Care for the Widow

This blog post comes after the 3rd week in a row of being kept from entering the local retirement home to perform our church-style service due to the COVID-19 quarantine, something I have been blessed to participate in for the past 5 years. The absence has begun to take a toll on my soul. I miss my elderly brothers and sisters who the Lord has enabled our team to minster to. So, this post is in honor of them, of the hope that someday soon we will be allowed back into minster, and with a prayer that it will inspire some of you to do similar ministry work at a retirement home near you.

The elderly are an oft-overlook sector of our society, and at the same time, one of the most vulnerable. In our culture, with our great medical technology and institutional care centers, we feel that we have succeeded in adequately caring for our elderly, but in my experience, this is often not the case. I am often surprised at the shortcomings of the geriatric care system; which is often a mire of medical confusion. Residents, who frequently suffer from cognitive impairments, have a variety of health care needs that are juggled between many different specialists, and there is a lack of high-level coordination that too-often results in their medical and physical needs not being met. To add to the problem, care facility staff positions are typically low-paid, and the work can be quite difficult. In a fallen world this is a recipe for hardship.

In light of these tangible issues, the spiritual needs geriatric residents are rarely considered, and even the church has fallen short of her duty to care for the elderly. Once an elderly brother or sister in Christ has been consigned to a care-facility they are often forgotten about. Many geriatric facility residents would love to attend a church-style service on Sunday, but do to a lack of mobility, they are unable to.

An on-site church-style service is often a great solution to these issues (please note I intentionally do not call it a church service, because it does fall short in many ways of the assembled congregation). On a typical Sunday morning we arrive at the geriatric home and spend a few minutes setting up, then go into the cafeteria and visit with the residents. Many of them are quite friendly and love to chat over breakfast. I also try to provide ample tactile love in the form of embraces, pats, or just sitting with the residents, because loving human contact is something the residents are lacking, and these gestures are well received.

After around one-half hour of visiting, our church-style service begins. We sing four worship songs and have a time of prayer, then preach a sermon and close with one more worship song. I either lead the worship or preach. The residents enjoy the singing more than anything else. Even some who have severely diminished cognitive capacity sing along to the old hymns as they have done for many decades. We have one dear lady who attends, that is completely blind, but she knows every word to the songs and never misses a beat.

I am usually amazed at how well the services go. In such a dark place, the light of Christ shines all the more brightly. Even though the residents like the singing most, they receive the sermons gratefully, often thanking me and letting me know how much they enjoyed the preaching of God’s word, but I usually walk away from the service feeling as I am the one that was truly blessed. To be able to be the conduit of Christ’s love and the feeding of His sheep has been very good for my own soul. Even more than that, my own preaching has benefited greatly from the years of steady ministry to my elderly brothers and sisters. I began preaching at the service three years ago, and I was a timid, awkward novice, but have been formed by the Spirit of Christ through this circumstance, into a charismatic, dynamic and insightful minster of the word. If there are any who share the ambition to be a minster of the word, I couldn’t overstate the benefit of preaching at a geriatric care facility.

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