Introducing Honoring Our Elders

posted Jan 22, 2015, 7:33 PM by John Ramthun   [ updated Feb 18, 2015, 1:53 PM ]

Honoring Our Elders

Chaplain and Program Director Shirley Kelter

YES! This was the thoughtful and heartfelt response from John and Sarah to another call they heard from God and our community. 6:8’s newest venture is
Honoring Our Elders - a spiritual support and companioning ministry to elderly members of the Sauk Prairie community. I am so pleased to work with 6:8 in this way. With the support of the Sauk Prairie community, we will celebrate the wisdom, service, and stories of elders; and provide support to those who might be lonely, dealing with any variety of loss, coming to the end of their life’s journey, struggling with life’s challenges and questions, or simply would benefit from a dose of spirit-lifting!


Recently, I heard a great description of a “chaplain:” story-catcher. It really rings true! In every visit with elders, I am privileged to hear inspiring, fascinating, funny, and sometimes pain-filled stories. My heart is touched over and over. Many of our elderly I visit live in the nursing home or assisted living residences of Maplewood or Pines, others in their own homes. Some are very lonely, having only periodic brief conversations with caregivers or occasional contacts with family. The opportunity to tell their story, share their worries, reflect on their losses, tap into their courage, and voice their hopes - unhurried - is a need and gift for them (as well, for those with lots of family support and activity). Often I will pray with an elder I visit, if they wish, but sometimes they are simply content to talk. Or cry. Or laugh!


As I entered one woman’s assisted living apartment at Christmastime, I was startled by a bird happily chirping - right by my ear! I looked around for a birdcage, and the resident clapped her hands and laughed, saying, “I love when that happens!” She showed me the little cardinal ornament by her door that senses motion and starts chirping whenever someone walks in or out of her door. She told me it’s her favorite Christmas decoration, and it led to a discussion about her interest in birds and nature, about her children who fill the bird feeders outside her windows and the joy that brings her - and one story led to the next. Almost an hour passed in a blink! When I stood to leave, her eyes were sparkling and her smile told me she was waiting for the little “watch bird” to start chirping again when I left.


Another woman I found resting in her bed on Christmas Eve. This woman, I knew, struggles with speech, due to a stroke, and suffers from some dementia. I sat by her bed, held her hand, and softly sang Christmas carols to her. She seemed to enjoy listening to the familiar songs, and soon began singing with me - as best she could - a beautiful smile lighting up her face. I have often found music to be a powerful ministry tool - reaching places in the heart and memory that talking alone might miss. Making a connection like this is such a sacred gift - truly I felt a sense of being on “holy ground.”


These are only two of many, many stories I could share with you! I hope you’ll consider  being part of Honoring Our Elders, helping me grow this important ministry. In the near future we will begin developing a network of volunteers, Friends of Elders - individuals, families, youth - who will share in the joy of story-catching! Stay tuned for more details.


2015! A new year of possibilities - for 6:8, our Sauk Prairie Community, and especially its elderly population. Help us honor and celebrate the gifts they are to us!