Americans are attending church less often. Sometimes people don’t attend church due to family background. Some struggle with things like poverty or disability. Other times, life is just busy. Whatever the case, increasing numbers of senior citizens are facing their later years without knowing Jesus.
Some older people have their first encounter with Jesus through a hospital or nursing home chaplain.
Pastoral care chaplain Kaye Kready does a Bible study in a 55+ housing community. A 92-year-old woman attended her study about heroes of the Bible. She said, “I’ve prayed to St. Joseph, but I never knew he was a real person!” After that, she started reading the Bible that Kready gave her. What were once only stories became personal. She accepted Christ as her Savior and now shares her faith with other residents.
Elderly prison inmates often have a lifetime of regrets and resentment. Correctional chaplains chip away at layers of tough exterior to build relationships. Chaplain Juan Alba knows an inmate whose heart was softened in the later years of his life. He is now baptized and tells other inmates about the love and forgiveness of Jesus.
Community chaplain Shelley King visits a nursing home each week to encourage and pray with staff and residents. Sometimes she leads worship services. Other times she simply serves. She reads, brings water, and assists with simple tasks like helping residents put on their socks. “I’ve prayed the sinner’s prayer with those at the end of their lives,” she shares. “I find ways to serve them. I listen to their anxieties and fears, and we pray.”
Simply being a presence in someone’s life may open the door to lead them to Christ. “I’ve been a pretty good person, done business honestly, even donated to help build a church building,” one man said. “I just never got around to making it personal. I’m glad the pastor kept stopping by the hospital and didn’t give up on me. Now I’m ready to meet Jesus whenever he’s ready to take me.”
Elderly people are eager to hear the gospel. They respond to Jesus even in the last stage of their lives. They may be right in your family or neighborhood!
Volunteers are welcome in most nursing homes, hospitals, and senior communities, although training may be required. Full-time chaplains in these ministries are usually glad to mentor volunteers. The facility itself may also have training classes.
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