Touching scene: Therapist’s ministry revitalizes nursing home residents, staff
The ministry began four years ago when he came to see an elderly neighbor, 77-year-old Amos Williams. He was shocked to see that Williams’ weight had dropped to 90 pounds and that he was in constant pain from arthritis..
Green, whose grandmother also lives at the home, began coming to visit Williams regularly for a quiet time of prayer, encouragement and Bible study. Then one day he looked outside Williams’ room and saw many others were standing at the door trying to hear what Green was saying.
It was then that he felt certain that God was calling him to minister in nursing homes, Green said. Eventually administrators gave him the use of a larger room in which more of the residents could attend his Bible lessons.
While some residents might appear to be hardened to the gospel or senile, Green says the residents never cease to amaze and inspire him.
“You start a scripture, and they will finish it,” he said. “Start a song, and they will remember it and join right in.”
Green said many of his sermons address the losses that are on his listeners’ minds: the frequent deaths of their friends and family and their troubles during the Great Depression. “I also talk a lot about hope and about eternal life and the resurrection in my lessons.” Green said the residents listen and frequently punctuate his messages with cries of “Amen!” and “Yes!”
He believes he’s been blessed with the ability to relay the gospel in a way that bridges the generation gap between him and the residents.
“I’ve had a gift for understanding the word since I was a child,” said Green.
Growing up poor in Montgomery, he was one of five children of Jane Green, a hard-working, single mother who often took two or three jobs to support her family. He never knew his father. “I always considered God my Father,” Green said.
At 10 years old, he walked to the nearby Western Blvd. Church of Christ, and within months he was baptized. He has been a member there for many years. Today, however, when he’s not preaching or teaching at a nursing home, he likes to visit the various congregations in the city.
“I like having the opportunity to see what other congregations are doing and to see the diversity in our fellowship.”
In the beginning of the nursing home ministry, Green acknowledged problems developed when some staff and administrators were opposed to the worship services.
“They didn’t like some of the doctrine they heard me preaching, and they stopped bringing the folks to our classes,” said Green. “Either they refused to get some people up for our classes or disrupted our worship services by giving out medication while our folks were in prayer.”
But Green said he and other members of the church who help him conduct the services remained cordial and friendly, giving the staff an opportunity to get to know them better. They no longer face these kinds of problems, and today he goes to seven area nursing homes to offer a ray of hope and joy to every outstretched hand.
Green believes that God Is bringing positive results in the attitude transformations he sees among the residents and the staff. When he started going to the institutions, he saw many unhappy residents and staff members. It was common to overhear underpaid staff constantly complaining about the residents and their own heavy workloads.
Green set some new goals: to lift the spirits of the residents and to raise the morale of those who care for them. He began encouraging the staff to show more compassion to the residents and to see their work as an opportunity to serve others.
At the same time, he began urging the residents to show more gratitude to the people who were serving them.
“We can see a positive change in the attitude and morale in the nursing homes now,” Green said. “There is even a pleasant smell there now.”
He believes that the continual interaction with the residents, regular Bible studies and energy-building activities have increased the awareness and alertness of many residents in these institutions.
“People are always telling the sick, ‘I will pray for you,’” Green said. “But the sick need more than prayer — they need a visit to build them up.”
Nov. 13, 2007