As we prepare to celebrate the 25th anniversary of God Cares, I am reflecting on the way God has led me and others to embrace nursing home ministry as a life-long calling.
Back in 1984, when I first started visiting in a nursing home, I attended a Christmas Eve service at my church. A group of about 30 people came before the congregation to sing a carol. This group – known as “God’s Special Children” – were intellectually disabled adults from local group homes. As they waved their wreaths and ornaments, I was troubled at the sight. I could hear others around me saying “Isn’t that beautiful?” and “Praise the Lord!” I thought to myself, “What is so beautiful about these unfortunate souls?”
I spent the rest of that service asking the Lord why He allowed such things to happen to people, and why they seemed to be deprived of the health and well-being that I was beginning to experience in Christ. My thoughts also turned to my new nursing home friends. I asked God why he allowed them to spend their last days in a nursing home, suffering with pain and totally dependent on others. These concerns and prayers were based on my naïve perspective at that time, as I had been a Christian for only two years, with much to learn.
Well, I don’t remember what gifts I received that Christmas, except for one: a gift that I shall cherish the rest of my life, and perhaps for eternity. The gift that I received was an answer to my questions and prayers. I believe that God was gracious to me because I was truly sincere, and respectfully trying to understand His way. His revelation completely changed my perspective on the people living in nursing homes and those, of all ages, who have any disabilities. This gift transformed my life!
It was a few weeks after the service, while visiting a nursing home, that the Holy Spirit revealed to me that these people were our Father’s beloved children. Despite their weakness and brokenness, He was using them to teach His Church to love as He loves. He said to me, “These people have great value and purpose; they are “instruments of love.”
When Jesus came to earth, everyone was blind, poor, deaf or crippled in spirit. He came to us and gave us sight to see the Father, He gave us ears to hear the Holy Spirit and He made the lame to walk in the Light. He freely gave life to every longing and willing heart. He did it because He loves us. No one on earth had anything that they could have given Jesus for what He came to give us.
The Lord continued to reveal to me that when you come to the least of these and give of yourself so freely, you are learning what cannot be taught in schools or learned from reading the Bible ten times over. You are learning what true love is. When you learn what true love is, you learn who He is.
Because God is Love! Though the least of these seem to have little to give, He is using them to teach His Church some of the most important things: compassion, love and grace.
This revelation was one of the greatest gifts that I have ever received. It has compelled me to stay in this mission field for 35 years. It has enabled me to see how God’s love and His word raises people above what we might consider unfortunate circumstances.
It has enabled me to learn that no one is out of God’s reach or lacks value in His eyes. And it has enabled me to learn that He can use His willing servants to help anyone grow closer to Jesus. It has opened my eyes to see that they are indispensable.
I continue to grow closer to Jesus and His elderly children, and am growing amazingly rich in spirit along this journey. I am also watching God pour out this same heavenly wealth upon so many other nursing home missionaries. What a gift!!! ~ Bill Goodrich
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I have no need of you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable…
~ 1 Corinthians 12:21-22