Baptist Village ministry marches on—despite pandemic - Baptist Messenger of Oklahoma

Berry and Nancy Norwood are Baptist Village of Okmulgee residents and Village chaplains. Berry also serves as senior pastor for Preston, First. The Norwoods worked with their church members to have food boxes brought to Baptist Village residents. They also conduct regular porch devotional visits with residents.

“Serving God…Serving you…Serving together.” This is Baptist Village Communities’ (BVC) unwavering theme. It is BVC’s calling—in spite of the challenges life presents.

The COVID-19 virus has affected millions of people and numerous businesses. The aging services field has been greatly impacted. Now more than ever, senior adults need ministry. They need to have purpose. They need to know they are loved.

Near the beginning of the pandemic in March, Bill Pierce, BVC president, called Chris Finley, BVC director of chaplain services, and said, “Chaplain, even though chaplains can’t go in the health centers and assisted living centers right now, I don’t want you and the other chaplains to do less ministry; I want you to find ways to do even more ministry.”

Finley got to work. “As a chaplain, we are called to the ministry of presence, which starts with hand-shakes and hugs,” he said. “When these caring gestures were prohibited by the COVID-19 virus, chaplains had to think outside the box and become creative in finding ways to minister without being present. But we were determined that, although ministry was challenging, ministry would continue.”

Baptist Village ministry marches on—despite pandemic - Baptist Messenger of Oklahoma 1

Chaplain Chris Finley shares a hymn with two Baptist Village of Oklahoma City residents during a porch visit.

“One of the obvious ways to minister was through mail,” said Steve Williams, Baptist Village of Owasso chaplain. “Sending cards and letters of encouragement became an everyday activity. Next came phone calls. Keeping residents and their families informed became paramount, as we made 200 to 500 phone calls to individuals each week.”

Williams and the team also found ways to help residents grow spiritually and physically. “When the pandemic started, in-person Bible studies and worship services were discontinued,” he said. “However, we have our own in-house TV channel where we can reach all 500 residents on campus. By utilizing our smart phones, we have been able to record and broadcast Bible studies and daily devotions on the TV channel.”

Chaplains John and Ruth King regularly assist with dining services at Baptist Village Lake Texoma. Ruth says she helped in the kitchen by preparing meals, and then she and John delivered them to residents.

A highlight on nearly every Baptist Village campus has been parades. Residents distance outside while families and friends drive by in their cars. Big smiles, waves and encouraging signs are exchanged by both families and residents.

Many campuses employ porch and courtyard visits and devotionals. Chaplains meet at a distance with residents outside their front doors. Courtyards have also been the site of outside hymn sing-alongs. Chaplains and residents help deliver meals, groceries, medications and much more. One Village even found a way to have a resident baptism on campus. There are many other examples of ministry taking place throughout the state; too many to mention.

A particularly special example of the importance of ministry involved a resident couple. The couple was forced to quarantine due to the virus, with the husband eventually being hospitalized with no visitors. Unable to see family and friends, he desperately needed fellowship, prayer and encouragement. The Village chaplain was able to drop off devotionals at the door, make weekly phone calls and encouraged other residents to call with prayer and words of support. The couple later said that, if the chaplain and other residents had not reached out to them during their time of crisis, they do not know if they would have made it through.

“Baptist Village Communities has seen many challenges over the last several months and will likely see more challenges in the days to come,” Pierce said. “But through it all, God has provided. He is providing healing, and He is steadfast. He will undoubtedly see us through. Praise the Lord!”

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