In late March when many churches stopped meeting and senior adults were advised to self-isolate, regional directors at North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM) immediately increased efforts to communicate with all Servant Care participants—making 200 contacts in the first month. Servant Care provides priority access to NCBAM’s services for pastoral ministers, music ministers, and missionaries 65+, including their spouses or surviving spouses. The outreach also offers fellowship and educational opportunities for participants through other programs and regional events.
“It’s such a blessing to connect with Servant Care participants,” said NCBAM’s Charity Johnson. “I feel God has equipped me with skills to help take care of His aging pastors and ministers––they’ve always put others first and now it’s time for us to put them first.”
Rev. H* is a Servant Care participant whom Johnson calls regularly in the southeast region of the state. After serving as a Baptist pastor for more than 50 years, he was widowed in 2014. Now at age 87, failing eyesight makes cooking for himself difficult. Johnson connected him with a ministry at her church and now three homecooked meals are delivered each week to his home.
Another of Johnson’s Servant Care participants is Rev. M*––a retired pastor and director of missions. “In addition to calling, I also send notes. Recently, Rev. M called to say the Bible verse I included blessed him. He was beginning chemo treatments and it was the perfect word at the right time. That blessed me. But it wasn’t me. God is using us to encourage His servants.”
Johnson says social isolation imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly heightened the loneliness many are experiencing. “With not being able to attend church or even see family, their only human contact each week might be a quick trip to the grocery store at 6:00 a.m. Many are in need of prayer right now and of someone just to talk to.”
Samantha Allred, north central regional director, sees a common thread among the participants with who she connects. “I feel it is ten times harder for pastors and ministers to talk about their needs. They’re used to serving others––it takes me urging them to discover what their needs might be.”
“Rev. B* was very grateful for my call but told me right away, ‘Don’t bother with me; call someone who needs it more.’ Now, he is most likely to initiate a call––he is graciously mentoring me and I appreciate the advice he’s offered.”
Allred also befriended Mrs. F*, an 86-year-old widow. “She is newly isolated because of the pandemic and takes seriously the recommendations to self-isolate. Her son delivers groceries and, apart from doctor visits, she doesn’t leave home. We’ve bonded over sewing and quilting. Every time our conversations conclude, she thanks me and says, ‘Please keep calling.’”
Allred is grateful for the special relationships she has with Servant Care participants. “During times like this, small things can have the biggest impact. It amazes me the difference a simple phone call can make.”
Angie Gregg, NCBAM’s west regional director, has been especially touched by widows she has connected with during the pandemic. “Mrs. C* is in her 90s and although still active, she’s very appreciative of the calls and loves to talk about her late husband’s pastorate and their lives in ministry. When I mentioned one of his accomplishments, she was so pleased and said, ‘Oh, you know about that?’”
Gregg had an especially poignant conversation with another widow, 91-year old Mrs. K*. “When I asked about her current church, she replied that she still attended the one where she had grown up and where her husband had served. She said that since they had stopped holding services due to the pandemic, she had not heard from anyone.”
More than 700 individuals are included in Servant Care’s outreach—with 64 retired ministers added in June. Servant Care participants receive regular phone calls and birthday cards. Frail participants receive assessments by an NCBAM regional director. (In-home assessments are currently handled remotely.) NCBAM regional directors work with Baptist Associations to confirm and share updated contact information for retired ministers. Participation is not based on financial need.
NCBAM’s director, Dr. Sandy Gregory, sees Servant Care as one of NCBAM’s most important ministries. “Many pastors join a new church when they retire and so the strong connections to the people who would be most eager to help them are lost. NCBAM is there to fill the gap by giving Servant Care participants the love, care, and honor they so richly deserve.”
*Used to insure participants’ privacy.
To learn more about Servant Care, go to www.ncbam.org
Article by Carol Layton, NCBAM Director of Communications and Administration