Cherish the Person, Change the Community

Holding hands

Author: Ruth Preston

Bible study

We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Debs from Hope Community Church in East Manchester. Debs shared with us her heart for older people and how she is doing her best to support others during the coronavirus. 



As a young child, Debs was close with her grandad and saw him as her best friend. Little did she know that her love for her grandad would be the spark that ignited a flame in her heart for serving older people. 



But it wasn’t until her time serving at church as a youth worker that God did a real awakening on her heart. As God revealed more of His father heart to Debs, she felt her own heart breaking for the lonely and isolated within the older community. It was during this time that God did a work on her heart and, as she shared with us, “something in me was wrestling and wriggling about caring for the older people.”



Soon enough, her serving ministry with the youth became a multi-faceted as she served both the youth and the older people. One day, as she was talking with the Lord about how she could better serve the older community, she was reminded of Ecclesiastes 12. 



“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them […] Remember him – before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well.” 



The verse felt like a penny from heaven and was the inspiration behind Silver Cord Ministries, an inter-church hope mission ministry that served older people within the community. In the words of Silver Cord Ministries, ‘cherish the person, change the community’.



Debs explained how the silver cord is seen as the link between this life and the next. “That’s my heart,” she shared with us, “that people will see God’s goodness. Over the years, my whole focus became largely about older people, but God has enlarged my heart for the family vision – it’s intergenerational. It’s about how we do this connection with the older people and the younger generations.” 



Older people have been through trials and pain, but many of them have known God in it and they make the most wonderful guides for people, leading others through desert seasons to a God who will never leave or forsake them. 



As part of Debs regular Monday group, pre-COVID, Silver Cord Ministries connected with the local primary school. Every Monday, the children would come in to do an activity together with the older people. Debs shared with us how, “the intergenerational events bring a whole new lease of life to all ages – the children transport the older people into their world – and the older people befriend the children.” 



After one of these sessions, a gentleman who was 90 approached Debs and said to her, “when we go round here, we’re not old, we’re just human.” 



A lot of the time, older people feel like they are treated differently just for being older But Debs shared how there is a natural blending that happens when older and younger people mix that is so beautiful to witness. 



However, during lockdown, face-to-face sessions like this have been impossible to hold – especially since the schools have closed. Even so, Debs has organised the school children to write letters and she, and a group of volunteers have been phoning older people regularly. “But there needs to be community,” she told us, “phone calls are just not the same as face-to-face contact. Some people are just longing to have their hand held.” 



Even during lockdown, the councils are trying to encourage centres like Debs get off the ground again and start hosting activities for older people once more, when it is safe to do so, because they can see the extensive benefits on the community. Debs is extremely thankful for this and is doing the best she can to get the centre back up and running, safely, so that older people can get back into the communities they long to be in, have conversations with friends they miss, and see other people again. 



Near the end of our conversation, Debs shared very honestly about one of the things she struggles with in her ministry and that is being the hero. Like many of us with a heart for older people, Debs wants to rush in and be the rescuer. But she told us, “your value should not be tied to what you do. That’s a wrestle in all of us. I am challenged with that. But it’s not going in there with a rescue mindset. It’s trying to meet people on a mutual ground. Their friendship is just as valuable to me as what I am offering them.” 



God doesn’t see people for what they can do or how they can benefit Him, instead He loves us by His grace. In His eyes, we are all valuable. As Debs beautifully concluded, “everyone deserves to be cherished.” 



Who is God calling you to cherish? Who is He nudging you to contact? Who is He challenging you to love better? 



We hope Debs story has encouraged you that you don’t need to be perfect to serve other people with love. It is only by God’s grace that we are able to show love to other people. And sometimes it’s hard and sometimes it’s messy, but God is so gracious and He loves when we obey Him. 



If you feel like God is calling you to serve the older people in your community, why not get in touch with Faith in Later Life today? We can provide the resources, support, and guidance you need to get started God’s wonderful mission to reach older people in your church and community. 



In the words of Silver Cord Ministries, let’s start to cherish the people so that we can change the community.