One of the guiding philosophies at Focus on the Family that’s woven into the very fabric of our organization is the sanctity of human life.
In part, our statement of faith in this area reads:
“We believe that human life is created by God in His image. It is of inestimable worth and significance in all its dimensions … from the single cell stage of development to natural death.”
By and large, Christians do well in recognizing the value of the preborn. But I believe we too easily forget about the precious souls who live at the other end of life’s spectrum.
One reason I think society ignores the elderly is to avoid confronting its own mortality.
Look at the message we’re fed every day by media, advertisers, and the entertainment industry:
“Be young and stay young.” The goal is to journey as far as we can without looking like we’ve actually travelled all those miles.
Another problem is our self-centered culture devotes time to people who we feel can offer us something in return. And the elderly have nothing to contribute. Or so many think. The truth is there’s a richness to their lives that isn’t always apparent on the surface.
We can’t know the stories behind those faces – what kind of life they’ve led for 70, 80, 90 years, or what pain or regrets they have – unless we talk to them. They need someone to see past the feebleness in their bodies and their minds and to connect with the person they are inside.
It’s an opportunity for ministry that is often overlooked.
When you visit a nursing home or a skilled-care facility, you’re seeing people who are at their very last stop in life. They’re not going home. They’re going to pass into the next world from the confines of a tiny room in which they live surrounded by the meager remnants of a lifetime of belongings and memories. They’ve lost their homes, their friends, their health, and, in many cases, their families.
Statistics show that roughly 85 percent of the residents in skilled-care or nursing homes have no regular visitors, and about 50 percent of those in skilled-care homes have no family members left. The need for people who are willing to reach out is great.
Maybe it’s something God is asking you to do. Travelling halfway across the world for a mission trip can be meaningful, but so can a drive across town to a nursing home. It’s a field that’s ripe for harvest. These precious people may be days, weeks, or certainly just a few years away from stepping across the threshold into eternity. And they need to hear the Gospel.
Besides that, it’s a ministry that families can do together. You don’t have to be an expert in theology. You just have to be able to show love to someone in need.
On Wednesday’s broadcast we’ll be talking to the leaders of two ministries that are doing amazing work in reaching out to the elderly. Diane Doering is the director of Care Facility Outreach for Friends of the Forgotten, a ministry based in Omaha, Nebraska. Also with us is Kay Owen-Larson, the founder and president of Crossroads USA Ministry, headquartered here in Colorado Springs.
By their estimates, they’re able to lead more people to Christ within their network of facilities than most churches are within a given community. That’s because so many of the elderly recognize they are in their final days, so the message and hope of the Gospel resonates in their hearts.
I hope you’ll join us for our program tomorrow and hear how you can minister to these precious souls. They’re your neighbors who need your love and, more importantly, the love of Christ. It’s a great opportunity for your whole family.
And for more tips on engaging the elderly in your community, please download our free resource, “Across the Generations,” courtesy of Focus’ Thriving Family magazine.