So, I thought you might find it interesting to hear what happens once a fortnight on a Wednesday afternoon in Shaftesbury! A small group of us visit 2 local Old People’s Homes – the Cedars and Castle Hill House to sing Christian songs and hymns with the residents and of course any visitors, and the staff get to hear us too!
This venture came about due to having one of those God moments! I woke one morning in February 2014 with this ‘vision’ of a few people singing Christian songs at the Cedars. It completely seemed a random thing to wake up imagining but it reminded me of a story I had heard years ago:
A youth group used to go into a local old people’s home every week and take a service. One very shy young man Tom, went along reluctantly not sure what his role was but found himself at the back of the room next to the oldest looking man he had ever seen. Unsure what to do he leant over and took the man’s hand and held it the whole length of the service. At the end he introduced himself and asked the resident his name to which the man said ‘George’. Tom replied ‘Bye for now George, see you next week and remember – I love you’. The weeks went by and it became a pattern that each time the youth group took a service Tom would seek out George sit next to him and hold his hand. Then one day when they were visiting, George wasn’t in the room, so afterwards Tom went to inquire where he was so he could have a chat before he left. He was told that sadly George had died that morning, but there was a relative of his, asking after Tom – and so Tom went to be introduced to them. The relative said that they were talking to George just before he passed away and was trying to share their faith with him, to which George had responded ‘you don’t need to worry about me. I know Jesus loves me. He comes every week and holds my hand and tells me he loves me’!! The relative was overjoyed and couldn’t tell Tom enough how pleased they were, and what an impact that had had on George especially in his last few hours.
After having the idea, I mulled it over for a while and did a bit of research into Homes in the area and spoke to a couple of people in that line of work. But then I started to think that there might be restrictions about what could be sung and perhaps it wouldn’t be that easy. So I didn’t do anything for a while until I felt another nudge from God! One morning on UCB radio they were recalling the story in Genesis 11 v 31 of Terah who set off on a journey from Ur to Canaan but ended up settling at Haran instead. I felt God was saying ‘don’t give up, keep going!’ And actually to my surprise when I contacted the Cedars and explained my idea they were very excited and asked if we could go into their other Home at Castle Hill house too.
So now it’s almost 2years since we started visiting regularly. We go in once a month to each Home: The first Wednesday of the month we visit Castle Hill house and the third Wednesday of the month we visit the Cedars. It’s not particularly an easy thing to do and its definitely not glamorous but it is nevertheless a worth while thing to do. It all becomes worth it when you see residents that appear subdued, start to join in singing and their face changes, they light up. Sometimes people sing out whilst tears flow. And sometimes it wakes people up and immediately they appear more alive with the words of the songs on their lips. Of course staff and visitors are often around too and it is good to see their response to us being there. They are often very appreciative and we are starting to get to know the staff more now. One time a carer told me she had heard us singing whilst in the garden and how lovely that was… the sound of ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘How great Thou art’ being declared across the Blackmore Vale. Quite a privilege really! It’s very humbling and thought provoking each time we go; after all, none of us are getting any younger!!
In December each year we sing Christmas carols, and last Autumn the Cedars asked us if we would do Harvest songs so they could have a Harvest Festival. They collected food and asked us to pass them on to a worthy cause. Helen Croud was able to give this to a needy family through Open House. It’s interesting how God can enable further blessings to occur.