Giving the gift of hope in difficult times

We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Sarah, a Faith in Later Life Church Champion based in Enfield, North London and part of Enfield Town Community Church. Sarah shared with us when her passion for serving older people was ignited and how she is using her giftings to serve those people in her church and wider community during this time.

As a child, Sarah did not grow up with a passion for older people. She merely saw them as old and did not know what she could bring that would benefit them in any way. Over the years, she worked with many young people in the church and in her profession as a nurse, a healthcare visitor, and a midwife.

It wasn’t until 2013 rolled around and Sarah was considering semi-retirement that she asked her Pastor how she could use her new-found free time to serve the church. Her Pastor suggested she could be perfect for serving The Ladies Fellowship Group, as the current leaders were stepping down. Sarah’s first response was, “you’ve got to be joking! What do I know about older people?” But after some time and prayer, she thought she would just give it a go.

Sarah remembers the very moment God transformed her heart for the older people in her church and wider community. It happened at the very first ladies fellowship meeting. Sarah shared with us how, “there were about twenty to thirty people in the room. I knew most of them from church, but as I looked around at each one of them, I thought ‘I really love you. You are really special people’. And that is when my perception changed from them just being older people to actually being really special seniors.”

As Sarah shared this with us, we were reminded of Ezekiel 36:26 which says; “and I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” While this verse is often shared when people give their lives to God, it is a wonderful reminder that God gives us His heart, a heart of love, compassion, and care for His people.

It didn’t take long for this small group of 30-40 women to grow as it opened its doors to all seniors in church and the wider community. The group changed its name to Monday Meet and soon enough, Sarah was seeing over 100 people come through the doors each week.

As the numbers grew, many of the members began inviting their non-Christian friends to enjoy the Bible talk, quiz or craft, and friendly fellowship. With so many people in attendance, Sarah started a monthly group called Soup and Sweets that ran on a Monday and offered a meal to everyone who came along. These meals saw even more attendees, with over 120 people coming along each month!

Whether the monthly meals or weekly meetups, Sarah provided a consistent love and care for these people. Although the activities changed, the biscuits might have been different, the meals varied, God remained the same. He loved every person that came to Monday Meet and He desired to know each of them personally.

So, when lockdown meant over 100 people were unable to meet each week, Sarah took it upon herself to keep in touch with every single person. There was no individual left behind. She shared her Father’s heart to love other people selflessly.

Despite being labelled clinically vulnerable during the lockdown period, Sarah made sure to phone everybody who came along to the Monday groups, as well as all the seniors in her church once a week. During these phone calls, Sarah asked people whether they needed any practical help, such as grocery deliveries or transport to appointments, and she took the time to talk and pray with them. To Sarah, it seemed like the right thing to do, but to so many others it was like a lifeline in a difficult time.

Currently, the group is still unable to meet on a Monday, due to restrictions around COVID, but Sarah is still working hard to keep them all connected. Currently, Sarah posts a weekly letter to each person that includes a written Bible talk, a Bible verse, an activity, and a personal note. In addition to this, she has organised a team of seniors from her church to phone five people each week and talk with them.

As Sarah shared with us, “the purpose is to encourage folks to talk about their family and the things going on with them, but to also aim to discuss the Bible verse and the talk. From that, many people are praying over the phone and it has been such a boost for everyone. Everybody always has someone to talk to.”

Every morning, Sarah is typically on the phone for two to three hours, checking in with people and catching up. In the afternoons, she compiles the materials for that week’s postal delivery and writes a personal note to each person because “you don’t get handwritten notes anymore and it just adds that extra special touch.”

Sarah has some beautiful stories to share of how people have been impacted by her ministry. She shared with us how one lady had started coming along to ‘Monday Meet’ several years ago but she lived quite far away, so she didn’t come often. In the first week of lockdown, Sarah gave her a call and the lady shared how she was moving house but would be happy for Sarah to send her information in the post about the group and to keep in touch. So, Sarah connected this lady up with someone from the church who would phone her each week.

A month passed and Sarah was doing her monthly call-rounds of everyone when she rang this lady once again. The lady shared how she had moved into her new house which was just around the corner from Sarah’s church. She also shared how she had started reading her Bible and really enjoying it. She told Sarah, “I don’t know how to pray, so what I do is cut the prayers out from the bottom of the letters you send me and stick them into a book that I read from.”

Sarah talked to this lady for some time and after some fervent chatting, it seemed she had committed her life to Jesus as a teenager but never done much about it. Then, she got married, raised a family, and went far away from the Lord. But now, many years later, she felt herself being drawn back to Him.

What a wonderful reminder that it is never too late. God is calling us to Him.

Another encouraging story Sarah shared with us was about a couple who used to come along to ‘Monday Meet’, irregularly. The gentleman was a Christian and very keen to attend church, but his wife had not and rarely encouraged him to go. On the rare occasion he managed to persuade her along, she was quite unhappy and unfriendly until, eventually, they stopped coming altogether.

Two or three weeks ago, one of the senior members from Sarah’s church was in a department store café with his wife when a man came over to him and asked if he went to church. He asked, “do you remember me? I used to go to your church!” So, the three of them sat together and talked.

It transpired that the gentleman had been caring for his wife who had developed Dementia. Sadly, his wife had become very abusive, physically and verbally, due to her illness, but he had remained determined to look after her. He shared how he felt that he had to share the gospel with her again and so he did. To his surprise, she burst into tears and said, “I see Jesus, He is dying on the cross for me.”

Just three to four days after this occurred, his wife’s Dementia worsened severely, and she was admitted to hospital. She then went into a care home and just six weeks later, she went to be with Jesus.

God never gives up on us. It does not matter how many years have passed or how far we have drifted away from Him, He is always pursuing us – even unto death! “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” – Psalm 23:6

God is doing such an incredible work through Sarah and her ministry towards older people. Her heart for others is simply inspiring and we could not help but be moved as she shared how she is sharing God’s love with others. Near the end of the call, she told us how “we are in this for the long haul. I have so many people who say they get excited on Wednesday now because they know the postman will bring their envelope. It is about giving them that something to look forward to.

It just shows what you can do with the time the Lord gives you. It’s the little things that make a difference. Have a think about what you could do that might help or bless someone else.

Who could you invite to join our Church Champion community today?