Ministering to Families

Often when some think of nursing home ministry they imagine a few old ladies who play bingo and go to listen to a couple of hymns once a week as their religious activity. But we are not called just to cheer people up and go home. God’s call involves touching entire families at a time in their lives they are most open to the message of Jesus Christ. The numbers of people living in assisted living, long-term care and half way houses is dwarfed by the number of friends and family members who are dramatically impacted by the needs of one.

A great example from the Bible was how God called the apostle Peter to bring God’s message to people who he never considered even socializing with. Peter just thought he was going to have a meal with his own friends, but God had other plans! God sent a vision and he also sent an invitation that Peter could no longer refuse. When Peter obeyed God’s direction he traveled to another city and the next day he didn’t meet just one person; he met a crowd!

And the following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends.  Acts 10:24

 

Peter probably did a double take when he saw all the people gathered. Then Peter simply shared the plain message of hope, salvation and eternal life. There was no music, no program, no funds dispersed. He just gave it to them straight in love and opened the door for God to begin something miraculous!

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.  Acts 10:44

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Because we have meetings in two different facilities we have had the opportunity to minister to one entire family. At the end of a meeting recently I was passed a note by the youngest daughter, “Pastor Pete could you please pray for my Mom and brother. Mom is stable but in congestive heart failure.” Her brother suffered a stroke/ Her Mom is able to breathe only by means of a Trach. But through God’s appointment all three come to church, hear the word and sing the songs with us. It all began with just a single invitation to meet a single person but God has called together entire families who are ready and waiting for us to tell them the good news that jesus remembers their address and that He has a better address waiting for them in heaven!

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Holding on to Memories at Christmas

Ever since my father died five days before Christmas in 2011, the holiday season has been bittersweet for me. He also spent Thanksgiving of that year in the hospital, so both holidays are associated with sickness and death. But each year, there are stories that reinforce the wonder of the holiday season and lift my […]

via Never too old to love Santa — The Memories Project

The Battle for Christmas

As we begin to prepare for the Christmas

kimg1068program at Allied Skilled Nursing I am reminded that we are in a battle. At a recent holiday banquet to which many of us volunteers were invited we listened to a local choir sing almost 20 songs without a single mention of Jesus Christ.

While I am not militantly opposed to singing Jingle bells or White Christmas I see that we are in a struggle to keep the focus of the Christ of Bethlehem. People will have more than enough opportunity to hear about snowmen, the Grinch and Santa from everyone else. We have this one time of the year to point to the light of the world, who was born in Bethlehem.

p1030103We are given the greatest privilege to honor Jesus in telling again the story of His birth. So yes organizing a program is never easy. Chasing people around and competing for their time at the holidays is a challenge. But all our efforts are worth it because we have the privilege one more time to present the story of God”s great love for the world. We have one more chance to get in the battle for Christmas and to celebrate the Savior of the world.

Matthew 2:2 …“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

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Families Missing in Action – Part One

While lack of two parent family has often been pointed out in relation to incarceration in prisons, not much has been looked into for people who find themselves in the institution called the nursing home. Of course not everyone in nursing care is there because they are abandoned by their family but lack of close family is a growing reason why people have no where else to go.

Today’s situation in skilled nursing care is rapidly changing. As my own baby boom generation begins to fill the institutions what is coming next? When I was growing up there was no one else but me in my neighborhood who had divorced and remarried parents. But everything has changed so much that today, less than half of today’s children grow up in two parent families. Thinking ahead to the other end of life we may find that the abandonment, loneliness and isolation people face as children may turn into the stark reality of institutional care later in life. More people will be forced into nursing homes simply because families are missing in action.

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I have served as a volunteer chaplain in a nursing home for over 20 years. The stories  I have heard are these:  “If I just had someone to help me go shopping and to the doctor I could go home.” another said. “My daughter is angry with me and so we never talk anymore!” While at the facility where I serve there is one woman who has come to visit her mother every day for the last seven years, more than half the other people never receive a visit from anyone.

But rather than discouragement, I have tremendous hope for the future. In the Bible we see the story of Joseph who was rejected by his brothers, sold into slavery and forgotten. Joseph reminds me a lot of some people placed in nursing homes. But just as God turned the tables on anger, bitterness and rejection in Joseph’s life, He can continue to do the same today. Joseph himself put the whole situation in perspective in a single sentence:

 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive Genesis 50:20

God meant the situation of Joseph’s betrayal for good, and he used Joseph to make it a reality and to bring healing to his family. The same things that worked for Joseph can work for us today.

Though Joseph couldn’t change his outward situation he could choose to do his best wherever he was. When he was a slave, he learned to listen to his master. Later when Joseph was in prison he learned to listen to the warden. Finally, when Joseph was released from prson he learned to listen to Pharoh. Maybe that is why when his brothers returned and they were terrified that he would kill them, Joseph listened and chose to act in a forgiving and restoring way.  In terms of our being volunteers in the nursing home, the greatest gift we may give someone today is to listen to what they have to say.

In his poem “The Death of the Hired Man” Robert Frost wrote,:

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in” 

Home is where people listen to us. They hear our complaints as well as our happy times. They know the tone of our voice and they understand often without a word just what is going on in our hearts. For our nursing home residents why not allow them to make us members of their family by learning to listen to what they have to say?  We may not be able to undo the brokeness of missing in action families, but we can be an agent of healing. When we open our ears to listen, God can use us as He used Joseph to begin a process of restoration.

 

 

 

 

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