Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 4:10-11: Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
For almost four years now, I have been doing a monthly service at an assisted living facility here in Athens. This ministry has always been a blessing to me personally, as I have the opportunity to be around some wonderful people that are very welcoming and loving. On several occasions, I have told myself that the service that I was going to do today would be my last service at this home. However, after that service was over I would always find a reason to put off my decision to end my ministry with these older adults who so desperately need someone that is willing to listen and encourage them.
This past Sunday I found myself saying again that this would be the last Sunday that I would continue my ministry at this place. I prayed to God while driving to the assisted living home for guidance about what I should do. “God, I have been doing this service for four years now and I’m tired and I need a break. After all, I’m not even sure that what I’m doing is making any difference in their lives. Do they even remember what I teach or what the point of my message was? After I leave, have I even made a difference or accomplished anything significant?”
I arrived about three minutes late and noticed that we had a larger crowd than usual. One lady spoke up and said, “We were wondering if you were going to be here today, since you were late.” I thought to myself, “This is definitely going to be my last Sunday.” And then I saw one of my favorite ladies there, Ms. Johnnie, sitting in her chair with a big smile on her face. I went over to her and took her by the hand and she said, “It’s so good to see you today. I have not been doing well and didn’t really feel like coming today, but I knew that you were going to be here and I knew that I had to come.”
As we began to sing our first hymn another lady came in with her daughter that was there visiting her. I found them a seat, gave them a hymnal and we started our service. Ms. Johnnie requested a certain hymn for us to sing and immediately there were a complaint about not knowing that hymn from the lady that noticed that I was late. Several of the residents have a hard time finding the page number so I always take the time to find the hymn for them so that they can sing along. Someone else said, “What’s taking so long, are we going to sing?”
After this hymn, I decided to sing Amazing Grace because everyone knows that hymn. As we sang Amazing Grace, I noticed that Ms. Johnnie didn’t sing like she usually does, she appeared uncomfortable as she sat there. On the last stanza, she looked up and gave me that reassuring smile that she always gives me as if to let me know that the service is going well.
After my devotional, we always have a time of prayer. I will usually ask if anyone has any specific prayer requests and most of the time all I hear is silence. On this Sunday, I asked if anyone had any prayer requests and no one spoke up. I closed the service with a prayer for those present and for those that were not able to join us and also for the staff at this facility.
After the prayer, I always go around the room to each person and shake hands with them and ask for God’s blessing to be upon them. After I had spoken to each person there and was putting the hymnals away, I noticed that everyone was still sitting in their chairs. I wondered if they realized that the service was over and it was time for me to leave. Then, the lady that was visiting her mother, got up out of her chair and walked up to me. She said that she had cancer and was currently undergoing chemotherapy treatments. She told me her name and said that she wanted me to pray for her. I wrote her name down and I told her that she would be in my daily prayers. She said, “That’s great, but I want you to pray for me now, right here.” I took her by the hand and we stood there with everyone else still seated and I prayed for this lady. After the prayer she thanked me for being so kind and for taking the time to pray with her. I felt kind of ashamed because it was she that insisted that I pray for here right there at that moment.
Again I prepared to leave and another lady, Ms. Johnnie said, “Will you pray with me also?” I went over to where she was seated and I knelt down and took her by the hand and I prayed for her also. After I finished praying, I looked at her and her eyes were filled with tears. She managed to smile and said, “May God bless you and the important work that you do here. You are such a blessing to us and we always look forward to your visit and the time that you spend with us.” I told her that I was the one that was truly blessed. She gave me a hug and said, “I will see you next time.”
As I drove back home, I reflected on what had taken place in the service that day. Before the service, I had convinced myself that I needed and even deserved some rest. I was certain that what I was doing didn’t really matter all that much. God has His own way of speaking to us sometimes, especially through other people. On a Sunday, when I had persuaded myself that this would be my last service at this assisted living home, God found a way to speak to me and demonstrate to me that I was doing important work by speaking God’s word and administering God’s grace to those that surely needed to be touched by the grace of God.