With her delicate frame Ellen Oehms’ (oms) eyes sparkle and her voice radiates excitement when she speaks of helping others.
One harsh winter, being practically confined to bed, this angel of mercy struggled constantly against discouragement. Not even able to attend church which she loves so much, she found it hard to face utter dependency on others.
Ellen Oehms grew up in a German church, the St. Luke's Evangelical Church in Chicago. By busyness in church activities and her confirmation, she hoped she would earn enough merits to make it. But now she says, “All these works didn’t help me one bit. I had no peace, assurance, or joy.”
After her marriage to Chuck Oehms in 1939, they moved to Western Springs, Illinois. Western Springs Baptist Church broadcasted a program “Songs in the Night” which they heard. After hearing the gospel, they decided to visit this church. At forty years of age this preacher led both of them to the Lord in their living room.
While vacationing in Colorado, they drove through Montrose. Chuck said, “This is where I would like to retire. These wide streets appear so nice and clean.”
They subscribed to the Montrose Daily Press and prayed. Next summer they returned to visit Montrose. Then they made plans to move.
When in their seventies, Ellen and Chuck still engaged in many Christian activities, but with changed motives. With a sigh Ellen admitted that she did not always care about people that much. She quoted her favorite Scripture verse: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Corinthians 5:17).
This angel of mercy found many ways to help others. She reached beyond her neighborhood to kids hungry because of ill fortune, feeding and clothing them. She ministered to senior citizens in their drab houses of detention, and those shackled in lame bodies.
This compassionate couple met some handicapped people in Montrose whom they called “special people.” We can help these people, they thought. “Brother Johnson,” they shared with their pastor, “We would like to help some special people with handicaps. We know of no one ministering to them.”
"Go ahead," he encouraged them.
This angel visited these special people. She and Chuck picked some up for Sunday School.
“Special people” limped and rolled in wheel chairs from San Juan Living Center, Valley Manor Care Center, Evergreen Care Center, and the group homes. Word spread and their numbers increased. Christ redeemed special souls.
Ellen, a tender angel, ministered in this class by sitting with these special people and keeping order in the Sunday School and church services. Sometimes she shared a word of testimony with them. She lovingly watched over the special ladies when they exited for the restroom.
Marge loved to collect papers, strings, and other things. Ellen gently watched her and told her, “No, no, you can’t have that,” when she sought to retrieve “treasures” out of the garbage can.
When they disrupted the church services and could not be calmed down, Ellen and Chuck removed them from the hour of worship. Often Ellen went down during the invitation to pray with these special women.
“On their birthday we take our special people to McDonald’s,” Ellen said. “Not only do they enjoy it, but this gives us an additional opportunity to share the things of Christ with them.”
When this caring angel met Donna, she wore thick glasses over her nearly blind eyes. Donna became acquainted with Jack in a workshop at San Juan Living Center.
Ellen and Chuck shared the gospel with these special people. After receiving Christ as their Saviour, this couple wanted to get married.
Pastor Johnson counseled with them and agreed to perform the marriage ceremony. Ellen and Chuck continued working with them after they moved to Spruce Lodge, a group home.
One day a church member thoughtlessly advised, “Jack, you ought to shave off your beard.” Offended, this couple slacked off in church attendance.
Missing them, Ellen and Chuck paid them a visit. After telling them what happened, Jack declared, “I'm not coming to church anymore.” They never saw him in church again. Ellen and Chuck shed tears silently over this erring couple.
Sometime later our angel learned that Jack lay on a sick bed. He had to go to the hospital, and he found out he had cancer of the blood. Soon Jack departed to be with Christ.
Donna continually said, “I love Jesus.” Ellen and Chuck kept in touch with her, but she only attended church occasionally.
Another special person was Ed McClinton. After receiving Christ as his Saviour, he wanted to be baptized. His body was twisted and deformed. How could we ever get him into the baptistry? Ellen and Chuck wondered.
“Let’s talk to Pastor Johnson,” they decided. "He might have an idea.
The pastor asked, “Do they have a bath tub with the chair lift at the nursing home?”
“Yes,” they replied.
Ellen and Chuck went to the nursing home. “Ed McClinton wants to be baptized,” Chuck informed them. “Could we use the electric tub for this service?” he requested.
The attendant readily gave his permission. Pastor Johnson announced the service from the pulpit, and many people came to this special service. The pastor broke tradition when he baptized Ed with his head forward. He came up singing, “Amazing Grace.” Tears of joy ran down the faces of the congregation.
This special man devoted himself to the church services as long as possible. Then cancer spread in his body frustrating his inward desires, but not his devotion to the Lord. When he heard about heaven, his eyes lit up. How he looked forward to his new body which would walk straight on the golden street! Now in Heaven, Ed is no longer shackled by a deformed body.
Once I overheard Ellen chatting over the phone with one of her special friends. She had a painful foot. “Yes, I know it’s hurting,” she empathized. Then tenderly in her own quiet way, she encouraged her to turn her problem over to the Lord. This angel really cares about people.
At times this angel’s ministry reached out to the caregivers in the homes where these special people live.
Sandy suffered an epileptic fit while at home. Afterwards she was sick for several weeks and unable to attend services by herself. Sandy told her counselor, “I want to go to church again.” Because Sandy loved church so much her counselor brought her and heard the gospel also.
“Where are you from, Harold?” Chuck asked him as Ellen stood by his side. Chuck learned Harold’s father was in a nursing home. Harold had told him that his father did not want anything to do with him.
“Maybe he cannot contact you,” Chuck told him.
“When you receive Jesus as your Saviour, you will have a loving heavenly Father who cares for you. Don’t you want to receive Jesus as your Saviour?” Ellen and Chuck led Harold in repeating the sinner’s prayer. Harold’s broad smile reflected his inward joy.
“Now don’t swear, Harold,” they admonished. “Jesus doesn’t want you to talk like that.”
When I get excited, then I do that," Harold said.
About two years ago Lucille professed to receive Christ as her Saviour. She told me, “It was hard to leave my church, but I can’t go back.”
Recently she testified in a church service, “Jesus died for me. You need Him, too. Take Him as your Saviour.”
A week later our pastor admitted he was somewhat nervous when he baptized her. Her testimony blessed our whole church. Chuck and Ellen's work with special people bore fruit.
“What have you learned from these special people, Ellen?” I asked.
“We have learned that you don’t just stop because you have a handicap or a problem.”
“Just keep going right on.”
Eloise, Ruth, Ollie, Monie, and others have made professions of faith. This special ministry requires lots of patience, but this angel said it is worth it. She acknowledged that sometimes, like any ministry, discouragements come, but the rewards of seeing the light on one of these faces kept her going.
Ellen and Chuck went vacationing in Illinois where their two adopted daughters still live. While Chuck told our pastor about Ellen's compressed disk and asked the church for prayer, the pastor could hear Ellen asking about our church. Ellen cares about others.
Though she reserved her energies for her ministry of helping, her marriage did not suffer. She and her beloved serve the Lord together, but she also loved to decorate her house, bake goodies, and take care of her “little castle.”
Ellen helped because she loved the Lord. God has made her into a sweet godly woman. Now He has taken Chuck and her home to Heaven.
“What is your hobby?” I asked.
“I don’t have time for a hobby,” she answered.
“Would you say helping others is your hobby?”
“Yes, I suppose it is,” she answered.
Shorter version printed in God’s Special People, July 1992, pages 7-9
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