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Connecting with lonely seniors during the pandemic

More than 40 volunteers, along with team members from North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM), are currently manning Hope Line––the friendly call service to lonely seniors, which now includes both inbound and outbound calls.

In March, when older adults were first encouraged to self-isolate to protect themselves from the coronavirus, the Hope Line experienced a 923% increase in calls from the previous month. To meet the increased demand, two lines and weekend service were added.

What follows are the testimonies of mission-minded Hope Line volunteers as they share what it’s like to connect with older adults living in the throes of the pandemic.

Gereline commits four hours each week. “Answering Hope Line calls is a blessing. I’ll soon be 78 years old, so I understand what some callers are going through. Children and grandchildren are busy with their own lives, and callers need to be able to pick up the phone and know they can talk to someone.

“I prayed for a long time, ‘Lord, what can I do that will further your Kingdom?’ Then, NCBAM showed up and here I am! I’ve lived for years without shedding a tear, but God has softened my heart to weep for the joy of serving on the Hope Line.”

Al and Rose serve one afternoon each week. At one o’clock, the married couple grab their phones, make themselves comfortable in a room together, and wait for the calls to start. Their strategy grew out of the specialized training they received in “mindful awareness” and “other-focused listening” which encourages minimizing their distractions.

Rose says her callers deal with a wide variety of situations. “Some have been recovering from surgery, some are widows, one had grown up as a foster child and has no family to talk to. Some looked forward to church because it was their only time out of the house But they all have one thing in common: they just need someone to talk to.”

Al says the Hope Line is something very positive in his life. “Rose and I like serving together. We are blessed with a great family and with each other, but I’ve talked with widows and widowers who don’t have anyone. I’ve learned that sometimes, just having someone to talk to makes all the difference.”

Cheryl and a friend walk together three times each week. “One day as we were walking, it occurred to me that within a ten-mile radius of our church, there were probably many people dealing with the same issues I hear from Hope Line callers all across the state. It just breaks my heart. Some don’t have anybody.”

Cheryl is glad the Hope Line was started. “It’s worth all the hard work NCBAM put into it, and I’m glad I volunteered. It blesses me to be the person someone can talk to. Some are struggling with issues of faith and ask deep questions about being a Christian.

NCBAM supplies a resource list, Scripture verses to share, and I can offer callers the ‘One Hope’ devotional book. It touches my heart when they ask me to pray for them, and I often sense they feel better after.”

Jackie sees the Hope Line as a much-needed service. “The pandemic has heightened loneliness. Many tell me their only outing was to church or the grocery store, and now they can’t do that. But many callers have been living this way for years. My biggest dilemma is that some people just don’t want to hang up. It feels like no matter how long we talk, it was never enough.”

Kay says that answering calls is a ministry for her. “I have prayed with callers and they really appreciate it. Some of my calls have been lengthy but the one that broke my heart was a short one where a caller said, ‘I just wanted to hear the sound of someone’s voice’ and then she hung up. I was glad I was there for what she needed in that particular moment.”

To learn how your church can be involved or how you can become a volunteer, call 877-506-2226.

Article by Carol Layton, NCBAM Director of Communications and Administration

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