“We want them to be known and remembered,” said Pastor Rex as he explained the vision for Serving Our Seniors (SOS); a ministry that cares for people who can no longer make it to Arbor Road because of surgery, illness, or another condition. Pastor Rex said, “Some of these men and women have been saints in the church for 30 years.” The goal of SOS is to honor their service by spending time with them at their house or convalescent home. It’s a unique ministry because its primary goal is not evangelizing or teaching, but showing God’s love to people who may feel isolated and lonely.
A volunteer in SOS, Lisa Gilbert, explained to me what it’s like to be a part of this ministry and the ways she has grown through it, ”I’ve always enjoyed being around older people,” she said. “And that led me to become a social worker with the elderly after I graduated from college.” Through this ministry she has been able to use her passion and experience to serve the members of Arbor Road who might otherwise be forgotten. To her, this ministry is different than most because you make your own schedule. “With SOS, you have to call and schedule when you can see each other.” This flexibility has allowed her to include her kids, “Sometimes my kids and I will take them out to ice cream or lunch. I love the interaction between my kids and the older adults, and what it’s teaching them about serving and valuing that generation.” It’s a ministry that gives different generations within the church the opportunity to take care of each other.
Bonnie Yerxa, another volunteer, shared what being a part of SOS looks like for her. She began a pro-life ministry several years ago, based on the knowledge that every life is made in God’s image. As time went on, she felt convicted that this belief applied not only to the unborn, but also to the elderly. When SOS began six years ago, she immediately got involved. She wanted to continue honoring this truth and value the older people who are also made in God’s image.
Bonnie explained that while she has grown in compassion for these children of God, it is still, “challenging and heartbreaking to watch them suffer with poor health or lose their loved ones.” It is in light of these hardships that she makes every attempt to show them that they are loved. “On one visit, God led me to bring a hymnal. We all sang songs to the Lord together, and it was a special time of worship for all of us.” With a little creativity, and a sensitivity to the Spirit’s leading, Bonnie’s simple gesture made a great impact.
All three of the people I spoke with mentioned that they too feel cared for when they visit the elderly. Pastor Rex said that while he is blessing them, “they bless me more so.” Bonni said that many of the people she visits have become mentors for her and she values the wisdom they share. Lisa mentioned that there are times when she will visit feeling stressed and discouraged, but when she leaves she has been encouraged just by hearing their wisdom, vulnerability, and life stories.
Through simple gestures of friendship, the volunteers in SOS help bring God’s love to the elderly community within our church. These men and women, often isolated and easily overlooked, are not forgotten by our great God. What a beautiful picture of the Body of Christ, each generation benefitting from and taking care of the other.
Written by: Robert Heckert