Wendy Dodson, one of our Church Champions, recently sent an email to us sharing an interview she did for BBC Three Counties Radio. During the interview, Wendy shared about her ministry with older people in her church and we were so inspired that we just had to share it. So, with Wendy’s permission, we have written the interview up into a blog format.
Wendy Dodson is part of St Luke’s Church in Watford. She led a thriving over 60’s group called ‘Being Educated’ that meets every Tuesday for coffee, Bible study, expression, and prayer at St Luke’s Church. The group grew out of a social coffee morning that was held on Tuesdays. However, the members of this group said they wanted something more spiritual, as Wendy Dodson explains,
“There was already a flourishing Friday lunch club for older people, and they started coming on the Tuesday morning. They were asking to have either an Alpha course or a Lent course. And that’s how it began.”
During her interview with the BBC, Wendy shared lovely stories of spiritual renewal, reconciliation, and healing that God had worked in the group. This is what she had to say,
“We like the idea of blessing people by giving them a nice cup of coffee and a welcome, then they feel they belong. One lady said that the turning point for her was when somebody said, ‘I have saved you a seat’. That is when she really felt like she belonged.
Having blessed people and helping them feel that they belong, we want to help them come to faith and believe because this changes their behaviour in the challenges of life.”
Romans 14:7-9 says, “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and the living.”
We all want to feel that sense of belonging, of being part of a family, of experiencing unconditional love. But we all come from very different walks of life, and not everyone has a positive view of family. So, simple things like saving a seat for someone or greeting people at the door and welcoming them inside can let people know they are loved.
I am often reminded of the words of Jackie Pullinger, a straight-talking missionary, who worked in The Walled City. She shared in an eye-opening interview that Christianity isn’t all about preaching, it’s also about acting. People come from very different backgrounds and they interpret words and expressions very differently. During her time spent in the Walled City, Jackie was asked whether it was a problem that she did not speak the language. Her response changed the way I thought about Christian ministry.
“If I had known Chinese I would have said too much. I thought that preaching the gospel was explaining how Jesus came to die for your sins and, of course, that’s not preaching the gospel at all. Because that’s not necessarily good news to anyone who doesn’t know love, who doesn’t understand your language, who doesn’t follow your logic. So, it was a good thing because I found out that the people were not listening anyway, they were watching to see how I acted, whether I really did love them. And if I really did love them, maybe God really did love them.”
Isn’t that beautiful? Sometimes it’s the simple things that make all the difference; taking the time to listen, making someone a cup of tea, phoning once a week to check-in, praying for someone when they come to mind. Be encouraged that God can work through the normal everyday situations to reveal His love to the lost.
Wendy certainly discovered this for herself, with her over 60’s group, as she explains, “We have seen lots of answers to prayer. We have seen people who have not been reconciled in their families become reconciled to them.
For instance, one lady had a son that she didn’t like but she loved her daughters, and she gave the daughters money regularly. She was very challenged by what we had been discussing and she came one Tuesday and said, ‘I just want you to know that I’ve actually written a cheque to my son’. That was a very moving occasion.
Another time, we were reading a passage from Isaiah 49:15-17 that says, ‘can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. Your builders make haste, your destroyers and those who laid you waste go out from you.”
One of the women in the group became a little tearful and asked if I could visit her. So, I went round in the afternoon to see her. She told me that she’d been adopted and had never ever told anybody, not even her husband of her children, and she’d carried the burden of not being loved by her mother with her all these years. We were able to talk about it and she really found some healing from that which was wonderful.”
Wendy Dodson and her team have been faithfully serving the over 60’s at St Luke’s Church every Tuesday for a long time and they are still so encouraged and overwhelmed by the many ways God restores, heals, and brings joy to people over and over again.
If you have a passion for serving older people but you don’t know where to start, would you join our community of Church Champions? We encourage and walk alongside hundreds of church champions who care about reaching, serving and empowering older people. Maybe you can start supporting those in your community today by praying for people you know of, making phone calls to the lonely, writing letters, or carrying out doorstop visits. We also have a variety of free resources on our website to help give you some ideas.
To listen to the full interview with Wendy Dodson, click here. I know it will be a great encouragement to many of you faithfully serving in this season.