Help Me If You Can!

That famous line from the Beatles’ song Help, is pretty good advice to follow for anyone involved in Long Term Care. Whether you are a paid staff member, family member or volunteer, the needs (and sometimes demands) of the people far outweigh our ability to meet them. The Bible puts it this way –

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV

God helped me to learn this while struggling to find ways to serve communion at the nursing home. With 20-25 residents coming to our services, I decided that we needed people from our church to pass out the elements. The only problem was that everyone was working during the week when we had the meetings, except for one retired couple who came only once. Every week, the director of the recreation department told me that the aides would be happy to pass around the cups and communion crackers, but I kept turning them down, waiting for someone from our church to help. I was like the guy in the funny story about the flood, who prayed for God to rescue him. When a 4-wheel drive vehicle pulled up to his porch he turned them away, saying that God would come to his rescue. As the waters rose, a speed boat stopped at his second-floor window with the same offer but again he turned them away. Finally, up on the roof-top a helicopter hovered overhead and lowered a sling, but he waved it away. At the end the man drowned and as he entered through the heavenly gates, he stopped and asked God, “I’m so happy to be here but why didn’t you come to my recue?”

At this the Lord smiled and gently said, “My child, I sent a 4-wheel drive, a speed boat and a helicopter. What more should I have done?”

I am sure you have probably heard that story many times and yet when we are faced with asking for real genuine practical help, in long term care situations, we often hate to ask for help just like that man did. It took me a year to accept the help the staff offered. I was so amazed to discover that when I did, not only did my load get lighter, but that the residents were delighted! Of course, I don’t know what situation you are facing, but whatever it is, we need to remember that God’s answer might just be a little different than our expectations. He loves to bundle the help that we need up in the most unusual packages. God’s help for me included young health aides smiling as they passed out communion. What does the package He is holding out to you look like today?

Beyond the Communion Table

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.

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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.

 

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Serving Communion at Nursing Home

For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.   1 Corinthians 11:26 NIV

Welcome to New Beginnings in 2020. This year we will begin by revisiting the subject of serving communion at long term care facilities.  Parts of today’s post were published last year but I wanted to begin again on that subject for those who are just now starting to get involved in nursing home outreach. Most of us on the outside have the choice of receiving communion whenever we want. But for a nursing home resident the opportunity is limited to someone being willing to bring it in. So why is it any less vital to serve communion at a nursing home than it is at church?

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My personal acquaintance with nursing home ministry goes back thirty years and spans five different facilities where I have served. My first attempt at bringing in the communion ended in near disaster when the cork from the bottle of naturally carbonated grape juice popped off and whizzed across the room! Back then I had a team member from our church who helped me pass out the elements to the 6 or 8 people gathered in our small meeting. But over the years our attendance grew but my fellow volunteer had scheduling issues that left me to serve alone. At first I begged an occasional helper from church to come help; but sadly for a long time I simply gave up on the practice.

“I just wish I had someone to help me pass out communion.” I complained one day to Erin the activities director at Allied Services. “Why can’t we help you pass out the cups and the bread, Pastor Pete?”  Erin asked with surprise.

“Oh no it’s okay. I’ll find somebody.” I said. But what I really wanted was for people from my own church to serve communion. A couple of months passed after Erin’s first offer till I went back to her office. “Would your people really be willing to help me pass out the communion today?” I asked humbly.

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“No problem Pastor Pete!” she said smiling. Why was it such a big issue for me to ask for such a small favor? Maybe it was just a matter of pride, or just a general lack of awareness of the needs of our group.  By that time the meeting had grown to over twenty people. What a blessing it was to have workers who knew them by name and could know if they had physical issues which could prevent them from safely receiving the bread or the cup. From then, on at least once a month, any resident who wished to receive communion was given the opportunity.

So if you are involved in nursing home ministry and would like to begin bringing in the Lord’s Supper next week we’ll look at a few practical steps that can help you get started.