It’s been quite a while since I released anything new on Nursing Home Ministry. This book New Beginnings in Care Ministry gives a wider view of Long Term Care ministry than what I have written in the past. If your life has been touched by long term care, through a family member, your job or as a volunteer I pray that this short collection of stories and insights will be a blessing. This is available in both softcover and E-book formats through Amazon.
I coined the term care worker to indicate that long term care ministry encompasses as wide a field as being a care giver. Whether we are making a hospital visit, spending time with a shut-in or singing for a special needs child we all share something in common. We are providing a shepherd’s care.
Am I my brother’s keeper? Genesis 4:9
Cain’s 6,000 year old question reflects in a strange way his brother Abel’s vocation as a keeper of sheep. His bitter rejection of any responsibility as a care giver is still being asked in our society today. When does God expect us to provide shepherd’s care for someone else? The answer is “Any time we can”. God has given us opportunities in our community to serve as care workers. We do not need to wait till by necessity we are “care givers” for a friend or family member. Any day is a good day to be a shepherd. There is no experience required and free training is always available!
So if God is calling us to care ministry then we need to ask how Jesus demonstrated it while He was here on earth. When Jesus went around from village to village there were no nursing homes for Him to visit but in His day, the pool of Bethesda was similar to a long term care facility in some ways. Let’s just peek in to a scene from His visit there.
One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” John 5:5-6
As Jesus entered Jerusalem to attend one of the religious holidays, he chose to pay a visit to someone in need. You might compare this to making a detour on the way to a Thanksgiving dinner to see someone in the nursing home. You see that day almost everyone was headed out to sit down to a special dinner with friends or family, everyone that is except for the crowd at the Bethesda pool. There people waited in hope of a miracle.
Nursing homes are filled with people just like those folks. The man that Jesus came to see had been waiting and dreaming of a miracle for 38 years. In fact this man didn’t even know who Jesus was. Jesus didn’t show up to see a show, or to bring a reward for good behavior. Jesus came because He knew how long this man had waited. He came to show mercy. Nursing home ministry is about showing God’s mercy to people just like that man. When we show God’s mercy to people Jesus comes. Care ministry is simply taking the time to show someone that God still cares, The best question to ask is not if we show go but rather; where can I go to be a care minister today?
Though there were no institutions like nursing homes in the days of Jesus, there definitely were the same kinds of people who lived in them. That society had no social security, government health insurance or orphanages. The poor and helpless either were cared for by family or were thrown out to beg on the street. In the Bible we read a story of one woman we will call Rosemary, who teetered on the edge of destitution. Rosemary was a widow being supported by her only son. Then the worst happened. That son was struck down by some disease or accident. The morning as she followed his coffin on the way out of the city she wept not only for the loss of her child, but also because her future seemed dark and foreboding. Then Jesus came!
Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow…Luke 7:11-12 ESV
It is interesting that village of Nain was only about 12 miles from Nazareth; but this is the only time we know of that Jesus visits there. In the same way that Nain was close to Jesus’ home, nursing homes are close by every one of us. We drive by them every day without realizing that inside those walls are people who are just like Rosemary. While some receive regular visits from loved ones, most are simply forgotten.
Easter is now past and many of us are planning where we will go or what we will do on our summer vacations. Why couldn’t we also plan to make a shorter trip and begin to visit people like Rosemary who live near us and bring them the message that God has not forgotten?