After nine years of caring for the Southeast Kansas community and wearing any number of hats (real or figurative) Rev. Ellie Foster is retiring from her position at Wesley House, effective the end of June.
Foster has been in ministry in the United Methodist Church (UMC) for about 30 years, including the time she has spent at Wesley House, and she said it is unlike any other church she had served.
"It's very different than any other appointment," she said. "You wear a dozen different hats."
These "hats" include pastoral care, social service, public relations, grant writing and many other strengths, some of which Foster didn't realize she had when she arrived.
Pastors in the UMC are appointed to congregations based on the discernment of a bishop and cabinet of district superintendents, and Foster said after a career spent in rural, small-membership churches, she was taken aback when she received a call appointing her to Wesley House.
"I literally told them, 'You're crazy,'" she said. "That's not me. I can't do that. I was terrified. I had no idea what I was getting into."
However, through the years she has discovered that she has the heart for the particular type of ministry done at Wesley House, and she has learned a lot along the way."
"At the top of my list is absolutely how blessed I've been all my life," Foster said. "Growing up, we didn't have any money, but we had food and we had love."
She said she meets people in her job who lack even the most bare essentials, and as she works to meet the needs she also sees miracles.
"My faith has really gotten stronger," Foster said, adding that sometimes looking at the numbers or stepping out on faith can be challenging, but that she has seen God provide in amazing ways.
The hope of all involved now is that God will provide the right successor.
The position Foster has filled is an appointed pastoral role within the United Methodist Church, and also is an associate position through First United Methodist Church in Pittsburg.
Rev. Jim Akins, senior pastor at First UMC, said the personnel committee at First UMC has been in conversation with the cabinet about its options for filling the position.
"We do have a choice between asking the cabinet to appoint another clergyperson to replace her or not and filling that with a social services professional," Akins said.
However, regardless of how the hiring process proceeds, Akins said Foster will leave big shoes to fill.
"She has a real gift working in a variety of arenas in the community to make sure that help is available," he said. "I think the big thing she brought to that is she passionately cares for the people she helps."
"I do have a passion for what happens here," Foster agreed. "I love the people."
However, after running the many different elements that keep Wesley House going, she is looking forward to a change of pace.
"I really am looking forward to not being in charge of anything, and being able to do some things I would like to do but haven't had time."