Christian Ministry to the Elderly: Usefulness of Activities
In the classic movie, It's A Wonderful Life, George Bailey leans on a railing over the river contemplating suicide when he hears a splash and a cry for help. George, forgetting his own troubles, jumps in the river to save what he thinks is a drowning man.
In real life, especially in the twenty-first century, there are so many things besides death from which one might save another person. One for which there seems to be few answers is what to do with the elderly among us who are languishing away in nursing homes. In fact, what do we do with elderly Christians who are languishing away in the church? So many of these once productive elderly Christians are citizens who lived their lives as parents, teachers, nurses, doctors, production and office workers, are a reservoir of wisdom.
The American Century Dictionary defines wisdom as: experience and knowledge together with the power of applying them. Our elderly Christians have the experience and knowledge--we can give them the power to apply these assets via Christian ministry to the elderly.
The Wisdom of a Mother
When I was younger, I attended a church service one evening in which our most senior member, Mother Gayle Resbie, was called on to speak. As soon as the announcement was made I began to squirm and look around to see how others were taking the news. Boring, is all I could think.
Well, to my surprise, Mother Resbie jumped right in with the story of a farmer and his horse. The horse fell into a hole and there was no one around to help the farmer get him out. Being a person who cares about animals, she now had my attention. I'm sure in my mind I was thinking the same as the others around me. How was the farmer, all by himself, going to get the horse out?
Mother Resbie told how the farmer began to carry bale after bale of hay to the hole where he untied them and dropped the straw into the hole. That ole' horse, realizing what the farmer was doing, began to prance around grounding the straw into the ground. That straw rose higher and higher until it was level with the ground and the horse walked out.
Fortunately, Mother Resbie was in good health so she snorted and pranced around while telling the story. She then mimicked the farmer speaking encouragement to the horse. "It's alright boy, you're comin' out of that hole. Don't give up. Just keep on dancin'." I found myself cheering for the horse.
The story was one that as a child I enjoyed hearing. It held no real significance for me at that time. As I grew older, and learned that life had holes that people fall into and rivers that people jump into, I came to realize why "It's A Wonderful Life" became a classic. Clarence, an angel disguised as a drowning man for whom suicidal George jumped into the water, explained to his rescuer that he was the one who was saved. It doesn't really make sense, yet it does. Clarence knew the heart of George. Except for the problem he was facing which seemed, at least to George, that there was no answer, George was a kind and generous man. It would have been a pity for him to end it all that day leaving behind so many people who would benefit from all that he had to offer.
It is a pity that people sit in nursing homes and even in their own homes full of stories of encouragement and of overcoming problems in life with whom they have no one to share. However, this can change if believers do not forget the need for Christian ministry to the elderly.
Few of us will have the opportunity to save a drowning or suicidal person or even a trapped horse. But these situations call for solutions for which many times there seems there aren't any. We now know that's not true. There are no problems for which there are no answers. When and if we don't find the answers, it may be that we've not been looking in the right places. Perhaps one of these places is in Christian ministry to the elderly--a ministry that also reaches back to the young.
That reservoir of wisdom mentioned earlier in our elderly Christians is one of those untapped places. Who, more than the young need to tap into that supply? The question might be, how do we bring the immature and the mature together? The answer is found in Council of Elders
, a new and proven effective series of activities for Christian ministry to the elderly.
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