Friday, April 25, 2014

Keeping Me On My Toes

...For God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things that are strong....
I Corinthians 1:27

This past Saturday was the day before Easter.  My husband was on Worship Team for the Saturday evening service, and it was not a terribly convenient time for a trip south of Tacoma.  But on Saturday nights I go and sit with Pastor Brown (see previous posts) during his dialysis treatment.  I got ready to go, and as I was walking out the door, I felt prompted to take him communion.

That's silly,  I said to myself. He'll be going to church tomorrow.  But I couldn't argue my way out of it, so I went back for the Communion cups. We had just done communion at the Community Care Center (CCC) and so I had a few hermetically sealed communion cups left. I tossed a couple in my basket and off I went.

Pastor Brown hasn't been to church in a year or so.  First he had some health problems and couldn't get his shoes on.  Then, once that cleared up, he was waiting for his dentures to arrive (which took about 15 months).  But now he has both shoes and teeth, and he'd said he was ready to go to church on Easter.  I expected him to be excited and smiling, but he wasn't.  He looked up at me from under his blanket, greeted me morosely, and made some halfhearted small talk.

I asked him what was wrong, and he said nothing, but I persisted and finally he gave in.
"I ain't goin' to no church tomorrow," he told me with a lugubrious sigh.
"What?  Why not?  You have your teeth...and you got your shoes on...."
"Yeah, but...." his lips worked and he swallowed a couple times.  "This week I fell down and broke my collarbone.  It hurts to sit up in my chair for very long.  So I can't go."
I commiserated with him for a while, but he fell silent, staring out at the rain.
"Pastor Brown, before I left tonight, I thought God was telling me to bring you communion.  So I brought it with me.  Would you like to take communion together, to celebrate Easter?"

His eyes flickered up and he admitted, "Yes, I surely would. I can't tell you when was the last time I took communion. Give me a minute to get ready."

So I went to the nurses to check and see whether it was OK to give him communion, and they were completely intrigued and asked me all kinds of questions about it.

When he was prepared, I opened up my/his Bible and read several verses, ending with I Corinthians 11:23-26.  At the appropriate places, I said, "This is His body, broken for you, Nathaniel," and handed him the wafer. And "This is his blood, spilt for you, Nathaniel," and gave him the cup.

And all the nurses watched "unobtrusively" from across the aisle.

When he was finished with the cup, we prayed for quite some time, and his prayers got stronger and more cheerful, until he ended, in his usual fashion, "Amen and Amen...In Jesus' name: thank the Lord."

Afterward, there were tears in his eyes as he said, "Thank you so much for doing that with me.  You have no idea how much I've needed that refreshment. "
And behind him, the head nurse shook her head and said, just a little too loudly, "First time I ever seen that - communion at a kidney center."
And Pastor Brown glared at her  "For as often as we eat of this bread and drink of this cup, we proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.  Anyplace and anytime. And that's a fact."
I guess he told her.
There's always something new to keep me on my toes.  I didn't know that Pastor Brown would be unable to go to church on Easter, but God knew, and He hadn't forgotten him. 
"I will never leave you nor forsake you."
Matthew 28:20
Amen and Amen. In Jesus' name: Thank the Lord.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Magnify the Lord

Right now, at this moment, two million US adults are living in nursing homes. Another 900,000 reside in smaller adult care homes, and untold thousands live in Assisted Living communities or are being cared for by family. And they’re just the tip of the iceberg.  Every day, another 10,000 people in the US turn 65.

The numbers are impressive, but when you try to calculate the cost of long-term care for all those folks, it becomes staggering. The US Government spends over 75 billion dollars a year on long term health care; paying for almost 60% of all expenses. Data shows that health care costs are generally higher at the end of life; a disproportionately large percentage of all Medicare expenditures are incurred during the year prior to death.

As the world seeks cost effective alternatives to reduce end-of-life care expenses, the church must realize that euthanasia is on their list. And yet, more than 90% of US churches have no recognized (budgeted) outreach ministry to residents of nursing homes and long-term-care facilities.

But Christ’s Church Cares!

Our C.A.R.E. Ministry has received funding from the elders as a recognized ministry of the church, providing Christ-centered, Scripture-based worship services and weekly Bible Studies, as well as one-on-one visits.

It’s easy to see the necessity of the corporate gatherings to residents who may have attended church weekly throughout their lives. But why are the one-on-one visits so vitally important?

Although we tend to see a large number of long-term residents in our services, the stunning fact is that, of those two million people living in a nursing home, two-thirds will die this year.

And of the ones who are left,
33% are suffering from some form of depression.
This is not hard to understand. Residents are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, businessmen, teachers, realtors, pastors. People who once ran families, businesses, churches, and military units. They’ve lost health, mobility, and independence, and must rely on staff to meet their most basic needs. But even more than that, they feel they’ve been abandoned.

80% have fewer than one visitor per week

35% will not see a loved one after their second week.
When your family and friends and everyone you’ve loved and served all your life fades away, it is very easy to conclude that God has abandoned you as well.

Do you see how important this ministry is? 
Can you imagine what a powerful encouragement it is that someone knows their name? That someone touches them when it’s not their job to do it? This is the power of the one-on-one visits, that say “I came to see you because you’re important to God, and important to me!”

Psalm 34 says “Magnify the Lord with me.”  Magnifying something makes it easier to see; that is what we do with every smile, every touch, every word of Scripture. We make God easier for them to see.  Because we, who are strangers, love them, suddenly it’s not so hard to believe that God might still love them too. So come, and “Magnify the Lord with me!”