Loving the Lonely: Pennsylvania Church Finds Niche in Nursing Home Ministry

 In All Church of God, CHOG, Loving and Serving, Northeast

By Carl Stagner

Such settings may not be the most glamorous in which to do ministry, but they are definitely meaningful; the face of each resident represents someone who matters to God, and should therefore matter to his people. There are no spotlights, and the return on the investment of time, energy, and resources may be intangible, yet the labor of love within the walls of a nursing home is seen by God and blessed abundantly in his economy. First Church of God in New Castle, Pennsylvania, recognizes this to be true from firsthand experience. The niche they’ve found in the nursing home has touched not only the lives of those they’ve sought to encourage, but also those bringing the encouragement.

Pastor Crystal Epps is delighted to recognize the sovereign hand of God upon the establishment of their nursing home ministry.

“Last year,” she recounts, “while we were working on the Experiencing God Bible study in small group, we began praying and asking God what he wanted us to do as a church, how we could reach out and help others. One day I was upstairs in my office praying and the phone rang, and it was someone from the Grove, and she said she was looking for a church to come into the nursing home and provide worship, service, and Communion for the residents. She went on to tell me that the only person who has been coming into the Grove was a Catholic priest, but he was only visiting and offering Communion to the Catholics at their facility. I immediately knew God was calling us (First Church of God) to go in and minister to his people.”

Pastor Crystal Epps

Upon the announcement of the new ministry, the congregation responded with readiness and resolve. Having become familiar with the residents, they’ve also learned a lot about the power of presence.

“One of the things that we saw when we went to the Grove to visit the facility,” Pastor Crystal explains, “is there is a unique population of people who are there because they don’t have anywhere else to live. They don’t have Alzheimer’s or dementia, they are not working on rehabilitation, they just seem to be displaced, and many of them do not get visits from friends or family members. They are a younger population, in their fifties and sixties, who are just there because they have nowhere else to go. There are also a few retired pastors and ministers at the facility, and it is such a blessing to see them wholeheartedly worshipping God for the life they have lived. They share their testimony about the goodness of God and uplift and encourage others!”

Reflecting on the work accomplished so far, Pastor Crystal Epps recognizes the reciprocal blessing of nursing home ministry; without a doubt, she points to the blessing of ministering to this often-overlooked segment of society.

Songs, Communion, prayer and more!

“Currently,” she continues, “we go to the nursing home the first Sunday of each month, and we do a full service. We take in bulletins and lyrics for the songs, and the residents are engaged, and they love worshipping God. We also walk through at the end and pray for anyone who is not able to attend the service.”

Pastor Crystal notes that they’d like to add prayer walks through the facility at least twice a month. The church also purchased blankets and their prayer shawl ministry made blankets, for distribution among the nursing home residents. Even the children got involved—they made Christmas cards and personalized them for each resident.

“The biggest blessing for the residents,” Pastor Crystal explains, “is having a place to worship the Lord, being able to partake in the worship service, give prayer requests and praise reports, and knowing that God heard their prayers and allowed us to minister to his people. They are so receptive to the Word of God, and they always have a response to what God is saying. This month one person gave her heart to the Lord!”

The nursing home ministry at First Church of God clearly has a heart for people. Whether just eleven years old, or aged multiples of eleven, these volunteers love the lonely and the lost, the discouraged and the displaced. Heaven sees and applauds.

Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.

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