That’s what we used to call it back in the day – the old folks home. Never mind that my ‘back in the day’ only spans up to 31 years. One day it will tell of a 75 year period and you won’t be laughing anymore. So, the old folks home, aka nursing home, that’s what I’m writing about today. Now let me give you a premise. When I was young I used to go visit ladies in the nursing home. I had great times there, and I met wonderful people. But since then, being a nurse, I have been exposed to the uglier side of nursing homes and they are no longer places I’d like to frequent. Now, shall we continue?
Towards the end of last year, we had the opportunity to visit a nursing home with our family. We took a trip to visit Stephen’s family and while we were there we were honored to be able to share our vision with his sister’s church. His sister is the worship leader at their church….. which happens to be a ministry in a nursing home. Little surprised there. So as Stephen is preparing something to share, we’re thinking, “What the heck we gonna tell a group of elderlies?” Bless them, I love them, but normally sharing would entail vision and challenging the church to follow hard after His dream for their lives. So….. you see our dilemma. Well, Stephen prayed and he searched the Word and he prepared something great, and I can’t remember what it was now. But that’s not the main point of this story so it’s not gonna ruin it that you don’t know. So Sunday morning on the drive to church I told the kids what we were doing so they wouldn’t be surprised. When we got there everyone hopped out the car and I felt a need to explain to the kids how important this is because, well, my kids don’t always like to hug people they don’t know, especially the elderly (don’t judge them, you remember your childhood don’t you). So in my very serious and passionate voice I tell them to make sure that they hug all the people who want to huge them and show love because maybe some of these people don’t have family who love them or visit them. Well, maybe I got a little passionate sounding, because Myla gives me an awkward look and says, “Mom, are you gonna cry?” Straight stare, no, Myla, I’m not gonna cry, just hug everybody, will ya?
When we entered the building we met the pastor right away. We could tell what a heart he had for these people. The chapel was small, there were around sixty people there, which included residents and some family. Now my thoughts leading up to this moment were along the lines of, “Oh how sweet, we’re going to nursing home church, there’s gonna be a few people, maybe a couple of songs, and a little message. We gonna hug some necks, show some love, pretty insignificant.” Is that not what you would think of a church in a old folks home? Well- let me tell you! This church was not that! The moment we walked into that little chapel room we could feel something tangible. God’s presence was thick. We sat down and we met a few people around us. One couple behind us was so precious. The Bridges. They were probably in their late seventies or early eighties and all I can say is that I hope my marriage is like that when I’m that age. I could tell that it was the wife who was sick and in need of aid. And the husband was her watchman, he hovered over her, making sure she had everything she needed. Such love, such selflessness was displayed in their relationship, and that was the first time I started crying that day.
Shortly after that, worship started. We sang hymns and some old pentecostal tunes. I know what you’re thinking, but it was far from that. You already know that this isn’t gonna be what you think its gonna be. So just assume that the songs weren’t either. When I say this was the liveliest time of worship I had been a part of in a long time, I’m not lying. People were dancing, and shouting. They were excited about Jesus!!! Whoo! One woman, so precious, who was dancing and shouting surely had something to shout about. When the pastor first started ministering there she asked for prayer because she said there were evil spirits in her room and she was really depressed. Pastor went to her room, prayed for her and since then she’s been free from depression and evil spirits! Yes, she has something to shout about! Worship continued for a while, and all this time I’m crying. Really. Thinking about what God has done in these people’s lives, thinking about the couple behind me, thinking about how amazing this service is. I’m overwhelmed at this point. It came time for Stephen to share, the pastor introduced us as missionaries training for the field, so on and so forth, you know the deal. Stephen shared about, now I remember, believing God’s promises. I think it really blessed them. Then the pastor preached. He was an old time pentecostal preacher. If you know anything about that you know that there was sweat, and red faced shouting. And boy, he brought the word. So good. Keep in mind that at any given point I could be crying. It was that good. At the close of his message he had our family come up to the front and he anointed us with oil and prayed over us. Yes. Crying. So beautiful and amazing that time was. After the service he came to us and handed Stephen some money. They had taken up an offering during the service and he said the Lord told him to give it to us. It was $10 and let me tell you, that was the most precious $10 we have ever received! He invited to go back any time we were in the area and said that Stephen could preach. Blown away. And he looked at me and said, “you preach too, huh?” Me, deer in a headlight look. “Because the Holy Spirit told me that you preach too.” Well, yea, I like to preach, but maybe I’ve been hiding from that, thank you very much. We can talk about that another time though, since this is longer than I intended. Sorry… a little.
So we left that day, fully surprised by all that happened and all that God showed us. We went there to bless some people but were filled to overflowing instead. It was wholly amazing, wholly beautiful and wholly God. It’s a wonder that God keeps using things that seem so insignificant to teach me and change me. He continues to give me glimpses of His character. He is crushing ideas that I have had about him for a long time. He’s chiseling away at a hardness that I’ve had, and replacing it with tenderness. All I can say is, continue the work, Lord, because I’ve got a long ways to go.