I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father. 1 John 2:13 KJV
John was an old man by the time he penned these words, and travel for him was difficult. But one thing John could still do was write; and write he did. It may have frustrated John a bit, not seeing his friends in person, but that did not stop him from delivering a message to build them up. Today I am sitting home with Covid-19 and our nursing home meetings today and tomorrow are cancelled. So far, my symptoms are just a nasty sore throat and a light fever, but this made me recall another reason why we started Sunshine Newsletter and I started to make little song videos. I am also immensely thankful for the team of people who have come around me so that we can publish this every week. Sunshine Newsletter so far, reaches 9 facilities in three different states. God has not forgotten His people who are shut behind the doors of nursing homes, assisted living facilities and memory care wards. Sometimes we may not be able to go in ourselves, but God always will show us a way through an open door, where we least expect it!
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!
Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ Luke 10:3-5 ESV
One question I have often been asked, is “Pastor Pete all of this you are saying about nursing home ministry sounds great, but how do I fit in? How can I get started?” When Jesus asked people to spread the gospel, He didn’t just send them out willy-nilly. He had specific instructions and a strategy for them to follow. He helped them know where to begin. So where can you get started? Of course, there isn’t a single answer, but here are three ways. that I hope will encourage you to launch out in the challenge and adventure of long-term care ministry.
Step One – Personal Connections – The easiest place to start is with friends, family members or other people who you know at church. There is no barrier in visiting people with whom you have a personal connection. The key is to do it consistently. Just as no flower will continue to bloom until it has remained rooted in one spot and been fertilized and watered over a period of time. Don’t give up. I began 35 years ago by visiting a friend who because of a stroke had to move to a nursing home. After a few visits, he asked me to bring in my guitar to play a couple of songs. The people in the next room heard the music and asked if they could come in, and one year later we were having weekly meetings with a dozen people. Did I plan on it happening? Did I even know what I was doing?! absolutely not! I had no idea, but I just plugged away at what God had asked me to do and doors began to open.
Step Two– By Invitation – It doesn’t matter much where we live, how old we are or how much money we make – all of us receive junk mail! In these letters, we are invited to buy life insurance, sell our home or get a free lunch while we listen to someone tell us about cremation! There is no lack of invitations and once you get started doing volunteer work on a regular basis there will be no lack of opportunities to serve in your community. Two of the four communities that I visit today asked me to come because they heard through the grapevine that I was volunteering at another facility. Now don’t sit home waiting for this to happen unless you have already tried step one.
Step 3 – Knocking on the Door – If you have ever done any kinds of sales work, you know that the most emotionally challenging sales presentation is the cold call. A cold call means just knocking on a door and hoping that the person on the other side will be willing to listen to you rather than slamming the door! But it really isn’t as hard as it seems. Most activities directors are delighted to accept a volunteer who will fulfill a need at their facility. Here are a few things I have seen other volunteers do: Offer free hair styling once a week – lead a ladies bible study – bring a comfort animal in (I have seen dogs, cats and even a miniature horse!) Yes, you will need to do some paperwork, just like applying for a part time job, but it will be worth it. What you do and the talents you possess are far less important than the relationships you will build with people. No one ever said it would be fast or easy. But if you are willing to commit for the long haul, you will be able to build a bridge of friendship with people in long term care. Then when that bridge is finished you will be able to begin crossing it with the good news of the hope of Jesus Christ.
Final words – Don’t give up. It will be worth it all. Most importantly in the end you will begin to plunge a little deeper into the love of Jesus and grow closer to the one who left heaven to come and visit you in this long-term care facility called earth!
As I shared last month; one of our residents was excited about sharing this song which she wrote back in 1990. Since the only available recording was on a cassette tape
(This is a cassette – for those of the younger generation}
So Bella agreed that we could record a video version of her song during our Friday morning singing time at Life Care Center. Bear in mind that I recorded this copyrighted song with her permission so if you should share or wish to record this yourself you will need to seek out the proper channels for doing so.
Whenever we minister at Nursing Homes always remember that not only Bella; but every resident whom we are called to serve has a story and abilities and value. One part of our ministry is not only to bless them; but to recognize and receive the blessings that they have to give!