Getting ready for Christmas

“I’ll Be Home For Christmas” was recorded by Bing Crosby in 1943 as a tribute to soldiers overseas during World War II, and has become a holiday classic. Nursing home residents are a bit like soldiers, but most of them will never be home for Christmas.  The statistics say that 60% of nursing home residents in the U.S. do not receive a single visit from a family member in an entire year. There is no more important time to plan a special program than at the holidays. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day each are opportunities to show God’s love through visiting people who are alone. Small gifts are wonderful, but the greatest gift we have to offer is our presence.

For those unfamiliar with nursing home ministry early October may seem a bit early to begin planing a Christmas program. But after having worked for 20 years of Christmas  I have learned that the earlier we start the better. Usually we have a group of from 6-10 volunteers (mostly young people) who start out eager to help. What happens along the way  is a combination of teen issues (boyfriend /girlfriend) or school and family changes that impact our ability to prepare. All in all I sometimes feel like we are just duct taping a few kings crowns together and turning up microphones for shy voices that the residents can barely hear. Thank God that Jesus takes our 5 loaves and 2 fish of talent and desire and multiplies it in a way that touches hearts and lives each year. Over the next week I will be posting a few practical ideas and guidelines that may assist you in your own community to get ready for Christmas once again.

In this computer age no one uses pencil and paper but I encourage you to at least try both. Physically writing things down helps to slow our thoughts down enough to consider in detail the people and the plan that will help make your program effective.

Make a List

  1. Meet with the recreation/activities director of your chosen local nursing home and find an open date on their calendar that works for you. Typically these calendars fill up more than a month in advance. We are written in for December 6 because the 13th was already taken!
  2. Ask for volunteers from your circle at church and friends and find out how many people you can expect to help. Will this work for the program you have in mind?
  3. Can the children (or youth) at your church be invited to participate?
  4. Think about small gifts for the residents. Have you asked the staff what gifts to give?

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Pray for God’s creative ideas. Pray together with your team. Get started and trust that the Christmas message is full of hope for people who have been forgotten. Christmas began in the heart of God!

 

And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.  Luke 1:37

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Would You Go For One? – Challenge Day 1

The difference between reading about nursing home ministry and committing to this short training course is the same as the difference between what Jesus did when He met the woman at the well and what the disciples did that day.

Nepal and India 126Jesus used  the opportunity to help just one person and he reached an entire village. The disciples went into the village without telling a single person about Jesus! When I was able to travel to Nepal a few years ago we had some days when we only did what the disciples did, we walked through the towns and met people just like the woman at the well, but we didn’t say a word. We were separated by language and culture from knowing how to even buy a single fruit from the vendors. But on special days we went into small villages and by the help of translators and local pastors we were privileged to share the message of the love of Jesus What unforgettable moments those were!

Nepal and India 139

Here is your challenge for week one. Meet one person who is a resident in a nursing home. If you already know someone (like a family member) and have visited on occasion, then dedicate this week to meeting someone new. After you have made your visit this week take some time and begin a journal on your efforts. Here are a few questions you might want to ask yourself.

  • Who else is visiting them and how often do they come?
  • How many people are in the facility where they are living?
  • Is their stay permanent or will they be going home?
  • What area did you have the biggest struggle with?
  • What did you like the best?
  • What ideas, plans or feelings changed as a result?
  • When will you visit next?