I had recently become a pastor in a new town and wanted to meet some church members living in the local nursing home. I walked through the doors and immediately heard the TV in the lobby blaring loudly. Some residents slept on the couch while others rested comfortably in their wheelchairs watching “Wheel of Fortune.” Nurses walked about frantically checking on the residents and administering their medicines. The sights and smells brought back memories of visiting my grandmother at a similar facility as a child.
I found the room I was looking for and gently knocked. A sweet lady answered and I introduced myself. She was a bright woman who had experienced much and we conversed for a while. The conversation was going well when suddenly, completely out of the blue, she stopped and said, “I don’t have any money.” Confused, I nervously said “OK” and joked “neither do I.” She laughed and we quickly resumed our conversation where we had left off before the intermission.
Later, I looked back on her comment and wondered about its meaning. The only explanation I could come up with broke my heart. It seemed she was letting me know that if I was there to “get to know her” simply to receive money or be added to her will, then I was going to be disappointed. Whether or not that’s what she meant I’ll never know, but many people in her situation deal with that reality often. I would get the opportunity to visit with her regularly for a few years before she passed. I miss our conversations.
Remember Those In the Nursing Home
We live in a culture that places high value on the practical and efficient. While those are certainly valuable assets, they must have their proper place. Thinking in those terms when it comes to relationships can be dangerous if it keeps us from investing in relationships that don’t provide any practical return. We begin thinking of people in terms of what they can provide for us, rather than seeing every person made in God’s image as important and deserving love and care.
God loves those in the nursing home and we should too. We pray for them, care for them, and spend time visiting them as a display and an extension of God’s love. They may never have any money to give, they may never lead a ministry, and they may never attend your church’s service, but we continue to minister to them regardless. Life is a gift from God, whether it’s a person in the womb of their mother or someone in a nursing home facility, and we treat every life with dignity and respect.
I have been blessed over the years by visits and conversations I’ve had in nursing homes. I’ve met wonderful people who have gone through unimaginable hardship and inexplainable joy. Many have shared stories of God’s faithfulness over the years and testify to his unblemished record of kindness. I often marvel as I hear such proclamations and it stirs my desire to faithfully proclaim God’s greatness for as many days as he gives me.
If you are looking for a place to serve God and minister to others, there’s a good chance you have a local nursing home that’s filled with men and women made in God’s image. Many of these people have outlived their friends and some have few family members. Some are unbelievers who need to hear the gospel, others are believers who could use some encouragement. No matter their situation, most of them would appreciate a visit and a conversation from someone with no ulterior motives. Go and talk with them and allow them to share their story with you. We don’t do it for anything in return, but I suspect as you do you will be blessed and encouraged!