The change in name of this web-site does not mean we are going to stop sharing about nursing home ministry but rather that there will now be included different types of similar outreach to. Right now the entire traditional nursing home as an institution is undergoing change at an amazing pace. Each year new places are opening offering specialized facilities such as assisted living; memory care along with skilled nursing. While some assisted living communities are beginning to resemble 5 star resorts while others are far more plain and cater to those with mental and physical disabilities.
What these changes mean for those of us who are volunteering is that we need to adapt and prepare for the new and more complex world of long term care. Someone once told me that during times of change it is important to know that what is happening is not what is going on. What we need to do is to see what is really going on!
Decades ago the emergence of large skilled nursing institutions at first created barriers between the church and the people behind those walls which often left residents feeling isolated and alone. But when we changed our approach to reaching our neighbors behind inside those places we discovered that inside those facilities were new and unique opportunities to serve.
New Beginnings is an effort to shed light on the latest developments in long term care along with ways to continue sharing the love of God in those new settings. Today I’ll simply begin with the term “Nursing home ministry” and offer a suggestion that we instead begin to call our various outreaches “Care ministry”.
If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. John 13:14 ESV
Our work is “Care Ministry” because no matter where we serve or what title we hold our purpose as God’s servants is to show His love (care) by washing feet. Foot washing means meeting ordinary needs for the extraordinary reason of the love of Jesus Christ. When we meet the needs of others it won’t really matter where we meet them. Whether that location looks like a resort or a last resort; the people who live there need to know that God still remembers and cares about them. He is just as concerned with the rich as the poor. God is equally burdened for the intelligent as for the mentally challenged. Not a single sparrow escapes his attention. When we show we care in a thousand different ways we are in fact serving in “Care Ministry”.
If you have stories of your own as a volunteer in any area of care ministry I invite you over the next weeks and months to share your own stories here. If we would connect with one another; together we can all learn how to better wash the feet of people in our own city, town or village.
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?
In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35
This week the head of the volunteer network at our facility said that everything she learned about life she learned from her brother who had been born with Down’s Syndrome. We usually think of people like her brother as the care receivers and we the givers. But in God’s economy we find that often people like her brother are the greatest givers. I also have discovered as a chaplain at a long term care that I have become a member of a community. This community is not based on racial or economic characteristics but on our shared experiences. Our days are not only measured by hours nor is our calendar neatly divided into seasons. One phone call, a doctor’s diagnoses or a night of pain can change what we are facing today. I wrote Reflections of Hope to be a healing balm to help strengthen our faith as we together struggle to love and serve. Our souls sometimes limp through the valley of death but our greatest hope is that He walks with us!
If you are either a care giver or receiver you may find this small book to be a help. The softcover is available now and the E-book releases on the 7th. I have it set up for free lending and for those who purchase the soft cover the E-book will be free. Thank you for following this blog. I will continue to share the highs and lows with you of our community and it is my prayer that together we could learn when to give and when to receive. We know that what ever end of the equation we are on today, everything we have comes from the Lord Jesus!
Reflections of Hope