How to Minister to a Family Dealing With the Chronic Illness of a Loved One


By: Matt and Julie Leach

We have all felt inadequate and even uncomfortable as we try to give support to a family in need.  We may have said some of the dreaded clichés, such as, “God won’t give you more than you can handle!” or “You’re so strong! I wouldn’t be able to do what you do!” You don’t want to sound like you are minimizing their pain, but you also can’t truly understand unless you have been there.

We have been there many times. Our daughter Abby was born with an extremely rare syndrome called Cerebrocostomandibular Syndrome, which affects her airway and lung development. At age five, she has had 16 surgeries with at least 30 more to go. We’ve been in and out of the hospital for surgeries and illnesses more times than we can count at this point. In the last five years, we have had so many people do amazing things for our family. We want to share with you ways that others have ministered to us during our time of need.

Emotional Support
Keep in contact! We so appreciate when people text, call, or email to let us know that they are thinking of us. Even a funny story to make us smile brightens our day and takes our mind off of the stress of the situation.

Whether the person is in the hospital or at home, visitors brighten everyone’s day! Call ahead to make sure that a visit is okay, and be sure to ask if there are any restrictions. But if you are able to visit, do it! Bring along a fun game or a little gift. Put meals in individual containers to be heated up. Take them some coffee, because nobody ever gets much sleep in the hospital! Honestly, you don’t even need to bring anything but your company!

Your visit will be just the medicine they need!
Show extra love to family members at home. It means so much to know that our son is taken care of and loved while we are gone so that we can fully focus on what is going on at the hospital.

Practical Support
Send gift cards.  If your friend is traveling to a hospital, gas bills add up quickly!  Practical gifts like gas or restaurant cards are really nice and don’t take up space in a tiny hospital room.  Some hospitals also have gift cards for the cafeteria and coffee shops.

Give care packages. Include lots of consumable gifts like on-the-go snacks, microwavable meals that can be heated up at the hospital, hand sanitizer, quarters for the snack machine, a bottle of water, a pen, or maybe some treats for the person in the hospital–but find out what is allowed first!

Pay for parking. Most big hospitals require a fee for parking, but a lot of them sell parking coupons at a reduced rate.  Purchase some of these parking passes if the family is going to be traveling back and forth often.

Spiritual Support
Pray. Genuinely pray for the family while you are there visiting, and often as they face their difficult time. Ask how you can specifically pray for them, then check in to follow up on the requests.

Share scripture. Send encouraging verses through social media, text messages, etc. Let the family know that they are on your heart often.

Worship with them! Rejoice when things go well and cry with them when they don’t. Discuss how God is receiving glory through the situation—in both the good and the bad.

No matter what you decide to do for the family, just know that your love and support means the world to them. Your caring enough to reach out is what is helping them get through this difficult time.



Matt and Julie Leach

About Matt and Julie Leach

Matt Leach serves as the youth pastor at Grace Brethren Church in Owings, Maryland. Matt has participated each summer with CE National bringing his youth group to Momentum Youth Conference, sending students on Operation Barnabas, and providing ministry trips to the Urban Hope Training Center in Philadelphia. The whole Leach family would love to show you all their photos from their recent trip to Walt Disney World!