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!