Proverbs 16: 31 “ The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, If it is found in the way of righteousness.”
Now that I’m in that elderly stage of life, relating to those in the golden years is happening most every day. Trying to see or understand another’s point of view is usually not easy, but to place one’s self in the “old person” category is mostly unimaginable.
I had an aunt at age ninety that said, “I’m not going to a rest home with all those old people!” We never see ourselves as old. Old age is someone fifteen years older than we are.
Several years ago, Willard Scott had a picture of a 119 year old lady on the Today Show. Margie asked the question, “Who would want to live to be 119 years old?” My first thought was, someone that’s 118. From early in life, we’ve realized the reality of death, but no matter our age, it’s a place none of us want to visit.
For several years, we discussed the possibility of providing a rest home service. We knew there was a need but there were not enough hours to accomplish all the challenges God placed before us. One objective we had as missionaries was to include volunteers. We found many wanted to do the Lord’s work but churches did not provide the opportunities they were seeking.
We contacted a local rest home and asked, “Do you have a Sunday afternoon service time available?
We would like to provide a once-a-month Christian service for the residents.” At that time, three Sundays were open. Several months later we realized church groups were missing a tremendous blessing by not filling those needs.
“Choose one,” we were told. That month we began. Of all the places we provided services (homeless missions, prisons/jails and motorcycle rallies) no one gave us a greater blessing than those folks at the rest home.
When we finally committed to a service and mentioned it to a few friends in church, we found many instantly volunteered to go with us and help. We soon had a few song leaders and at least four piano players. All the helpers arrived early to talk to the residents and help set up the room and distribute song books.
After the residents got to know us, the service did not have to be announced on the second Sunday at two p.m. They knew we were coming and many of them were in the activity room waiting for us. It did not take long for us to fall in love with those wonderful people.
Their smiles and cheerful greetings always set the stage for the service. The experiences will last the duration of our lives and will always be greatly treasured. We became so “attached” to our “congregation,” that when we heard of their ailments or other misfortunes it was like a member of our family had been hurt. Our hospital visits increased considerably in those years.
We laughed with them, we cried with them and we prayed with them. They became our family and the love we experienced was more than with any church or social group.
One Sunday we arrived early for the 2 p.m. service. Only two residents were in the assembly room and we thought, “It’s a little early yet.” Two o’clock came around and still no congregation. Margie started walking the halls to tell them of the service.
She soon realized our church service was no competition for the University of Kentucky basketball game on TV. The Wildcats won out over God, us and the music! To add to the drama, she found many of them sitting on the edge of their wheelchairs, fists doubled, cheering on the “Cats.”
One of my favorite memories of the residents was during a sermon describing Heaven. One lady sitting in front of the group started bouncing up and down in her wheelchair. If you’ve never seen one dance in a wheelchair, it is a sight and a blessing to behold. She was thinking about Heaven. Tears came in her eyes and I think she knew she would soon be having that ultimate of experiences.
On another cold, winter Sunday in January, snow was falling. Our church services had been dismissed because of the winter storm. We only lived about fifteen miles from the rest home and that had never been a problem.
Eight inches of snow had already fallen; it was still coming down and there was no end in sight. I was one of those four-wheel-drive truck people, so a little snow was no problem.
I’ve never seen such looks of amazement and surprise as when we walked in. The shock throughout the rest home was wide spread, including the employees. If one had wanted to go skiing or duck hunting, a little snow would not have stopped them, so why would we be deterred from going to the rest home?
I well remember a lady from a local church group calling Margie to ask if she had any ideas for a mission project the group could start. A missionary friend said, “That’s like saying sic-um to a Rottweiler.” We have and will always recommend rest home ministries. The residents need attention at times besides holidays.
A church service, a Bible study or simply going to rooms and providing prayer time on an individual basis produces blessings for all involved. We’ve asked people in many places, “Can I pray for you?” We have never been told, “No, you can’t.” Rest homes are store houses for blessings one cannot begin to imagine.
The rewards and blessings from those years at the rest home will linger in our minds our entire lives. So many times we have engaged in mission projects thinking we would be a help or blessing to someone, it then turned out to be a blessing to us. Precious memories, how they linger.