3 Blessings of a Newsletter

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” Isaiah 52:7 ESV

Any of us who has been involved in nursing home ministry over the last three years, has lived through some heartbreaking events and faced challenges that we never imagined before. This has often left us scrambling to find new ways to continue to reach people who are in those closed facilities. Just as a carpenter carries more than one tool in his toolbox, so we need all kinds of different ways to present the gospel. One tool which God just “happened” to put on my heart not long before the pandemic, is a newsletter. Beginning as “Pastor Pete’s Newsletter” I passed these out at one facility as a little something extra. When Covid closed the doors to all three of the nursing homes where I had been visiting, I began emailing the newsletter to the activity directors. Thinking that the closures would be for only a few months I didn’t give much thought to making improvements, but months dragged on, and we passed Easter, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas without any glimmer of hope for a return to normal. By the end of that year, God impressed on my heart to expand the newsletter outreach and just then several other people volunteered to help and together, we began to publish the “Sunshine Newsletter”. With three other writers and one graphic artist we have moved to a two-page color format and the distribution expanded to four facilities in Florida, five in New York and one in Ohio. Today I wanted to share three blessings that we have discovered.

Blessing number one is that the newsletter can go where we cannot. Isaiah’s verse tells if that publishing good news is what we are called to do. How we publish that news will depend on where we are and more importantly, where God is calling us to go. A newsletter is a valuable tool, but just as a cheap set of wrenches sell for $15, while another with a lifetime warrantee goes for $199, so the quality of our presentation matters. It will take an investment of your time and money to publish even a single page, but it will be worth it all if we can encourage, comfort and point people to Jesus in places where we are unable to go.

Secondly, our newsletter goes to people who have not come for our meetings. We are leaving our newsletter in the hands of friends who often share it with a roommate, a family member or even a member of the staff. In fact, many times we have encountered situations, where the staff take the time to read our newsletter out loud for the residents. Just as when the rain falls, everyone’s roof gets wet, so when we publish a newsletter, its message reaches people we never imagined.

Last of all, a newsletter serves as a durable reminder of the hope of Jesus. Once printed, it may sit on a nightstand for months, and just at the right time be available to be read again. One thing you might consider is including an email or a phone number that people can use to contact you for needs, prayer requests or suggestions. It has been rare, but there have been occasions when I was invited to visit someone new, because their friend contacted me by text or email. When we sow seeds in a wide path, we never know where they may grow! If anyone has questions, ideas or suggestions on this I would love to hear them. If you are interested in receiving Sunshine Newsletter, I’ll be happy to include you on our mailing list. You can contact me at Revpete51@gmail.com. We also are always looking for short devotional submissions, or personal inspiring stories of 250-300 words. God bless and have a good week everybody! Here is this week’s newsletter. They are free for you to print or to publish on social media.

Christ Our Hope

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Romans 15:13 ESV

After thirty years of nursing home ministry, I have learned that the heart of our message is the hope of Jesus Christ. Today’s verse clearly points us to God as our great source of hope. We must always communicate that if we want to give real people, real hope. They are walking their final mile here on earth and are struggling with physical weakness, discomfort and loneliness. When they think about eternity, they ask questions like “Does God really love me and care about what I am going through? Is He listening to my prayers? How can I be sure that He will accept me?” Of course, these are questions everyone thinks about, but in long term care, those whispered doubts become fearsome shouts that will drown out all but true hope. Before stepping into a facility to sing, or going into someone’s room to visit, we must ask God to fill us with the hope He gives through our relationship with Jesus Christ. Our hope, our future and our eternal salvation are found in Him alone! We cannot give to someone else what we have not already received from God. Do you carry that hope in your heart this morning? If not, then turn to Jesus in humble faith. He is listening and willing to fill you with His hope forever. That is the gospel and the message for which Christ died. When we receive that hope, then we will have a treasure we can lavishly give away to others! I love this song by Keith and Kristen Getty who are accompanied by Michael W. Smith. I pray you will find in Christ alone all the hope that He has for you today!

Coping With Covid at Nursing Home

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15 KJV

While a ferocious debate rages back and forth in both the political arena as well as within our families over Covid protocols; those of us in nursing home ministry find ourselves caught in the middle. It is as if we are consigned to a no-man’s land filled with barbed wire and shell craters, while overhead deafening salvos of words and tempers fly back and forth. But for us, the reality of coping with Covid-19 continues unabated. Today (for maybe the fifth time) one of the facilities where I sing called with the familiar phrase, “We are sorry to tell you, but we have to close the doors again.” So, today’s post, aims to provide you a shelter and some limited guidance to encourage and help you to keep slogging through for Jesus. Remember Him? Yes! We are not in a war with anyone on either side of the philosophical aisle, we are EMT’s assigned by the King of Kings, to render first-aid to the wounded and weary residents in long term care.

Imagine yourself in a community where your homeowner’s association sporadically quarantines you to your quarters for days, weeks or even months. And this quarantine is not just to keep you in your home, but to confine you to the master bedroom and bath area! If you can imagine that you might begin to be touched by the feeling of the infirmities of those to whom we are called to serve. The amazing thing about all of this is that Jesus himself knows exactly what we are going through. He left heaven to come to a planet infected by an even more highly contagious and deadly virus than Covid: It is called sin. Doctor Jesus came even though He knew the risk, the prognosis and the end game were certain. Then we must also recall that He did all this because He loved us enough to lay down His life, without complaint, in order to heal us of our diseases and deliver us from the bondage of our quarantine. He was touched by the feelings of our infirmity, and He gave us an example of how we are to care for one another.

So, don’t give up, give in or give out. In long-term care ministry, we may be wearing masks and getting booster shots for years. We may not be able to even get in the doors for months at a time but stay in the fight. General Jesus knows what is happening and He has a great strategy to win the war for souls. Keep asking Him for new ways to continue your outreach. We use a weekly newsletter, YouTube videos and constant respectful communication with the directors to keep us in the mix. If you would like to receive any of our free resources, you can contact me at revpete51@gmail.com. Have a blessed day all. Guard your health as well as your heart and remember that because God knows the feelings of our own infirmities, He is able to help us no matter what lies ahead!

Making Melody at Nursing Home

Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord – Ephesians 5:19 KJV

Maybe you have struggled with leading worship in nursing home ministry or want to know how to include music as a way of getting started. In today’s post I’ll try to address some of the most frequently asked questions about music ministry at nursing home. First of all, don’t be discouraged, you are on the right track. Singing is so important that it is one of the few things we do on earth that we will still be doing in heaven. The key is finding ways, as today’s verse says, to include everyone in making melody in our hearts to Jesus. In other words, the best songs are the ones that everyone sings! There must always be a “We” in worship. Today I’ll cover three ideas that will help you to reach the goal of everyone singing (at least in their hearts!)

First, let’s begin my recognizing that voices of senior saints are not what they were in their twenties. But if George Beverly Shea and Burl Ives could record music into their 80’s and 90’s; there certainly is a way we can help our people participate and the first area to think about is what key we are playing the songs in. Hymn books were often written for much younger voices. Those original keys were great, but there is nothing wrong with singing Holy-Holy-Holy low enough so someone besides the cherubim and seraphim can join in!

A second consideration is that, not only our people’s voices, but also their ears have grown older. I happen to have an exceptionally loud voice (ask my wife!) and because of that I rarely use a microphone. But if you have a sound system available, please use it! If there is no microphone available, consider moving closer to your listeners. With my guitar I walk back and forth in the room, looking directly at my friends, so that they can all hear, and hearing helps them to keep up with where we are at in the lyrics.

Can you hear me now?
Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Lastly let’s pay attention to rhythm. Remember that we have thirty minutes on a good day to keep people’s attention. Some people have medications that make them sleepy, or aches and pains that make it difficult to stay put for long. The last thing we want to do is incorporate so many slow dreamy sounding hymns, that half the audience falls asleep! I usually start out with familiar and easy songs such as “Just a Closer Walk”, so that as many people as possible join in. Then we usually pick up the pace a bit, with as many joyful songs as I have the energy for. Even Sunday school songs like, “The Joy of the Lord is My Strength” or “I’ve Got the Joy-Joy-Joy” work well. Just because they are older, doesn’t mean our friends won’t enjoy some fun and laughter. There will be plenty of problems ready to greet them after they leave our service. The idea of rhythm however is not just to sing fast songs. Oh no! The important thing is to give a variety. I always take a breath near the end of our time together, or just before communion and slip into the slower and more regal songs such as “The Old Rugged Cross”, “How Great Thou Art” or “In the Garden.” Now they are ready to focus, to pray and to allow God to speak His melody into their hearts.

If you have any questions, would like to make a comment or share your own experiences, this is the place to do that. There just may be someone else who needs to hear what you have to say! Here is just a sample from a recent meeting at Life Care Center. Have a blessed day all!