If you have been around the Encounter
community at Southeast’s Blankenbaker Campus over the last seven years, there is a good chance you know the smiling face of Rich LeMaster. That smile has greeted so many group attendees.
Rich found Encounter for himself when he was battling through a cancer diagnosis in 2011. As he began to receive help and community, his battle took him to a place of knowing he needed to give back out of his story of cancer. From there, he connected with the Care Team and came up with a plan to offer a cancer support group for men (Southeast already had a cancer support group for women).
From the guidance of the Care Team, Rich began the training process to become a group facilitator. This proved to be life altering for Rich as he began to understand the healing power of walking in an authentic community with others who are also struggling but willing to share. Rich fell in love with the Encounter community.
“I found that I did not have to go through my cancer alone and that within the Encounter family there were people who were just as scared as I was with their own cancer diagnosis,” he said.
At that point Rich became more and more involved with Encounter programming on Thursday nights. Along with leading his group, he would greet people as they came in for worship. He then began hopping in and helping with setup and teardown.
“I started realizing God had given me a gift of hospitality and a passion to serve in any way that I can,” he said.
Encounter became a family for Rich. His dedication to the Encounter community continued to grow to the point he felt God calling him to get ordained. The ordination process, led by the Elders of Southeast, is for those individuals who feel like God is calling them to a life dedicated to ministry. Rich wasn’t sure what all that meant, but he was confident of God’s leading.
In July 2020, Rich started the process of ordination at Southeast. Six months later, on December 15, 2020, he became officially ordained. The ordination was a milestone for Rich, but only God knew what would be next.
During the pandemic, in-person Encounter groups moved online, and Rich’s grew in numbers, becoming a coed group that included many new faces. Two of those faces were Dennis and Janice Griffin. Janice had been diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. Dennis and Janice both found comfort and a ton of support from the group each week.
In March 2022, Janice’s cancer progressed quickly, and following a short time in hospice, Janice passed away. The decision of who should do the funeral was an easy one for Dennis, as Rich had been pastoring the Griffins through their most challenging time of life.
Rich had never officiated a funeral, but he gladly accepted Dennis’ request and reached out to the Care Team for some coaching.
Rich was the perfect fit for this grieving family. The funeral was attended by several from their cancer care group. God had uniquely prepared Rich for this moment to minister to this family.
Only God knows what is next for Rich LeMaster, but seeing Rich’s openness to follow God’s lead, you can be guaranteed that God has good things ahead for this servant of the one true God.
Click here to learn more about Encounter and for a group schedule.