Chinese Church VoicesChurch and Society

How to Minister to Seniors, Part 3

Chinese Church Voices is a weekly column of the ChinaSource Blog providing translations of original writing by Christians in China. The views represented are entirely those of the original author; inclusion in Chinese Church Voices does not imply or equal an endorsement by ChinaSource.


The journal ChurchChina published an article earlier this summer on how Chinese Christians can care for and minister to the increasing senior population in China. In recent weeks we have published parts one and two  of a translation of that article in which the author described her ministry to the elderly in a senior center and helpful recommendations for serving seniors. This is part three in which the author reflects on and summarizes serving the elderly.

Gospel Ministry in Senior Centers, continued

Author Bei Lei

Reflection on and summary of ministry

Looking back on these few years serving in the senior center, I feel very deeply that thinking in a self-centered way is sin. Even when involved in works of compassion, as long as I operate from a “self-centered pattern” it will also lead to the pretense of service. Relying on the Lord’s leading, gospel workers can lay themselves down, and constantly adjust the core, content, and rhythm of service according to the needs of the seniors; conversely, serving according to the worker’s original experiences and habits puts the cart before the horse and requires seniors to satisfy our framework. Seniors will not feel respected or served. Serving seniors is not giving them something, but rather is stooping low and surrendering to humility, praying, and letting seniors feel how precious their own lives are.

In serving, I have also more deeply affirmed that the gospel is the power of God which will save all who believe. We shared the gospel with an elderly person who had dementia and who, before contracting the disease, had been the financial executive for a large business. But now, she had forgotten her own name and no longer spoke. If nurses did not look after her eating and drinking, she would not have the initiative to take food. However, she did have awareness of the name of Jesus. Three years ago, my co-workers and I were praying the prayer of decision with another senior and, without knowing why, she walked directly over, stood beside us, and sentence by sentence followed along with the prayer of decision. After praying, she then walked dazedly back and forth, as if sleepwalking. Afterwards, every Wednesday our co-laborers went to pick her up to go to the gathering on the second floor. When she, with a wooden, inarticulate expression, heard the gospel songs, she joined right in singing, and her expression was as bright as a child’s. It got to the point that many times she would suddenly open her mouth and say, “Look, you all! Look, you all! Jesus is among us, it is so beautiful here!” We marveled at how great God’s work was, that he even enabled a person with dementia to open her mouth and praise him, and to recount that he was in our midst!

In the senior center where we serve, the facility is open to all religions. There are Buddhist lectures on classics once every two weeks and a Christian gathering once a week. So we face all sorts of forces fighting for souls, and we only stand by relying firmly on the Lord. Having worshiped idols in one’s early years, having children who do not approve of accepting the Lord, and having once occupied a prominent position all may become obstacles to seniors accepting the gospel. But if the Lord himself wants to select a certain old person, then the gospel entering his heart will have a marvelous pathway. Thanks be to the Lord’s grace, to let us feel his presence in the midst of our ordinary service, to see his works and authority. Jesus is the power to overcome Hades; he is the light of life that saves people into the light.

Any person who truly understands that he has received great grace will remember that spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth is a lifelong charge given to us by the Lord. How can we who have already accepted the blessing and attained eternal life withhold this grace and not share it? Today in our midst, many elderly people have been squeezed and pressed by the world and then ruthlessly abandoned. They are like the slaves of Egypt who performed a lifetime of bitter labor for Pharaoh, and now have nobody who shows interest in them. This is the opportune moment for believers who have received grace to go and understand them, touch them, and let them feel Jesus’ saving grace. At the same time, we need to value senior ministry in the church,[1] and make elderly believers strong, and help them share the gospel with people in society of the same age. Even more, we need to value the elderly in our own families—not to care for those in one’s own family is to be worse than an unbeliever.

According to 2017 government statistics, China’s 2015 population of people 65 and older was 140 million. It is estimated that by 2020, the population of this group will reach 200 million. In the face of this massive aging population, bringing Jesus’ love to them is already extremely urgent. May the Lord open the eyes of our hearts to see the needs of the elderly people everywhere, to love their souls, to not be so hard hearted as to watch them slip away and be lost. If a person does not believe in Jesus, then to live is to store up wrath before God. May more and more elderly people turn and return to God as soon as possible, and in their later years enter from a desolate and hopeless place into the peace and joy of God’s presence. On earth, they are slowly losing their “home”—may they obtain the “heavenly home” that God has prepared for us. When they leave this world, may we not be grieving another soul who has entered destruction, but rather may we look forward to that coming day of joyful reunion in our heavenly home.

About the author: Sister Bei Lei, a worker in an urban church in southern China, started serving elderly people in senior centers in 2013 and continues to the present day.

Original article: 养老院里的福音事工 (ChurchChina)
Edited, adapted, and reposted with permission.

Notes

  1. ^ Considering elderly believers’ needs, when we worship on Sunday, we can reserve seats specially for them to make it convenient for them to enter and exit, and add a large screen and microphones to compensate for their weakened vision and hearing. You can teach the songs you sing in cycles so they can be learned. A year has fifty-two weeks; if you sing new songs every week, you won’t be able to master many. Rather in one year, choose fifteen to twenty songs to teach and they will learn those songs by heart. Those songs will become weapons for them to resist Satan. If a church is able to have a weekly senior fellowship, you can combine it with Bible study and extend the gathering’s time appropriately to provide the elderly believers with conversation and dinner. Compared with younger believers, elderly believers have more time but less social contact. Weekly gatherings can be offered during the day: study the Bible in the morning, have a love feast [or, agape meal] at lunch, and have free activities and individual guidance and prayer in the afternoon. This usually leads to great satisfaction for elderly believers, who enjoy the mutual support of the church body.
Image credits: Old Couple by Adam Cohn, via Flickr

ChinaSource Team

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