For the 2014 Evening of Encouragement, Dr. William Alexander spoke of his frightening accident, the struggle to recover, and the comfort that Encouragement Ministries continues to give to him through his friendship with Russ Corley.

Encouragement Ministries – A conversation with William Alexander from Line One on Vimeo.



Encouragement Ministries – A conversation with Wayne Reed from Line One on Vimeo.

For the 2013 Evening of Encouragement, Encouragement Ministries was honored to have the inspiring Wayne Reed share with us why EM is important to him.


“Life can change so very quickly. During a family vacation in 2012, my wife, Cynthia, broke a vertebra in her lower back. She endured a long surgery and many painful weeks of recovery. It was during this time that Encouragement Ministries became a true reality for us.

While Cynthia wasn’t feeling like having too many visitors, Russ was always a welcome face. If you know Russ, you know his sweet spirit, his ability to say the right things, and his innate ability to know just how long to stay or whether to stay at all allows him to do his job effectively and efficiently.

So when I was approached about serving on the EM Board, I was honored to say ‘yes.’ I understand how this ministry touches people daily. I know how a smile from Russ or Pat, at just the right time, can make a day much more bearable, even during the most difficult of days.”

Patrick Bennett, EM Board Member


“Once again I am delighted to be working with Encouragement Ministries this summer. It is a busy time. I appreciate your generosity which makes it possible for me to be a part of this ministry.”

Pat Ward, EM Minister to Women and Children


“I was amazed at how quickly you responded to my call requesting that you visit my brother-in-law at St. Thomas. At his age and with serious complications, his wife said that she was hoping the chaplain would stop in and pray for him. I immediately thought of you, Russ, and your ministry in these situation. So I called, and the next thing I heard, you had already been to see them and prayed with them and encouraged them. Thank you. I know of no one that responds as fast as you, and I am deeply grateful for you ministry. Encouragement is the right term for your work and outreach to those that need a message from God. May He continue to bless your efforts.”

Barbara Hobson


“Encouragement Ministries came to the rescue again! I received a phone call from a friend in California telling me about a family from Knoxville who was bringing their child to Nashville to treat a condition which could be best handled as an inpatient at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. My friend was searching for someone in Nashville who could reach out to this family and make personal contact at a very stressful time. I called Russ, and within the hour, he was at the hospital with that family. Over the next several days, Russ spent time with the family, praying with them, comforting them, serving them, encouraging them. The child has gone back home, and the family was blessed tremendously. Thanks, Russ, for you speedy response and for the love you poured on this family.”

Dan Dolzier


“All of my children have gone through or are currently at Otter Creek Preschool. I have always been so delighted to hear your name, especially from my children. My son, Caleb, is two and in Miss Jeannie’s class at the preschool now and loves it when you come. He asks each school day if this is a “Mr. Russ” day. He loves hearing you read, but more than anything, he loves it when you sing. His favorite song now is ‘This little light of mine.’ He sings it over and over and over. We cherish each time. My husband, Daniel, asked me the other day if I had told you how much Caleb thinks of you. When I received our e-newsletter, it reminded me to tell you. You are making such an impact, not only with Encouragement Ministries, but with God’s precious little ones at the preschool. We are grateful for your heart and service in Christ’s kingdom here on earth. Blessings to you.”

MaryAnn Green


“I’ve had the honor of supporting Encouragement Ministries for many years and serving as a board member since 2008. But my love for Russ and the ministry have much deeper roots. Russ is my cousin and a few years older than me, so I grew up with him in many ways. As we grew older, our age difference seemed to disappear and a bond of deep friendship and brotherhood developed as we shared life experiences, both good and hard ones. I attribute our bond to Russ’s nurturing nature and ability to foster deep conversations. He’s simply a natural at his work because it’s an extension of his true self. That’s why I believe deeply in what Russ does for people in difficult situations and why he does that work so well. I’m committed to helping Encouragement Ministries reach as many people in need of those nurturing, comforting, soul-healing gifts as possible.”

Tim Lankes, Board Member


At our 2012 Evening of Encouragement, Bill and Kelly Harlin shared their experience with Encouragement Ministries during the past year. Bill and Kelly both have a close friendship with Pat Ward (Bill’s father and Pat grew up in the same neighborhood) and share the following observation that articulates what many of us know about Pat:

“Pat has extraordinary gifts as a minister to others. She demonstrates these gifts with Encouragement Ministries and as director of the Otter Creek Kindergarten in which she walks along side families as they wrestle with significant questions about raising their children. In other ways, she works with individuals and families who are experiencing other kinds of crisis. She rejoices in the victories and accomplishments of others no matter how great or small. In all of these things, she communicates love and compassion through listening to others, sharing wise counsel, sending letters of encouragement, or writing notes of praise.”

Bill Harlin


“Our family has had the great privilege of witnessing first-hand the work Encouragement Ministries does in the lives of those in need. Bill’s dad has been fighting cancer for years and over the last few months has spent many days in the hospital. Russ has been so kind to call and check up on him while he was in the hospital in recent weeks. Bill’s dad has appreciated his conversations and this new relationship with Russ. His father is so at ease with Russ that you would think they were long lost friends.

As we have watched this relationship continue over the past few months, we understand that God answers prayers in ways that are more than we could ask or imagine. That relationship extends to the family members as well; Russ and Pat have the incredible ability to assess family needs and to help them right where they are. Over and over again, our family has received the love Paul describes in II Corinthians 1:4-5 as Russ and Pat comfort us with the comfort they receive from God. The relationships that they build carry individuals and families through the roughest storms and point them to God, who is our Healer.”

Kelly Harlin, EM Board Member


“I have known Pat Ward since 1983. I thought I knew most things about Pat, but after breaking my leg in February this year, I learned even more. After months of work at a rehabilitation center, I went to Pat’shouse for two or three weeks because she doesn’t have steps to worry about inside her house. She was wonderful.

I was not the first to be taken care of by Pat. She has opened her home and helped many of us who needed a loving place to recuperate. Her house is a safe shelter and a place of healing.

While at Pat’s I saw how hard she worked at Otter Creek School and then did other helpful things throughout the day to serve others. In the evenings, I observed Pat study the Bible and spend time on the phone listening patiently, encouraging those with problems, and offering advice when needed. Her phone rang constantly. She is a true servant of God. I would love to see the day when Pat becomes ‘full-time’ at Encouragement Ministries. I would increase my giving to this important ministry to see that happen. God bless Russ and Pat.”

Carol Harvey


“I pray for my friend, Russ. You are doing amazing work, and I am honored to call you my friend. I also am delighted that Pat Ward is on board for the summer again. She is a gift to all who meet her.

We are kindred spirits and are in constant growth in relationship with God and His timing. You and Pat are in my prayers as you beautifully serve people who are hurting.”

Joan VanHooser


“Hospital rooms. Each one holds a story, all different, yet the same. Each one, each life, is encountering change. Some small, some large. Many lives are changing. Change. It is what knocks us off center and leaves us feeling unbalanced, unsteady. For me, it was being with my Paw Paw in a hospice room. He was 89. We knew death was close. But being so close to it, knocked me off balance. I so clearly remember Russ walking into the room. For me, he was an anchor. A reminder of all I hold true. Believe true.

What Russ does is such a gift. He walks into room after room and reminds or reveals God’s love and promise, often in the middle of deep brokenness, wrenching change. As the world is spinning out of control, Russ enters into the dizziness and offers a hand. A grip on truth, hope and love. I am so thankful for what Russ does and the promise he brings on behalf of our Father. Room after room.”

Christina Liddle      


“Do you ever wonder what makes you smile? Ever thought about how you feel when you smile? Have you noticed that a smile is contagious?

I recently stayed overnight in the hospital for some tests, and I’ll admit I was concerned. So was my family. Typically, I am a positive person, but it’s difficult when you hear abnormalities and heart mentioned in the same sentence followed by further testing to determine the problem. We were in the mode of trying to decipher exactly what the doctor said and considering all the possibilities that could come back as a result of the tests when a smile came through the door. It was Russ Corley. His smile portrayed reassurance, kindness, and unconditional love that alleviated worry, fear, apprehension, and pain. Russ’s smile was contagious, and during his visit, I noticed we were all smiling. Before he left, Russ prayed for peace and comfort, he prayed for the hospital staff, and for our family. I may not smile thinking about my hospital stay, but I can’t help to smile when I think of Russ and Encouragement Ministries and the many smiles he brings daily with this ministry.”

Rick and Nicole Hobson


“‘St. Thomas 462 me.’ That’s what my text said. I was too sick to say more. An hour or so later, Russ Corley walked into my room, and with him came the comfort, the assurance, I knew he would bring.

Bad things can happen in hospitals. Visitors come and stay too long and say the wrong things and tell you dire consequences of the procedure you are about to have. More often than not, they just don’t know what to say. But they say it anyway.

What a comfort it was to have Russ. Not just in my hospital room – in my life. He has the unique ability to know what to say and how to say it. He knows the tranquility of shared silence. His ministry extends beyond the patient to the family. And there are times when their needs exceed those of the patient. Russ recognizes and responds.

Because I know Russ’s skill and his heart, it has been my pleasure to support Encouragement Ministries from the beginning – over 20 years ago. During that time, I have seen Russ grow in the wisdom that comes best through personal experience. I have seen him grow in patience, in compassion, in love. May this unique ministry continue to bless my life and countless others.”

Neika Stephens


“For those who have experienced a time of suffering or anxiety, the true value of encouragement becomes real and tangible. Whether we are bearing a personal burden or that of a loved one, the weight of the struggle sometimes becomes heavier than expected, and we can find ourselves needing personal, spiritual, and emotional support for the strength to make it through the ordeal. Having known Russ Corley for almost five years, I have seen him use his gift of encouragement to help many families through difficult times. For my own family and other close friends, Russ has come along side and helped ease their burden with compassion and understanding.

I have often related to friends that I just don’t know how he does what he does – diffusing the tension in a room with a short visit and word of encouragement. It is a gift I do not take for granted and am glad he answers the call to use it supporting others. On more than one occasion Russ has responded quickly to the needs of my family and friends, changing his schedule if necessary. His ability to quickly develop a genuine relationship is a wonderful blessing. The entire team at Encouragement Ministries is focused on providing families with the momentary peace and strength they need to persevere through the dark valleys in which they find themselves. It is my honor and privilege to support the EM team financially as they daily commit themselves to lifting up those the Lord places in their care.”

Andy Brown


“Russ came to us quickly after Mom’s admission to Vanderbilt with a diagnosis of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. He was truly, in every sense of the phrase, a Godsend. He helped us to find hopeful realism in the face of horrible odds, and he helped us to focus on the first goal at hand – remission. ‘If someone was in the 30% that achieved remission, why not you?’ he said. And we clung to that. And with a shared love of photography, he helped Mom to focus on something at first until she could open up more personally and spiritually. And she made it to remission! And he was literally with us every step of the way through success and failure supporting us all. We all looked forward to his visits. Those visits sustained us in a way we couldn’t sustain each other so deep in our own fear and pain. He was the spiritual link in a physical form we didn’t have in our lives at that time. I truly cannot imagine that journey without him. And when it ended, when she lost the battle, of course he was there with us then, too. He still is, and I know he will always be there if I need him. This is true ministry, and it is priceless.”

Debra Sanford


“Several years ago during the process of attending medical school, I received a phone call from my father regarding my mother, Doretta. He told me that due to the damage done to my mother’s heart when she had Rheumatic Fever at eight years old, her heart was finally working too hard, and she needed a new set of heart valves. I was somewhat familiar with the procedure, but when it’s your Mom…knowledge isn’t that valuable. Well, she did fine with the open heart surgery. It was a privilege to witness my mother’s bravery and tremendous resilience. My dad was probably a bother to the staff as he did all he could to make sure her pain was controlled. Two of my brothers were in the military and were not able to be near her, and there were times when I felt like I needed to be more clinical and a provider of medical information to my dad and younger brother.

One day Russ Corley came in. Encouragement Ministries didn’t exist yet. Russ came in because he had heard about my mother’s surgery. Mom had a great support structure through her local church in Goodlettsville, and many prayed with and for her. My support group was in Memphis – until Russ appeared. He encouraged me to be a son and prayed with me about that and for my mom’s recovery. You know, she probably would have recovered without that prayer shared by Russ, but she so appreciated the thoughtfulness of so many people for having shown up. My mother was spared the loneliness of wading through this series of events without the entirety of her ‘people’ who loved her loving God. Russ may not know it, but his encouraging ministry has been around a lot longer than Encouragement Ministries. Serving on the Board of Directors is not service at all; it is an expression of my gratitude.”

Dr. Brian Leeper, Encouragement Ministries Board of Directors


Mark and Jonilea Stewart were our special guests of honor at the 2011 Evening of Encouragement. Watch their heart-felt testimony of how Encouragement Ministries has helped them deal with Mark’s health challenges and strengthen their spiritual walk with God.


“Russ and Pat, mere words cannot express our gratitude for all the love you have shown. I heard your compassionate words and found comfort. I felt your prayers and found strength… I thank the supporters of this ministry. It is truly ‘compassion in crisis.’ This outreach reflects our Lord and brings the ‘peace that passes understanding.’”

Deb & Jeff Costantine


“We all know that it takes a special person with a unique gift to visit hospitals and make home calls. Russ seems to know just what to say to lift spirits and make us realize there is hope. My husband Carl and I have asked Russ to visit many of our friends and family. We always get a call thanking us for sending him. By his second visit, they say it is like a lifelong friend visiting and praying with them. We hope you will continue to support Russ and E.M. with us. Without this ministry, there would be many feeling alone in times of sickness and sorrow. Thank you Russ for all that you do for others.”

Mary Lou Johnson


“I appreciate that Russ has dedicated his life to helping other people. Having been in and out of the hospital many times, I know the blessing of having someone visit with me daily. I know that Russ suffers when others suffer. His sympathy and empathy are unquestionable.”

Wayne Reed

“I feel you and your ministry helped bring me from the brink of depression and death to a hope and hunger for the God I saw every time you came to my bedside at Vanderbilt Hospital. When I saw your smile, I felt the warmth of God. Today, as I am still in and out of the hospital, I can’t help but remember the joy I felt as a recipient of your ministry, and I draw on God’s strength every time I walk through those otherwise overwhelming doors.”

Richard Langford