If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again

On Mother’s Day Sunday, Grandma W sang this song for us during the service and we were all blessed by it. After she began singing, others started singing along with her. Here are the words:

How sweet and happy seem those days of which I dream,
When memory recalls them now and then!
And with what rapture sweet my weary heart would beat,
If I could hear my mother pray again.

Refrain:
If I could hear my mother pray again,
If I could hear her tender voice as then!
So glad I’d be, ’twould mean so much to me,
If I could hear my mother pray again.

She used to pray that I on Jesus would rely,
And always walk the shining gospel way;
So trusting still His love, I seek that home above,
Where I shall meet my mother some glad day.

Within the old home-place her patient, smiling face
Was always spreading comfort, hope and cheer;
And when she used to sing to her eternal King,
It was the songs the angels loved to hear.

Her work on earth is done, the life-crown has been won,
And she will be at rest with Him above;
And some glad morning she, I know, will welcome me
To that eternal home of peace and love.

http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/If_I_Could_Hear_My_Mother_Pray_Again/

The Privilege of Encouraging the Faithful

Recently at a nursing home worship service, I was standing at a doorway when we were singing hymns. As I was singing, I noticed an elderly man who was sitting just a few feet from me. From my view, I could see a streak of tear on one side of his face. I had never met him before. After the service, I spoke with a woman who was sitting next to him. She turned out to be his granddaughter. She said her grandfather, now in his 90’s, had been in ministry in the east bay area for over 70 years. He had been staying in the nursing home for awhile, but didn’t know about the worship service. She said he began to cry when he heard the hymns because they are so familiar and meaningful to him. Since she couldn’t visit him every Sunday, she wanted to make an arrangement with the nursing home staff to make sure he could attend the service every Sunday. I was thankful that we could provide such a time for someone who had served God for most of his life

Freedom from Regrets

I went to go visit Ms. J for Bible reading on Thursday. We got on the topic of church and she said she hadn’t been to church since her mother died in 1940-something. I asked her why and she said that she didn’t want to. Then I asked her if she had ever confessed that she was a sinner and asked Jesus to save her from her sins. She said no. I told her that the Bible says that all of us are sinners and I asked her if I could read it for her. She said yes, so I read part of Romans 3 to her.

Then she changed the topic and talked about her nurse since she had been having trouble with her nurse and asked something like, “Why God would allow someone to be so mean?” I then ended the night praying for her and asking her to think about what we talked about, which she said she would.

Then on Sunday after service I was talking to another resident when Ms. J called out my name. I told her I would be there in a second and after I finished with the first resident. I went over to her and she said that she had been thinking about what we had been talking about. I was really surprised because Ms. J isn’t very coherent and I thought that I would have to somehow bring up this topic again. She then started to talk. She had regrets about how she treated her brother in the past. Recently she found out that he was sick. She also told me that she never should have stopped going to church, but after her mom died she didn’t know what to do. She also told me that she had regrets about her father. The whole time she was crying. Then I asked her if she wanted to ask Jesus for forgiveness, and she said yes and kept saying, “Please forgive me.” Then I asked her if she wanted to repeat a prayer after me to which she said yes. I prayed a basic prayer in which she confessed that she was a sinner and asked for forgiveness, and made Jesus Lord and savior over her life.

After we prayed I asked her, “Ms. J, do you know what’s happening in heaven right now?” And she asked what and I told her “The angels are celebrating.” I asked her how she felt, and she said she felt good. And I could tell that she was relieved. I feel so privileged to be able to lead Ms. J in the prayer and be with her during this time.

A New Beginning

Grandma H, who has been a regular attendee since the beginning of our weekly visits, is someone who greatly appreciates our presence and the weekly Sunday worship service. She has been reading the bible and has been growing in her desire to know more.

On New Year’s Day Sunday, the sermon was on Isaiah 43:18-19 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing! …”  In starting a new year, I talked about how we can look back at 2010 and might be filled with a lot of regrets, hurts, sadness, etc. but that because of Christ we can actually take these words in the Bible to heart.

Whenever I mention confession, admitting that we are sinners and needing to make a clear decision to accept Christ, she would ALWAYS turn her head and look out of the window instead of looking at me. But on this Sunday, as I talked about how we can have a relationship with God but how we need to admit our brokenness, I was surprised to see her still listening and watching me very closely.

Using an illustration that I remembered from when I was in the youth group, I described our lives as a big blank piece of paper that God gives us. And as we live our lives, and as we draw out how we live, it’s nice, within the lines, pretty, but then when we sin, it’s like spilling paint on it, smearing and smudging our drawing.  So we try to erase it, we try to make up for it, make it better.  But what often happens is that we end up making it even worse by trying to use that eraser to take away the ugliness, and we end up tearing the paper! So we again try to patch it up by taping it, but the wrinkles and tears are still there even though we try to fix things, we try to “fix” our lives.  She laughed, raised her hand and nodded in agreement pointing to herself.

After the service, she told Elaine that she wanted to accept Christ.  Elaine went through all the basic elements of the gospel and as she is not a person of very many words, she nodded her head and agreed that she is a sinner, wanted to ask for forgiveness and accept Christ as her Lord and Savior.  I am so thankful for Grandma H’s decision.

More Encouraging News from our Elderly Care Ministry!

[Recently] at one of the nursing homes we visit, one grandmother made a decision to accept Christ after the message. She suffered from a stroke so can’t really speak, but when Vicky asked her if she wanted to make any commitments from today’s message, she pointed repeatedly to the box on the commitment card “I would like to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.” Vicky asked her if she knew that she was sinner, and that she needed God’s forgiveness, and if she wanted to make Jesus Lord and Savior of her life, and after each question the grandmother would nod her head in agreement. I’m really thankful that even though this grandmother couldn’t verbally communicate, she was still alert and conscious enough to make a decision with the use of the commitment card.

Besides the one salvation decision, we had 3 people who wanted to rededicate their lives to Christ. And we also have 8 new people (6 grandmas, 2 grandpas) who are interested in reading the bible together! I think now with these new people, the total number of people we will be doing bible reading with at this nursing home is 23 people. One of them just arrived a month ago and was for the first time attending our service. As I was talking with her, she mentioned that she had attended church a long time ago when she was a child, but now she wants to learn more about Jesus and wants someone to read the bible with her. We met another grandma who expressed interest in reading the bible together while some of us did room visits while the main service was going on.  Praise the Lord for all that He is doing through our Elderly Care Ministry!

Holy Spirit Moving in a Heart

A few weeks ago, our group that regularly visits a nursing home was not able to hold our regularly scheduled service time due to the Thanksgiving Retreat schedule. Instead of canceling our visit altogether, we decided to go there for a short visit right before the retreat session, to go room to room to talk with the residents, to sing hymns for them and to pray with them over the passage from Matthew 20, about the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Ahmi and I had paired up together to go visit Gina’s grandmother. When we got to Gina’s grandmother’s room, she was unavailable so we looked into other rooms to visit while we waited for her to get back. We saw Grandpa P in his room, sitting in his bed, awake, so we went in to talk with him. He looked tired but he didn’t turn us away when we introduced ourselves as visitors from a nearby church and asked if it would be okay to share a short message with him and to sing him some hymns. Before reading through the passage in Matthew 20, Ahmi asked Mr. P if he had gone to church in the past, he nodded and said yes but when he was asked if he had ever accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior into his life, he became a little quiet. We read over the passage of the 11th hour workers receiving the same wages as those who were there from the very beginning and how that was all out of the desire and grace of the owner of the vineyard. When Ahmi asked if he would want to make the decision to receive this gracious gift for himself, Grandpa P remained quiet and said he would need to think about it. We sang two hymns for him (Count Your Blessings, All the Way My Savior Leads Me), prayed for him and left.

The following Sunday we went back to visit Grandpa P after our regular service time in the main room. This time, he was dressed and sitting in a chair and he looked much better than the previous week. We asked him if he remembered us from the previous week’s visit and asked if he had a chance to think about accepting Jesus as his Lord and Savior. Ahmi then went over the day’s message, which covered the story of the ten lepers who were healed from Luke 17, how ten of those lepers were healed yet only one came back to thank Jesus for what had happened. When Ahmi asked Grandpa P again about receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior after she finished reviewing the message, this time, he said yes! I was amazed and surprised at his response since it was clear that he had actually thought about things from our last visit. He repeated after the prayer that Ahmi led him through and even tried to sing along to the hymn The Solid Rock. Right after we finished singing, he thanked us and said that he appreciated that we came by to visit with him. … It was amazing to see how the Holy Spirit was quick to move in Grandpa P’s heart, to prompt him to simply come to accept the gift of salvation as that 11th hour worker.

Grandma L Becomes Christian!

This past Sunday was my first time at this nursing home, and the dining room where we hold Sunday services was packed to capacity. There were thirty grandpas and grandmas who came, and some even had to line up their wheelchairs along the walls of the two entrances. Throughout the message, I heard a few residents shout “amen” to Gordon’s preaching. They loved singing hymns together, listening to the message, and talking with us during the mingling time.

The text for the Sunday Service was on John 5 – The Pool of Bethesda, which tells of Jesus’ encounter with an invalid who had been lying by the pool for thirty-eight years. Gordon said that we all have past baggage that we hang onto, such as resentment, anger, frustrations, and hurts. Just as Jesus asked the invalid if he wanted to be healed, Gordon posed the question to the residents whether they wanted to be healed of their past baggage and receive Christ, or prayers regarding their spiritual state. During the time of mingling, Grandma L introduced herself to me and asked if she could speak with me. I asked how she liked the message and if she wanted to make a decision to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. She nodded and said yes. Before praying together, we talked a little bit about her background. L is an African American grandma in her 60’s; she may be suffering from dementia because she could not recall how she ended up in California. Growing up, she attended a Methodist church, then married a sailor and, in her own words, “wandered off from God.” I mentioned that her story is like that of the Prodigal Son who wandered off from his father to live his own life, but came to his senses, realized what a mess he had made of his life, and returned to his father. I asked if she understood that she was a sinner and if she wanted to repent for her sins, and she said that she did. Then I asked if she wanted to surrender her life to Jesus and make Him her Savior and Lord and she nodded and said yes. We prayed together and she was very humble and open the entire time. She shared that she is very lonely. After praying together, I tried to encourage her to read the Bible everyday and to pray and be filled with God’s peace as she is a precious daughter of Christ and that in times of loneliness, she would be able to remember God’s promise that He is always with her.

Though our time together was short, I was really impacted. What amazes me is that these 70, 80, 90 year old grandmas and grandpas, at their old age and with all their physical ailments, would come out to service and be open to the gospel. To us, it might seem obvious that the gospel is their only hope, but when faced with the daily reality of their physical decay and stripped of everything that is familiar to them – family members, personal space, an environment that they’ve grown up with – it is truly a miracle that each of them would decide to attend service every Sunday. I realize that I need to pray with fervor for each of them to come to know the gospel and for those who are Christians to be a source of light and encouragement in that community. Already, I am so encouraged that 15 grandpas and grandmas have signed up for mid-week bible reading and I look forward to getting to know each of them personally. Psalm 40 reads: “Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.” As I think about all that God has been doing in the hearts of these grandpas and grandmas to bring them to our services, and especially Grandma L’s decision to become Christian this past Sunday, I praise God for the amazing wonders He is doing through the elderly care ministry!

Celebrating Grandparents Day

Grandparents Day, celebrated annually the first Sunday of September after Labor Day, was established with the goal of educating youth of important contributions seniors have made throughout history.  We celebrated Grandparents Day with the residents of our nursing and senior homes with Happy Grandparents Day cards and flowers.  The day was also an opportunity for us to visit room to room and meet residents who don’t normally attend our Sunday services.  Our members describe below some of their experiences from that day:

Alice: Mr. G, after being absent from our services for about half a year, joined us today!  He felt very special to find out today was Grandparents Day, saying it is a holiday for him.  After service, he rejected my invitation to stay for lunch fellowship; I think he felt awkward to stay since he had been absent for a long time. Then Grandma G asked him to stay.  She has a special diet and so normally doesn’t join us for lunch fellowship, but decided to stay today in order to keep Mr. G. accompany.  Indeed, her invitation made Mr. G stay and we all had a great time talking about today’s message on blessings.
I’m encouraged that Mr. G came back, and also encouraged to see how Grandma G proactively invited Mr. G even though she is not a Christian. She was initially hostile toward Christianity because of previous bad church experiences, but it’s clear that God is softening her heart.  She also accompanied the other grandmas to visit Mrs. L who cannot come to service because of health reasons.  I learned today that she was reluctant to discuss death because death is taboo in the Chinese culture, and it is sad and fearful to think about death, but I’m praying that she will know the victory we can have over death through Jesus.
Kevin: After our service, we walked around the nursing home handing out our “Happy Grandparents Day” cards.  I had been looking for an opportunity to visit some rooms that I hadn’t really been in yet.  In one of these rooms I met a resident named R, who cannot talk, and his older sister Ms. M, who visits R daily.  When I showed her the postcard she began to talk about her faith.  She told me that her mother died when she was only 16, and when her mother died, she lost everything.  At that time, she said, she put her faith in God to lead her through life.  She said that now at 83 she has had a great life and that it is because of God.  Then she reiterated it.  This is the truth, she told me.  It was clear that her faith and knowledge of God was real and true, and it was encouraging to meet her during my visits.
Ulia: I’ve been praying for a couple we first met last Easter when we visited room to room to pass out gifts of potted plants.  Neither attend our services on Sundays because they generally stay up late and sleep in past our morning service.  Ms. P is Catholic, and when she received our card and a flower, she was so thankful, and said our visits are God’s grace to her.  Mr. S is an atheist, looks disdainfully at organized religion and Christians in particular, but when he received our card, he was really touched.  He commented how beautiful the cards were, and he said that our religion is good, that it’s so good of us to remember them.  This was encouraging to hear, since during our first conversation he had insulted Christians and Jesus. His response gave me a chance to share that we are motivated to do these good things for others because we have been touched by God’s love, and want to share God’s love with others.  He thanked us, and invited us to come to visit them anytime.
Chris: After the worship service, I talked to Grandma C, who made a salvation decision two weeks ago.  Since it was Grandparents Day, I asked her how many grandchildren she has.  She replied that her son who lives nearby has two children, but she did not expect to see them as they were probably unaware that today is Grandparents Day (and understandably so, as not many people know about this day).  I asked her how she enjoyed today’s worship service.  She said there isn’t much to look forward to at the nursing home, but the Sunday worship service is one thing she looks forward to.  I also found out that it’s getting hard for her to read the Bible because the font size is too small for her, so I told her we would bring a large-font Bible next time.  I am thankful that we have opportunities as these to care for the elderly.

An Amazing Grandmother

We recently celebrated Grandma B’s 101st birthday!  Despite her age and her weak body, she is amazingly cheerful and thankful, and she thanks God for sustaining her these many years. When I first began visiting CB nursing home at the beginning of summer, Grandma B was doing poorly – her health, her spirits were down.  She wasn’t strong enough to join us for Sunday services, so our whole church was praying for her body to strengthen, for her spirit to strengthen. Perhaps in part due to our prayers, we’ve seen a marked difference in Grandma B.  She has rejoined us for Sunday service, and as much as her coarse voice can handle she heartily sings along with the hymns, often from memory.  Her regular prayer request has been for the other residents at CB, and that she could share God’s love with them. One weeknight I went to visit her and some of the other residents, I entered Grandma B’s room and met her at the door because she was heading out on her wheelchair.  “Are you heading out, Grandma B?” “Yes, I’m just going to take a walk.”  “You want some company?”  “No, I’ll be fine, my wheelchair is wonderful.”  As I watched her down the hallway, I saw her pause to talk the other residents in the hallway.  About fifteen minutes later, I ran into her again in the hallway.  She didn’t see me because she was intently reading the names of the residents in a certain room before she went in to visit them.  I was really heartened to see her because she was answering her own prayer request, making friends in order to share the God’s love and give hope to the other residents. About an hour after I had first seen her, I went back to her room and she was exhausted.  I think the trip around the nursing home wore her out, and she was slumped in her wheelchair next to her bed.  She arose when I said her name, and as always she was very thankful to see me, promising that she would pray for our church to be a blessing to the CB residents. I’m very thankful for Grandma B, for her love, gratitude, and the example of her faithful life that she has lived before God.  My heart always feels so humbled and cleansed after I spend some time with her; she gives me a clarity on what life is all about – loving God and loving people.  She always thanks our church members, but we are so much more thankful that she answered God’s call for her to be a missionary to China, so thankful that we have had the wonderful opportunity to get to know her through our ministry at CB.  We interviewed her on her birthday and asked what advice she would pass on to younger people such as us, and she urged us to listen to and trust in God’s word, and we will experience His great blessing in our lives.  She is a living testimony of that kind of blessed life, and I hope that I’ll be just like her at 101 years old!

Praise the Lord for the salvation decisions!

Recently, two residents made salvation decisions! For the previous several weeks, we had been going through a message series that covers the intellectual foundations of Christianity.

On this particular Sunday, I gave the final wrap-up message on this series, and covered common misconceptions people have about what salvation is. After the message, we had an invitation time for all the residents where we passed out commitment cards and asked them if they wanted to make any personal decisions in light of all they’ve heard, and the two residents responded with salvation decisions! One of them, Ms. R, mentioned that she had gone to church all her life but never made that personal decision to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and so she wanted to do that. My wife had a chance to pray with her afterwards, and Ms. R had tears of joy down her face after making her decision.

One of the other items we had on the commitment card asked if they wanted someone to read the Bible together on a weekly basis, and four of them wanted to do so.

We are so glad to see that all the collective efforts to produce and teach these messages on a weekly basis resulted in these decisions.