Lunch with Marjorie: Faithfully living her dream

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 don’t feel that being a sales department supervisor of a toy company is where you want me to be in ministry. I know you’re preparing me for ministry; I just don’t know where or when.’”

“You felt called?”


“I got laid off, had surgery, and saw the Mission’s telethon on TV. I said, ‘Lord that’s 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. I’m 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 it’s never too late to live your dream. I don’t care if you’re 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. It’s not just when I’m young, and then when I’m this age, I can’t 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 needed—building new synapses, new bridges of memory because of the drug and alcohol use. It’s not until they get through it that they see, ‘oh ,my goodness, I’ve jumped from here to here on my auditory memory, and from here to here on my visual memory, and they didn’t think they could do it.

“The Career Center is more than just career training. It’s about finding out who God’s created you to be—purpose-based,” she explained.

We broke for coffee—which Paula said she doesn’t drink much.

“Do you find this coffee bitter?” she asked me.

“It’s a dark roast,” I said.

We added sugar, and Paula described the Mission’s newest program, “Genesis Process,” developed by Michael Dye.

“It’s about where our memories are formed as children. If you come from an angry, abusive home, those memories are there, and you don’t remember them fully as an adult, but they’re 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 from—issues we’re dealing with—every human being, or it wouldn’t be the apostle Paul saying, why do I do what I don’t want to do? This is grace-based. It’s 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 that’s what I want to do for them—light 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, it’s two steps back and one forward—that’s part of the process of recovery, just like when I fall down, that’s part of my process.”

“That’s very real to you now, with your foot,” I said.

She smiled.

“Somehow, society accepts you when you have a physical ailment. That seems to be more OK than when it’s 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 doesn’t view any one part of us as worse than another. I’m 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.

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