Compassionate Visiting – Why Do We Do It?

By Bruce Berning

Have you ever felt God at work?

After years of being involved at AEFC, serving on the Welcome Team and being an Usher Coordinator, I stepped back for a while.  When I retired I felt a need to get involved again.  Being gone for the winter months in Florida, I wondered how could I serve?  After meeting with Glen Schultz and Pastor Jeff, we realized there might be something I could do both in Annandale and in Florida during the winter.  That something was visiting and praying with the elderly, those in nursing homes and in hospice.

Why should we visit those who are hurting?  We can bring what the world cannot give them.

John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

When we are young we tend to think we are going to live forever.  As we age we become more aware of our mortality and more responsive to messages about eternal salvation.

Prayer works and inspires.

James 5:16  Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

A number of years ago our son was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident with life-threating head injuries.  If he survived he faced a lifetime in a wheelchair needing constant care.  Our first response was anger at the Lord. “How can you allow this to happen to a vibrant young man, ruining his life and ours?”  Then I started to pray and negotiate. “If you let him get better I will become a better person, go to church more often, etc.”  Finally I prayed, “Lord, you are in charge.  Your will be done, but heal him if you will.”  Today he is fully recovered and a fully functioning and successful person!

Most elderly, sick, or with an infirmity really want company.  Regular visits develop friendship and trust, making it easier to deliver the Lord’s good news and, more importantly, having it received.  One of the real rewards from visitation and prayer comes when you are praying and holding the person’s hand and you can feel them trembling.

Remember, you are not called to save people.  That’s the job of the Holy Spirit.  You are to assist the Holy Spirit and to be supported and encouraged by the Holy Spirit.  This lesson became clear last winter while in Florida.  We were in the process of starting a visitation and prayer ministry.  I had called on an individual who was dealing with cancer but who at the time was not responding to the Lord’s message.  One day as I was finishing a round of golf I felt absolutely compelled to go see this person. Now!  My partner said “What’s so urgent?  You can clean up and do it later.”  I felt that I needed to go right now.  We went, the patient was happy we had come. We prayed together, and he came to Christ at that time.  I believe it was the Holy Spirit at work!

A few last comments.  Don’t get discouraged.  It takes time and many visits to establish trust and a relationship.  Expect some people, and particularly some of the elderly’s families, to at first be suspicious of your motives.  By patiently persisting, the one you visit will hopefully come to desire their own relationship with the Lord.  No one does anything if they can’t see the rewards to be gained.

 Note:  A recent survey was conducted jointly by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Economist magazine in four countries; the United States, Italy, Japan, and Brazil.  People close to death were asked what  their concerns were about their own death.  88% of the people in the four countries said being at peace spiritually was very important or extremely important.  Living a longer life was much less important to many people.

Interestingly, in Japan there were only 13% of the people surveyed who said religion played a major role in their life, yet 75% said being at peace spiritually was very important or extremely important.  Most Japanese report they are atheistic or with no formal religious affiliation.  It seems apparent the Holy Spirit has planted seeds that we need to help water and grow.