Pastor’s Column: Senior Facilities Chaplain
As the International Executive Director of Silver Cord Ministries, I have multiple hats to wear: I lead the ministry across the Twin Cities and Kenya, I conduct Worship Services in Senior Facilities across the Twin Cities, I lead Caregiver Support Groups, Bible Studies, and Grief Support Groups.
But what I enjoy the most in my role as Chaplain is visiting with Seniors on an individual basis. Many Seniors in Senior Living apartments are lonely! Sometimes family doesn’t have time to visit or they live too far away to visit often. Sometimes I read Scripture and pray with them. Sometimes I offer them Communion. Sometimes we just sit and chat about whatever is on their minds. This is the time where I can learn what is on their hearts. As Christians, I believe we are neglecting our Seniors. James 1:27 says this: “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” Seniors need us and we need them. I have learned so much from them. They are, after all, the Greatest Generation – in more ways than one. They have shown me inner strength that they needed to make it through the tough times. They have shown me their vulnerability. They may not realize they show it to me, because many times they have “lost their filter.” Thus, they say what comes to mind, whenever it comes to mind. But, I have found that spending time with them and sharing myself with them, helps them open up to me.
Let me tell you about Barb – she grew up in a Mainline Denomination Church. She always loved coming to our Church Services and she always loved it when I visited with her in her apartment. Whenever I asked her about where she believed she would spend eternity, she would always answer, “I hope I’ll be in Heaven.” Then, she would change the subject. But, one day, it all changed. She ended up in the hospital and she sent a message to me that she wanted to see me. When I went to see her, this is what she said: “I decided it’s time to stop playing around. I want to know, for sure, that I’m going to Heaven when I die!” Hallelujah! I had the joy of leading her to accept Christ’s gift of salvation! After that, even though her memory started failing, she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was going to Heaven!
Let me tell you about my mother – ever since my father died suddenly, she showed such strength! Even when her memory started failing and her body got weaker, she had great emotional strength. Her faith only got stronger. She always amazed me. She would fall and get right back up again. She was never without a smile. What I learned from her is to never give up, even when things get tough. I learned that when she had a difficult time getting her words out, just being there is sometimes the best medicine. Then, after months of falling and never getting hurt, she fell one last time. She broke her hip. She was in intense pain, but she still enjoyed having company. She fought for six days and her body finally let go and allowed her to see her Savior. But, the day before she passed away, everyone was asking her how she was doing. Her answer? “I’m going to be fine!” And, she is! She is better than she has ever been! I have learned how to rely on the Lord even more from her.
Let me tell you about Gene – He was a Jewish man who was very special to me. He taught me a lot about Jewish traditions and the meaning of some passages of Scripture. He enjoyed coming to our Worship Services. He enjoyed our visits in his apartment. He always wanted me to read Scripture and pray with him. He gave me prayer requests to pray about, even occasionally adding a P.S. to my prayers! However, his heart gave out suddenly and I will never know if he decided to give his life to Christ at the last minute. I can only pray that he did.
You see, ministering to Seniors is all about a Ministry of Presence. They can be Christians, but they don’t have to be. We just need to show Christ’s love, the best we know how. Sometimes it’s a listening ear. Sometimes it’s just sitting in silence. Sometimes it’s praying with and for them. Sometimes it’s encouraging them on in the tough times. But always, always, always be open to do and say what God wants of you. Even if it’s hard for you. It does get easier with time.
Rev. Judy Marks is a Chaplain at Senior Facilities across the Twin Cities, and serves as the International Executive Director of Silver Cord Ministries. Silver Cord Ministries is a Christ-centered ministry that advocates for the spiritual, physical, and emotional needs of senior citizens locally and globally.