I loved this short video which Joni has on her You-tube channel. Though she is aiming it towards children, the lessons it teaches are for adults as well. You see, when we go into the Nursing Home to minister, eye contact is one of the most valuable gifts anyone can give. Eye contact says to that person, “You matter” and affirms that they are uniquely important to God.
Even when our residents cannot see well, they can still sense when we are speaking to them from the “Eye contact zone”. This is a zone of focus. This is a zone where we are genuinely listening to what they have to say. This is the zone that brings us close enough to lay a hand on their shoulder, give a warm handshake of greeting or a kiss to their forehead.
If you are new to nursing home ministry or if you have been faithfully serving for many years, take extra time to think about giving eye contact to people this week. It will bless others and as we look closely into the face of someone we may find that we will see the eyes of Jesus looking back into ours.
Matthew 25:45 He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy Matthew 8:1-3
When our friend Ken was sick this year we went to visit him, to pray for him and yes, to put our arms around him. Jesus often is found touching others. When the disciples were ready to send the children away it says that”…He took them in His arms, placed His hands on them and blessed them.”
There is something about touch that transmits the love of God. In nursing home ministry we need to remember that people are often longing to feel the touch of another person besides their nurse, or their physical therapist. A while back I can remember bringing one of our grandchildren along for my weekly visit to the nursing home. At that time he was about six years old and feeling a little nervous about going with Poppy. When we came in, I began to introduce him. I thought that maybe if he could shake hands and say hello it would help him to feel at ease. No sooner did I start but one of the ladies in the circle put her arms out to him and when he came up for a hug she swept him off his feet and put him on her lap!
I worried at first, but after a few nervous seconds he settled down and sat with her for the first ten minutes of our meeting. He was finding out that our “ministry” had as much to do with snuggling on someone’s lap as it did with singing the hymns. While I was leading in prayer, he was giving a touch that said, “You are important. I trust you. I am happy to spend time right here with you.”
But you might say, “Oh Pastor Pete that’s okay for you because it’s your ministry.” But if you know one person among your neighbors who is a shut in, or in nursing care; if you have a family member of if you know someone from your church in long term care, it can be your ministry too! You do not need to go every week, or to join a group that sings in your local nursing home. Maybe you can just go to one person this week and give to them the gift of touch. God has called us to be the arms of Jesus touching someone and giving His blessing today!
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God
Sometimes I treat prayer like taking a ticket at the deli line. I take a number, then patiently wait for my turn to be called. When my name is called I feel sure that then I will get God’s full attention. Then after I am served I say something like, “Hey thanks – have a great day!”
But my reality seems to end up more like the man that Jesus met at the pool of Bethesda. He had been waiting in line not for minutes, hours, or weeks, but for thirty-eight long years. He told Jesus, “… but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Do you sometimes feel like that guy? Does it seem that others get the financial provision, the amazing career opportunities or the special thanks in front of the church. Do you feel that God has forgotten you and left you holding the ticket that never gets called?
When the Apostle Paul talks about prayer to the Philippian church he gives quite a different outlook. His prayers were not made while he anxiously waited his turn. Paul did not have the idea that God was probably busy with the person in front of him in line. In fact Paul was so confident of His heavenly Father that he actually began his request by saying thank you. He knew that because of Jesus Christ his prayers were making their way immediately to the front of the line. He joyfully gave thanks even though he didn’t always get things just the way he wished (like when he was ship-wrecked, beaten, thrown in prison or treated as the least important apostle by his own church.
In fact, while Paul sat in his prison cell chained next to his friend Silas, he was so thankful that he broke out into song, Silas joined in and God sent an earthquake that unlocked the prison door. Wow, now that is an answer to prayer!
No matter what the circumstance, no matter how long we have waited, no matter what everyone else thinks, God loves not just a joyful giver, but a joyful thankful prayer as well. When God sees our faces he sees us as His children. God loves to hear from His children when we come to him with a joyful thankful prayer!