I am deliriously happy to announce that our book project for the nursing home ministry is finally finished! After six months of writing and almost another six of editing and rewriting, the eBook edition is now live on Amazon! I am so excited. The book of Proverbs tells us that:
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12 NKJV
Hope deferred has been exactly my experience, since I began this project last summer. I was hoping to have the book done by Christmas. But that hope was deferred time and time again, but I am humbly grateful that here in August we are finally done! Yay!! One thing I have learned is that this project has been a team effort – and working as a team, needed far more time and patience than I had originally scheduled. My wife did some of the first edits, followed by my good friend Rob Keller who also designed the cover. After I trudged through their corrections, it was nearly Thanksgiving, and I handed the manuscript over to Sue Hyson for a more detailed edit. The final edit and formatting of the manuscript was done by our daughter-in-law’s brother, Winston Crutchfield who not only edited but also fixed my formatting mistakes and improved the older photos as much as possible. These people have selflessly given of their time for one reason – and that is to tell you the story of our many friends in long-term care. Though it is my hope that “Walking With Lambs” will prompt more people to take action in practical ways, I believe you can also just enjoy getting to know some of the wonderful stories of friends whom I have made over thirty-five years in nursing home ministry. Their stories have taught me more about life than everything I learned in college and Bible school combined! If you would like to check out the eBook version, the link is here –
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!
And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19 ESV
Last time we talked about how much people need for us to serve communion at their nursing home. This week we are going to look a little deeper into what exactly God has in His heart for nursing home ministry as a whole. When Jesus first gave us the sacrament of communion He summed it up with the phrase; “Do this in remembrance of me.” The act of communion which is blessed and holy; is still only an avenue by which we are remembering our connection with Jesus. What really matters is not the ritual; but the relationship which the ritual is meant to remind us of.
In that same way; it is important to not only serve communion; but to remember that everything we do in ministry is to bring people into relationship with Jesus Christ. The bread and the wine are regular reminders the of the cross; our forgiveness and salvation in Christ. As one part of the body of Christ our job is to also act as reminders of God’s grace. We should use whatever means; opportunities and talents that we have; including bringing in the communion meal; to build relationships that help people connect to Jesus Christ.
Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Colossians 3:2-4 NKJV
As we face the prospect of entering a New Year filled with opportunities; challenges and unseen difficulties; I am tempted to sit down, draw up plans and set some personal goals. The weakness of plunging into this line of thinking is that it offers a temporary sense of peace while leaving the most important thing of all to side; which is prayer.
Prayer is like the patience and hope that the runner feels as he or she waits to hear the starting gun. In prayer we set our mind, not on the ticking of the clock but on the plans and purposes of our God, who has designed the course for us to run. He holds in His hands Heaven’ s stop-watch, which will mark off the seconds of our laps and record our finishing time at the finish line. He will be the judge of what matters because He is He is our Life! So let us commit to listen to His voice and wait eagerly for Him.
So what does that mean for us in Nursing Home Ministry? Why not begin by remembering that everything we do, say or give begins with Him? We are go to Nursing Home, not just to make us feel better about ourselves, but to carry the message of the Hope of Jesus Christ. He cares about the people who push their walkers or wheel through the halls and He is simply sending us to be their neighbors. We each have different abilities, personalities and weaknesses that God wants to use. He has better plans for how to reach people than we do. He has new and more creative ideas than we could ever come up with on our own. What we need to do is to wait for Him and listen for His starting gun. It is almost time for the race to begin. He promises is that we will run with out becoming weary if we wait for Him. He assures us that He will show us the path ahead if we will look up to see the heart of Jesus Christ.