After four months of the COVID-19 crisis, it is still unknown when the church in China will be reopened.
An elderly group of believers in the Dongfeng Church in Liaoyuan, China’s northeastern Jilin Province, seem not to have adapted to having worship services online since most of them can only talk with pastors by phone. The good news is that the pandemic has been controlled and people have resumed their normal lives.
The church's senior ministries consist of three parts: a welfare home, a nursing home, and a fellowship. There are 248 members.
Before the outbreak, the pastoral ministry for senior believers was very efficient. For those who are handicapped or too old to attend church, a visitation team led by Rev. Wang brought copies of Sunday sermons or audio files to their homes. Church workers led them in praise and worship, sharing, prayer, and communication.
But the unexpected disease disrupted all this. Rev. Wang said, “It's very difficult to pastor the elderly online as most seniors can’t use smartphones. They can’t listen to sermons at the appointed time. We call them to give them greetings, offer comfort, and intercessory prayers.”
“Since the severity of the pandemic has lessened, the church’s Senior Department is visiting every member to help them access live-streaming Sunday services. Some workers give audio sermons to them,” he added.
Unable to gather on-site, most senior believers fail to read the Bible or pray by themselves, leading to feelings of hopelessness and a weakness in faith. They expect that churches will be reopened soon.
However, they found much comfort and inspiration from the door-to-door visits.
The elderly were very happy to see their visitors from the church, greeting them with smiles and even tears. An elderly Christians was too excited to speak for a while after the team visited her.
Her daughter said,
“When I arrived home, my mother told me that you had visited her. She was overjoyed. She said that she was too happy to talk...Having lived a long life, she has never been treated with much courtesy or respect... My mother kept saying that God really loved her and did not forget her. There is no excuse for her to have a poor faith walk with the Lord. She said you told her that she had a tough task. She was advised to pray for those family member who did not believe in the Lord. That was doing the Lord’s work. She was excited and happy that she could work for the Lord at an old age.”
“I also heard from my father that you paid a visit to him at a construction site. Your visit brought new life and strength to my parents and family. You gave them faith and hope.”
Rev. Wang said, “The visits not only inspired and built up the elderly believers, but also brought much comfort to church workers. It was a journey full of grace for everyone. Some believers who stopped going to church even though they became Christians a long time ago have returned to the church through the ministry.”
The ministry has visited a total of 86 members. The department plans to visit everyone, sending two workers out every afternoon.
Some of the elderly live alone without anyone to care for them, and some reside in a nursing home.
“We pay more visits to this special group. We will try to do what we can to help them with their daily lives, giving them food, washing their clothes and helping them bathe. If any of them are hospitalized, we do our best to help them,” shared the pastor.
“I thank God that though the 248 seniors may be weak in faith, have suffered through bad times, or feel no hope, none of them suffer from depression.”