St. Luke Lutheran Women in Mission (LWML) has selected Pam Kamrath as its 2017 Woman of the Year! Pam will be honored for her 10 years of dedication to the Special Needs ministry at St. Luke. Pam graciously answered a few questions for us about her life, ministry, and what is coming up next.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your faith background.
I became a Christian at age 20. I came from a non church home and drawn to Jesus by a high school friend and my husband. My love for Jesus shone through in wanting to always “do” for others. Acts of service is my gift and it showed through later in life when I took a job in a group home. I knew that it was going to be a huge leap for me and before I interviewed for the job I prayed that the Lord would show me if it was something I could do. I walked through the group home and met the individuals who lived there and learned what my job would look like. I was overwhelmed with love for these individuals who needed so much more than most of us. My eyes welled up with tears and I knew that this was something God wanted me to do. I did get that job and it was the beginning of my love for working with people with disabilities.
I worked in that group home for 6 months and then we moved to Ann Arbor where I got a job within the WISD (Washtenaw Intermediate School District) I worked at High Point School where I worked with children who had severe disabilities. There my love for individuals with special needs grew. My love for them came naturally as I daily cared for and worked with the children to accomplish even the simplest tasks many of us take for granted. I knew this was another gift God had given me as this is not a comfortable role to be in. Many came and went out of their lives but I stayed on until my back could no longer take all the lifts and physical part of the job. After 8 years I retired and poured my passion for those with special needs into the Special Needs Ministry at St. Luke.
We became members at St. Luke in 2001 and volunteering within the special needs ministry was an easy fit for me. I spent a couple of years on the steering committee and then launched the “Parent’s Night Out” program. I saw first hand while working at the school the need for parents to get a night out and some breaks now and then from the rigorous and demanding life they led. We started the program Nov. of 2006. It ran on the first Friday night of every month Oct. – June for the next 10 years. Parents dropped their kids off (siblings included) from 6-9 p.m. while we ran activities that kept them safe and happy until their parents returned. We began with just the families here at St. Luke that had children with special needs.
After the first year we told these families to invite others they knew had a need as well. I also contacted the families at the school and in the classroom I taught in as I was still working at the time when this program began. A few of them came, a little hesitant at first and then became quite comfortable also telling others of this amazing program that they were taking part in. Soon our few families grew to over 30. We went from only having 4-6 children to putting a limit of 30 children on a given night. By the time we stopped the program we had a waiting list nearly every night.
Q: Parent’s night out has recently wrapped up after many years of blessing children and families. What are your thoughts on the nature of ministries as a season, and how did that impact your decision to shut the door on this chapter of your life and work?
It has been a time of reflecting for me now that the program has ended. I think it is important to recognize when God sets a time limit on something and the season has ended. It’s like feeling that cool autumn breeze that reminds you that summer is truly over and winter is on it’s way. The season is changing. I think it’s important in any ministry to recognize when God sends that cool breeze. I felt it last year and knew it was time to end the program. Pastor Dan once said in a sermon: “Don’t allow your passion to be a burden.” That came at a time when I first felt that cool breeze and I knew God was saying; “the season is over.” It’s hard to explain when you have been passionate about something like this for 10 years, see the value in it, know it’s impact, yet know it’s time to lay it down.
I think it is important to recognize when God sets a time limit on something and the season has ended. It’s like feeling that cool autumn breeze that reminds you that summer is truly over and winter is on it’s way.
Q: In this time after Parent’s Night Out, how do you see Jesus showing up in your life today? What sort of ways are you finding to serve that may be different than before?
It saddened me to think that there was no one to pass the baton to and continue this ministry but I know God has other plans for me. I plan on sharing my love for working with those who have special needs to anyone who may come by and pick up that baton whether it is here at St. Luke or wherever God leads me. I also look forward to sharing how to run a PNO program with other churches who may want to follow our lead.The need is great so I know God has something up his sleeve.
Q: God has created all of us with unique gifts and talents and abilities to bless the world around us. What advice do you have for someone looking to begin their own ministry?
My advice to anyone wanting to start a new ministry is to ask yourself: “Is this about what I want to do or about what God wants me to do?” I think we can get caught up in the good we do and God wants us to get caught up in the good He can do through us. And pray, always pray that God directs your path. And then listen. Sometimes He says no, sometimes He says wait, and sometimes He says: go for it! If you have prayed, if you have sought the guidance of our Lord, if you have quieted yourself and listened, then you will be truly ready for Him to use you when he says: “go for it.”