Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Twilight Years of Life (07/02/09)
TITLE: Visit to the Veterans Domiciliary
By BILL HUNT
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So I volunteer to serve in the Veterans Domiciliary.
I want to reach outside of myself. I refuse to turn into a “navel gazer”. I’m determined to seek significance in these closing years. So I volunteer and I visit the Veterans.
When I walk through the sliding glass doors at the “Dom”, I enter a different world. I meet, let’s call them Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Wheelchairs sit in the sun alongside the front walk just outside the big door and inside the reception area in the shade. Some of the grey-headed occupants are sleeping. Others give brief smiles or greetings.
“Good morning, Chaplain….”
Most are not conversationalists until they find a spark, but then again, neither am I. They generally rest, which forces my normal method of socialization to take a turn. I think conversation becomes the greeting itself. And greeting takes faith, faith that even the greeting is received. Ministry becomes a matter of presence. These elderly Vets notice a visitor is here, and mostly that seems to satisfy.
So, I said I meet Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Matthew is dynamic. He’s the resident community activities aide. He organizes committees, bingo games, movies, and our Sunday afternoon service. He drives his wheelchair very fast and everywhere, a champion. He fetches a four-legged stool from somewhere for me. He carts cookies from the kitchen, and he pops ten bags of popcorn. Matthew sparks to talk about the Volkswagen Bug he used to drive. Actually, his wheelchair is not less significant.
“I don’t know,” he usually answers when I ask about another Vet. “I haven’t seen him today.”
Mark is a gem. He walks in with a bent, non-supporting neck in his souped-up walker loaded with notebooks, papers, and books that seem way too heavy for him. He’ll spark for a theological discussion. And he’ll always pass a rustic hand-drawn Jesus witness slip when the discussion takes a godly turn. I can’t wait to meet Mark in heaven in his glorified body. He’ll be the one running the triathlon.
“Good morning. Sorry, I’m late,” he says in a deep professional voice as he slowly shuffles in. Mark is a former chiropractor who knows about the body, as he knows about God.
Luke is a devoted servant who always attends service dressed in tie and coat, a handsome cut. He doesn’t use a wheelchair. Luke has another problem. Every time Luke comes in, he’ll draw himself up very close, full height, to talk in a soft voice confidentially.
“Can you help me?” he whispers. “I need to be saved. I can’t remember if I’m saved.”
“Yes, Luke.” I say. “You are saved.” His eyes look so sincere. “Would you like me to pray with you to be sure?”
“Yes,” he says….
My concern is for a hundred other Vets who don’t come to service. Some just peek in from the doorway and walk on by, or run in and out to grab a cookie. I’m worried about the salvation of these elderly persons in their twilight years so close to eternity.
John, a new attendee, sat through the last service in the far corner. At the end, when we were alone, I approached him.
“I don’t believe in hell,” he said. “I used to be a fanatic once. But I don’t believe in religion anymore.”
“I don’t either,” I said. “I believe in Jesus, only Jesus counts.”
“I once carved the mark of the beast right here,” he said as he drew an imaginary pattern in the palm of his hand.
“Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil,” I said. “Only Jesus counts.”
As he started to leave nervously, I asked if he’d like a cookie.
“Yes! I’d like a cookie,” he said.
He lingered a little instead, and chatted with me. I don’t want to lose him. Maybe he’ll come back next time.
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