Many ministries of First Church have been established to focus on aspects of congregational care and God’s healing of mind, body, and soul. Following is a snapshot showcasing some of these healing ministries. Contact information is also provided if you’d like to learn more or get involved.

Counseling Services

The Spiritual Development Center (SDC) provides compassionate and confidential counseling based on biblical truth, available at no cost. The staff includes licensed psychologist Dr. Al Barrow with 40 years of professional counseling experience and Maria Karl, a Certified Biblical Counselor for the past eight years.

“Christian counseling provides a safe setting not only to seek but also to experience God’s comfort—and to understand how He is working in our lives. Sometimes the deep valleys we face can also be places of discovery that strengthen our faith.” – Dr. Al Barrow, SDC Director

“When we face difficulties and don’t see a way out, often we give up hope. But our God is a God of hope and promises. Counseling begins in God’s Word, nurturing trust in Him as the Holy Spirit imparts guidance and opens our hearts.” – Maria Karl, Biblical Counselor

Email Spiritual Development Center | 239.221.8250


Healing from divorce is not easy; it is a long and often painful process. The SDC offers a support group to help participants move toward rebuilding their lives. Each session of DivorceCare includes a video seminar with top experts on divorce and recovery and a no-pressure group discussion on the week’s topics and issues faced by those attending.

“Many of our DivorceCare attendees have expressed how it comforted, encouraged, and helped them on the road to healing. Often it has brought them closer to God as they learned to cope with the pain and move forward with their lives.” – Maria Karl, DivorceCare Counselor

Email Spiritual Development Center | 239.221.8250


After losing a loved one, we often feel isolated and lonely, even pessimistic. Our Parish Nurse Ministry offers an innovative grief support group. Stand-alone sessions include a video component featuring interviews with experts on grief and recovery, optional group discussion time, and a workbook for personal study and expression through journaling.

“GriefShare helps participants talk about their grief in a caring, Christian environment. They obtain emotional support from those who understand their pain and share their struggles. Encouragement is given and received to help work through difficulties. New friendships are made, and great comfort taken from knowing that they are not alone. Praying together, spirits are strengthened— knowing God is there with us.” – Marietta Bala, GriefShare Counselor

Email Parish Nurses | 239.992.3233

Home Communion

Home Communion is offered each time we observe the sacrament in our church services. Communion kits containing the elements are blessed during worship and taken to those who are unable to attend church and who have requested service. Teams are encouraged to pray for those receiving the sacrament both before and after their visit, which includes a short service as Communion is served.

“Home Communion is a blessing to both those receiving and those providing the service; it brings them closer together as brothers and sisters in Christ. Shut-ins value the individual connection of knowing they are an important part of the church community. As servers, we have felt the joy of God’s love through sharing the sacrament, listening, praying, and providing friendly conversation. We are blessed to be a positive witness for our faith.” – Deacons Sue Agnew & Gayle Geiger, Coordinators

Email Judi Van Cleave | 239.992.3233

Order of St. Luke (OSL)

OSL is an international Christian organization made up of chapters dedicated to offering healing prayer in Jesus’ name. Members of the Bonita Springs Chapter at First Church are equipped with a biblical foundation and practical training as intercessors in order to serve on prayer teams. Many also serve as deacons and members of the visitation Ministry.

“OSL is a family of people who care for and encourage each other in faith. We offer a ministry of healing through intercessory prayer and anointing with oil, acting as instruments of God’s love and power. Being an OSL member transforms our prayer life, knowing that God equips us to be His hands, feet, and eyes in a hurting world.” – Margaret Gieselmann Bals, OSL Leader

Email Margaret Gieselmann Bals

Prayer Shawl Ministry

Our prayer shawls are made by a dedicated group of volunteers and blessed by a pastor before they are given to those facing difficult times. As the shawl is knitted or crocheted, the maker offers prayers inviting God’s presence to be with the recipient. This ministry coordinates with our parish nurses and visitation Ministry.

“When I surround someone with a prayer shawl, it gives me the opportunity to pray for them and establish a connection in a situation that can be difficult. This simple act strengthens and encourages me to take the next step of offering comfort; the response is always rewarding. I love to tell them that prayers and love are sewn into every stitch. – Deacon Sherry Stokes, Coordinator

Email Sherry Stokes

Together Living with Cancer (TLC)

A cancer diagnosis is a scary moment and possibly the beginning of a whole new way of life. The SDC offers this support group for those diagnosed with cancer (or other challenging illnesses) and their loved ones. TLC offers a place to talk about the changes and challenges, both emotional and spiritual, that cancer brings. If you need a place to find support and understanding, or help coping with its long-term effects, we can help. See related article on page 13.

Email Spiritual Development Center | 239.221.8250

Veterans Care Ministry

To better serve our local community, the Deacons have refocused their military care efforts to encompass veterans. Their new, twofold mission is to address the needs of retired service members affiliated with First Church and to provide outreach to veterans in local retirement communities and senior centers. Their inaugural event, a breakfast to honor veterans, is planned for this fall but COVID-19 has put all activities on hold. Currently, a database of church-affiliated veterans is being created; contact us via email with your email address and preferred phone number to be included or to suggest a veteran you know.

“It is a natural fit for me to serve as chair for this ministry. My tour of duty as a Marine Corps infantry officer in Vietnam has given me first-hand awareness of the potential needs of retired service members.” – Deacon Al Vandam, Coordinator

Email Al Vandam


The pastors of First Church share the duties of congregational care, supported by the visitation Ministry and the parish nurses. With compassion and a joy to serve, our team of volunteers focus on listening and praying with and for those who are suffering. In addition to hospital and home visits, they send cards, make phone calls, and distribute prayer shawls and flowers.

“All of us who visit folks—whether pastors, deacons, or volunteers—know that we are privileged to do so. To share together the vulnerable moments brought on by illness or loss or struggle is to be in an honored position. We know this and feel so blessed to be allowed in, to be trusted, to be invited to share a private moment. Thank you for allowing us into your lives.” – Pastor June Barrow

“Whenever we reach out with agape love and concern for another who is suffering, they are lifted up and encouraged—just by knowing they are remembered, prayed for, and are not alone. I am incredibly blessed to be able to bring some joy to others and always receive much more than I am able to give.” – Deacon Jamie Barnette, Coordinator

Email Parish Nurses | 239.992.3233