Do you ever feel like what you do is in vain; that nobody really cares what you’re doing? I feel that way sometimes in my church nursing home ministry. Every second Saturday afternoon, my family and I visit the Manor House Nursing Home in Dover, Tennessee. Though I do enjoy it, sometimes I have my doubts.
My Uncle Anthony was a resident in a different nursing home in 2004 after suffering a brain aneurysm. Dad started the ministry while visiting him. Even though my uncle eventually passed away, Dad still felt called upon by God to to press on with his ministry. Three years ago, my father was taking care of a man named Bill, who was a resident at Manor House for two years before also passing away. Manor House then became our permanent place to visit once a month.
We always invite people from our church to tag along with us, but most of the time it’s just me and my family holding the fort down. With my sister away with her husband living in Texas, it’s down to just me; Mom; Dad; and Chris, a Christian who worships on Sundays. It can be very discouraging.
What takes my mind off the small numbers is seeing the residents enjoying themselves. My heart soars hearing them sing along with us from the hymnal, seeing them rejoice or ask for prayer during testimony time, or seeing them captivated during my father’s small sermons called sermonettes. Some of the residents are quiet or don’t seem interested at all at our being there, but it’s good that they at least there in the room, because they just might catch something important.
This past nursing home visit, as I was gathering the hymnals ready to exit the nursing home, I heard a gentle tone-several piano keys. There was a pause and then the music continued. I recognized what the tune was. It was the song we had had just sung- Shall We Gather at the River. I turned my head and there at the brown piano that neither me or the others ever touched, was an elderly woman in a wheelchair, poking away at the keys. Mom, Dad, Chris and myself all stared at one another in awe. Neither me or Dad hesitated to get a front row seat to the surprise musician. While there were pauses in the playing, the tempo was just right for you to make out the song and truly appreciate it. What blew my mind more was that this woman was playing with one hand. What talent! As that last key faded out, I felt as if any discouragement I had about the ministry faded out as well.
You are very welcome,” she said quietly. “Drive safely.”
Hearing that resident on the piano made me do some some deep thinking. I get so caught up about the lack of participation in our ministries that sometimes I forget why we do them- to reach out to as many people as we can with the love Christ. Let this be a lesson. If you ever feel like what you’re doing is in vain, don’t give up hope. There is always someone there to let you know that you’re not wasting your time at all. God bless!