I waited weeks for Paula Kloster to graduate from wheelchair to walker after she broke her ankle. Finally, I made reservations at Paragon, wanting to try the Asian-fusion menu. We ordered ginger chicken stir-fry and a roasted vegetable sandwich with sweet potato chips.
I met Paula a couple of years ago volunteering at Rockford Rescue Mission in the Education and Career Center that she directs. Her transition in the 1990s to the Mission fascinated me.
I would sit there many times, she said, saying, You know, Lord, I can serve you, and I can be a witness no matter where I am, but I just dont feel that being a sales department supervisor of a toy company is where you want me to be in ministry. I know youre preparing me for ministry; I just dont know where or when.
You felt called?
I got laid off, had surgery, and saw the Missions telethon on TV. I said, Lord thats where I think you want me.
She went on her church tour of the Mission.
While I was walking through the Mission, I just felt like this is where (God) wanted me.
I offered Paula some sweet potato chips. She was enjoying her piquant stir-fry with bell peppers, onions and sesame, but had expected greens.
She continued. He has the big picture. Im just along for the ride. I always wanted to be a teacher, that was my absolute love.
You began this new career in your fifth decade? I asked.
You are never too old, and its never too late to live your dream. I dont care if youre 80. God is not a God of age. He is ageless, and we have to think in larger terms as far as what God would have us do. Its not just when Im young, and then when Im this age, I cant live my dream anymore. Absolutely not!
You started the Education and Career Center?
Yes. I cleaned out (the storage room) and made it my office. We did assessments and then would bring up their skills to the level neededbuilding new synapses, new bridges of memory because of the drug and alcohol use. Its not until they get through it that they see, oh ,my goodness, Ive jumped from here to here on my auditory memory, and from here to here on my visual memory, and they didnt think they could do it.
The Career Center is more than just career training. Its about finding out who Gods created you to bepurpose-based, she explained.
We broke for coffeewhich Paula said she doesnt drink much.
Do you find this coffee bitter? she asked me.
Its a dark roast, I said.
We added sugar, and Paula described the Missions newest program, Genesis Process, developed by Michael Dye.
Its about where our memories are formed as children. If you come from an angry, abusive home, those memories are there, and you dont remember them fully as an adult, but theyre stored there. You respond as though you were back there in that moment.
You know, we all have something that we need to be healed fromissues were dealing withevery human being, or it wouldnt be the apostle Paul saying, why do I do what I dont want to do? This is grace-based. Its working one-on-one with someone, and mentoring them, walking with them through everything.
She got emotional.
Anytime I can get anybody to see what God has created and the potential that He has given to them, it just absolutely lights up my life. And thats what I want to do for themlight up their life. Does that mean everybody makes it? No. But even those are success stories. Just because someone relapses does not make them a failure, because they go out with more than they came in with.
There are different stages. Some might plant, some might not even plant, some might go into full bloom. Sometimes, its two steps back and one forwardthats part of the process of recovery, just like when I fall down, thats part of my process.
Thats very real to you now, with your foot, I said.
Somehow, society accepts you when you have a physical ailment. That seems to be more OK than when its emotional, spiritual, or an addiction. As holistic people, all of us are in a process of healing. God created us to be holistic people. He doesnt view any one part of us as worse than another. Im at peace. I am faithfully doing what God has called me to do.
Marjorie Stradinger is a free-lance writer residing in Roscoe. She has covered food, drama, entertainment, health, and business for publications in California and Illinois for the past 25 years.