IRONTON – During the COVID-19 pandemic, The Baptist Home is using technology to share the gospel with family and friends of residents. As widely reported in the news, senior adults are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus. As a response, senior living communities and nursing homes are strictly enforcing no visitor policies and the social distancing of residents. To address this need, The Baptist Home, the recently restored entity of the Missouri Baptist Convention, is now streaming chapel services through Facebook Live.
The first weeks of this service were accomplished with smart phones and little, if any, coaching. Despite that, Facebook hits were up 528% according to Becky Barton, communications director for the four-campus network of care facilities. This past week, the Missouri Baptist Convention provided The Baptist Home with emergency COVID-19 response funds, which will enable higher quality audio and video. Using many of the resources made available to local churches, The Baptist Home will begin providing chapel content on YouTube and Instagram in addition to Facebook.
“Technology is keeping our residents connected to family and friends,” according to President Rodney Harrison. “Of greater importance is the fact that through chapel services, campus pastors are sharing the hope of the gospel to the children, friends and grandchildren of our residents, many of whom do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”
For the campus pastors, this crisis has presented two immediate ministry challenges: What to do about chapel and how to connect residents with their loved ones. Using their personal smart phones, campus pastors began contacting resident family members to set up video chat opportunities. If smart phones were not an option, laptops or iPads were used to Skype. Every effort was made to provide an alternative way for a visual, face-to-face connection. Sharing chapel services via Facebook Live provided yet another opportunity for residents and their family members to feel connected. Even though they cannot be physically present, resident families can share the same worship experience in real time.
At Chillicothe, Campus Pastor Steve Moseley stated that the residents are adapting well despite the constant challenges related to social distancing. “Too much change all at once can be devastating, especially for those suffering from some form of dementia,” Pastor Moseley shared. “We have to find ways to provide encouragement daily. Not just for residents, but for the staff as well. In addition to providing chapel services on Facebook, I am also repeating the sermon over the intercom for those who cannot attend chapel due to social distancing restrictions. During the week, I share daily devotions over the intercom as well which provides me with yet another opportunity to share the gospel and offer words of encouragement. This method has provided me with an unexpected but welcome opportunity to witness.”
Residents have also had the opportunity to participate in these live feeds. At the Ozark campus, retired minister and current resident Rev. Morton Rose provided a message of hope to listeners saying, “We have a lot of experiences in life we don’t understand. We can ask, ‘Why?’ ‘Why does this disease happen?’ My answer to that question is, ‘I don’t know why.’ I can talk about how sin entered the world and that we are all sinners and that bad things happen. There are a lot of questions with no answers. So, what are we to do? I do what my son said about four days before he died from cancer. He was very alert, very alive and in a lot of pain and discomfort. He said, ‘Dad, you’ve got to have FAITH. You’ve got to.’ Now, it makes a difference as to what faith is in. Faith is the evidence of things hoped for. You have to have faith that the future is in God’s hands, and you are in God’s hands; therefore, it’s going to come out alright.”
In the midst of a pandemic, The Baptist Home has found an opportunity to share a much-needed message of faith and hope while pointing the way to the saving love of Jesus Christ. As in the current crisis, the elderly are often designated as the “most vulnerable.” Our residents at The Baptist Home have reminded us once again that they may in fact be the most resilient of us all.
Best known for providing quality, Christian care to the aging, The Baptist Home ministers to 272 residents across its four retirement communities in Missouri with campuses at Ironton, Ozark, Chillicothe and Ashland. Over the course of its 107-year history, The Baptist Home has provided more than $40 million dollars in benevolent care assistance, making it one of the largest benevolent care programs in the nation. To learn more about the ministry of The Baptist Home, visit www.thebaptisthome.org or follow us on Facebook @TheBaptistHome.