grace, in Christ we always have hope, and third, the power in prayer.

Dawn’s free time is generally spent learning acrylic painting techniques or multimedia art.

Buffalo PAL Support Group