Vineyard Visitors Care Center Ministry: Karen Tachi

Vineyard North Phoenix Care Center Ministry is in its 7th year of service to the residents and rehabilitation patients of Glendale LifeCare Center in Glendale, Arizona. We have a group of people who visit the center called Vineyard Visitors.

The idea developed from a one-day Serve Phoenix outreach coordinated by Pastor Dave Johnson. Pastor Dave asked me to head up the team for the Care Center outreach part. I was scared but agreed. Unbeknownst to Dave, four years prior at the Grove City Ohio Vineyard I had been asked by my small group leader to visit a lady who was being tended to by a hospice nurse. She wanted to spend more time with Sandy, her patient, but her workload would not permit it. She had driven by our church and called to see if someone would come and visit with Sandy. I had been praying for my place in the kingdom to serve, and I believed this was it.

I spent two years visiting with Sandy before I went to work. Because of my fear, the subject of salvation never came up. Sandy developed pneumonia and died soon after. I was very reluctant after that to step into any form of ministry which resembled that situation, feeling I had failed my chance because of my fear and inexperience.

After the Serve Phoenix event was over, I could not sleep for the following three nights. I woke up consistently at 3 a.m. in tears, seeing the faces of the LifeCare Center residents. By the third morning I had called Dave and said, “Dave, I think God wants me to start visiting this facility on a regular basis.” He replied excitedly that he had been praying for someone to do this!

I contacted the facilities volunteer manager, and we were met with a positive response. Stepping out cautiously with a couple of volunteers, we started meeting at the facility one Saturday a month for two hours. During this time we would take greeting cards to the residents and ask them if they had anything in their room they needed help with.

Now, seven years later, a small group of us faithfully visit twice a month and visit room to room offering a friendly visit and prayer. The center named us “Vineyard Visitors,” and we are on its monthly activities calendar.

One particular gentleman caught my attention from the first day. He was in his 50s and had suffered an aneurysm ten years prior, which left him with very limited mobility. He could speak, but only in whispers. Most of the time he would need to laboriously write out for me what he was trying to communicate. Eventually, with God’s help, I learned his language and was able to communicate with him. He started telling us little jobs we could do, like writing his name and room number on his clothes so they would not get lost on laundry day.

Months later, when he saw me making jewelry for one of his friends at the facility, he started to purchase beads and findings so that I could assemble earrings and bracelets for him. Well, our friendship has grown and he now has a thriving little business at the care center, selling earrings to help pay for his laundry expenses and to support his jewelry-making hobby. He also gives a lot away as gifts to his aides at the center that care for him.

While working on jewelry with my friend in the library one day, the care center’s driver came by and started up a conversation. I told him who I was and what we did, and I gave him one of our church cards, inviting him to check us out. This man now drives the care center van once a month to our church and brings residents from the facility for services.

One of the members of my team was led to go in and pray for a man, and he accepted Christ. Through conversation with him, we discovered that the same care center driver who had taken him to a medical appointment earlier in the week had been talking with him about Christ! When I relayed the message to the driver about what had happened, he confided in me that this was the first time he had stepped out and shared Jesus with someone.

I’d like to say we knew what we were doing from day one, but we didn’t. We were just willing to go. In an effort to further educate ourselves about care center ministry, we surfed the Internet trying to locate already existing care center ministries within the Vineyard to get some advice. I was led to God Cares Ministries, formed by Pastor Bill Goodrich in Avon Lake, Ohio. Its mission is to provide training and support to care center ministries around the U.S. and to help every church adopt one care center in its neighborhood. I ordered the training materials and caught the vision of putting care center ministry on the radar of the Association of Vineyard churches after becoming aware of the following statistics:

- Care center ministry is a rapidly growing mission field in the U.S.
- There are over 2 million residents in the care homes of this nation.
- One-third of all Americans who die spend all or part of their last six months in a long-term care facility.
- 80% of the people living in care facilities receive less than one visit per month.
- Over 90% of American churches do not have a recognized ministry to the people in long-term care centers.

Vineyard has an amazing ministry opportunity to take Jesus to the residents of America’s care homes, the poor, the orphaned, the widowed and the forgotten.

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. Isaiah 1:17

Karen Tachi, Vineyard North Phoenix (Phoenix, AZ)
Submitted November 29th, 2012

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