When Cathe Skinner, Outreach Admin at University, received a request from a woman in Houston whose San Antonio-based sister needed some help with yard and tree work, she knew exactly who to contact. Steve Ryan had answered Cathe’s calls to help others in the past. From chasing down rats in the attic at the Christian Assistance Ministry (CAM) building to helping our church think strategically about website organization, Steve is a man of many abilities and talents, but mostly, he is a man with a willing heart.
What makes a person say ‘yes’ to clearing a rat infestation with no compensation? In a word, Jesus.
Steve believes in the practice of faith, that a witness for Christ is more often in what we do than what we say. He says he learned this early on in his own faith walk when he lost his best friend in an aircraft accident, and the Navy Chaplain on base was the kind of constant presence he needed to regain a sense of hope. The time the chaplain spent with him, helping him through the first real tragedy in his life, was a picture of faith in action as well as a turning point in his faith journey.
This chaplain was the first of many folk God put in Steve’s life to challenge him to become more serious about and involved in his faith. Rather than being content with passive pew-sitting, a place he had spent much of his time until that point, Steve began to see that loving God often means action.
Steve’s first foray into this kind of loving-God-by-action came in the form of 1st -3rd grade boys. He was asked to help with an unruly group during Sunday school and accidentally learned that not only was he able to teach, he was actually pretty good at it. From there, he helped lead his Navy squadron in mentoring at-risk children at a local elementary school—he built a program from scratch, creating procedures and roles that would guide others to building relationships with kids.
As he and his wife, Karen, and daughter, Ashley, moved around the world with the Navy, from Florida to Alabama to San Antonio to Italy and back to San Antonio, Steve kept hearing God’s call on his life to serve others and trusting God to equip and lead him in that service.
In Italy, God had a new lesson for Steve to learn. By education, Steve is an engineer, and by trade he’s a navy pilot and strategic planner. Processes, procedures, planning, these are the ways that Steve understood the world. But after working for a few years in ministry with Italians, who value the work of the Holy Spirit over any five-point-plan that we Americans can produce, Steve began to understand that the Holy Spirit is always at work in our lives. He began to rely on the Holy Spirit in all things. That didn’t mean that planning went out the window, but that “for a plan to be successful it has to be God’s plan and I have to be open to it. It became really clear that if my plan wasn’t working, I needed to rethink if I was aligning with God’s work or just making up my own.”
For Steve, this was further confirmation that what he did, the way he treated others, was a primary mechanism for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
While in Italy, Steve was tasked with training North African Navies, made up of men and women from primarily Muslim backgrounds. Of course there could be no overt evangelizing amidst the international military training, and yet, after spending time with these men and women, they began to ask Steve questions about Christianity, and he was allowed to answer those questions. For Steve, this was further confirmation that what he did, the way he treated others, was a primary mechanism for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
And this is the way he chooses to live today. Steve serves as a Stephen Minister, providing one-to-one care for those facing difficult times. He serves faithfully at Skate Church and Student Ministry’s Wednesday Night Live. The opportunity to be on a Kairos team provides great joy, as does the opportunity to serve his fellow veterans through a variety of non-profit organizations. And as Hurricane Harvey hit the coast, Steve was already mobilizing folks to respond in a variety of ways and then was on site to start Disaster Relief as soon as he was allowed.
"Trying to be like Jesus. That’s the faith I want to grow.”
“I have the time and I enjoy doing it. I enjoy building relationships and building up the community. I can’t invite somebody to something at church if I’ve never talked to them before. Sitting down, sharing a meal, building a relationship and building understanding. Trying to be like Jesus. That’s the faith I want to grow.”
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