by Rex Hickey
Some of my congregation wears pajamas, and once in awhile a pair of Scooby Doo house shoes shows up. No, I don't pastor an off-the-wall church for recovering sleep-over addicts. God has wonderfully blessed me with a ministry to the elderly residents of the LaFollette Courts Independent Living Center.
Almost three years ago, when I finally yielded to God's call on my life to ministry, I knew that I would have to be willing to go anywhere that He would send me. After spending several months doing ministry with a team in our county's jail, I was asked if I would be interested in taking a vacant position ministering at the center.
As a shaky rookie preacher, I was right on the edge of forty and it was a scary experience, knowing that most of the folks to whom I would be preaching had been in church longer than I had been alive.
One of those veteran church-goers is a very special Methodist lady who played the piano in her church for 43 years before she moved in to the center. Recently felled by a stroke, Margaret can no longer play the piano, but, she still lends her spiritual support, even when she feels too bad to make the trek to our second-floor chapel-a wide spot in the hall complete with a piano, pulpit, and a few padded chairs.
When I first started going to the center, some Sundays we were lucky to have two faithful worshipers, yet they came to hear about God, and I prepared for two just like I would for 2,000. God worked a wonderful miracle, in that a new lady who moved in has twin daughters who comprise half of a quartet. The ladies sing for us and direct the music almost every Sunday now. And since residency in the center has also grown, we seldom have less than 10 or 12 per service now.
I encourage the folks to have as good a time in the Lord as they can. After all, if we get too rowdy, the only one they can throw out is me!
God has surprised me by making me the one who gets a lot out of the services, as I see just how much an hour of worship means to people who can't get out to go to their home churches.
There are times when ministering to the folks there is heart-wrenching. You listen to their stories about what life used to be like. Sometimes they repeat themselves but you still listen with compassion every time. Sometimes they get sick in what seems like no time at all, and sometimes God calls them home before you get a chance to say goodbye.
One of our ladies shared a very special dream with us just a few weeks ago. She dreamed that our chapel area was packed to capacity and the crowd wound around the corner toward the elevator. I am looking forward to the day that her dream comes true.
Rex Hickey is a 19-year veteran public school teacher and an ordained Baptist minister from Jacksboro, Tennessee.