As we shared in our blog “Bringing Holiday Cheer”, Christmas is a great time to get new people started in nursing home ministry. During the holidays, many residents are especially lonely. If you are a volunteer, particularly a care team leader, this is an opportunity to invite someone to visit with you to befriend a lonely resident.
As the story below illustrates, your invitation can change a life – or two!
The Christmas Visitor[blockquote size=”full” align=”left” byline=”Linda Mencke”]
During the Christmas season, I was invited to visit a nursing home. A care team leader gave me the names of two nursing home residents to visit. The week before Christmas, I went into the nursing home and asked a nurse if one or both of them would appreciate a visitor. She suggested that I visit Eleanor, because the other resident was not alert enough for visitors.
I knocked on the door, introduced myself to Eleanor, and asked if I could spend a few minutes visiting with her. I told her that for the holidays some people from my church were visiting a few residents. We chatted for a while, and then I asked if I could come back on Christmas Day with my husband and our dog. Eleanor was very surprised and pleased that I would really visit her on Christmas Day. As promised, my husband and I, and our dog came to see her on Christmas Day, and brought her a plant as a gift. When we said good-by, Eleanor said, “I guess I won’t see you again since Christmas is over.”
I smiled and said, “Oh, no, I’ll be back.” And I continued to visit every couple of weeks, sometimes bringing a little gift or some cookies, and just loved on her for the next few months. As we got to know each other, we found we had a lot in common. Like me, Eleanor had no children, she had worked her whole life, and all her family were gone. I just fell in love with her.
At Eastertime, I brought a little cross to hang on her wall, and she asked what church I went to. I told her, shared my faith with her and told her about Jesus. She said, “This Jesus must be special to you.” Then she told me some ministers had been coming to visit her and they talked about how Jesus is Lord. She said, “I don’t know what that means.” So I shared the good news with her, and she said, “That’s what I want.” And she accepted Christ.
When I next visited her, I said, “What you did last time was really important. Do you have any questions?” She said, “No, I’m just really happy, really peaceful.” As I got into my car to leave after our visit, I was so happy I thought I could have flown home!
The backstory is that my husband and I previously had a nursing home ministry for 9 years. We had several residents attending our Bible studies, but one by one they died, then my mom died, and I was so deeply grieving that for a while I just couldn’t visit nursing homes.
But God’s timing is so perfect. I truly love Eleanor. It’s a privilege to know her. I tell her, “You are my special friend.” And out of all the residents whose names I might have been given, she is the perfect person for me.[/blockquote]
Note: Linda began her visits to Eleanor in 2013. Last Sunday, she told me that she still visits Eleanor often and both of them are still very, very blessed by their friendship.
If you can’t do a Christmas visit, any holiday can be a great time to begin a friendship with a resident. Here are some ideas for upcoming holidays:
Valentine’s Day – tell your friend that they are always in God’s heart. A beautiful card about love would be a good gift.
Easter – remind them that the life and death of Jesus shows us how much God loves us. Your gift might be a small cross for them to hold or to hang on their wall.
Independence Day – celebrate freedom and all the things they did in their lives because they lived in a free country. Bring a small flag for them to wave or some red, white and blue balloons.
Thanksgiving – tell your friend that you are grateful for what they have done in their lives – and for your new friendship with them. A very small colorful autumn decoration makes a good gift.
Of course, a lonely care home resident will welcome a kind visitor anytime of the year! You don’t need to wait for a holiday! May God bless you for your love and concern for your neighbors in care homes.
Important note: In preparation for this blessing, you will need to work with your Activity Director, seeking names of those who might not receive a holiday visit and for some possible gift ideas. You will also do well to keep in close contact with the new visitors to answer questions and encourage participation on your care team.
If you are new to the care home mission field, please first refer to this page