Prayer Care – A Volunteer’s Experience

Peter Shipway

I lived and worked in Holborn in London for ten years before moving to Westgate on Sea, and taking up residence in my late father’s bungalow. As a committed born again Christian, I immediately looked for a suitable church to join, and following some research into churches in the area, I discovered Harvest New Anglican Church. Having joined Harvest, I soon found that it was the right choice, and that the Lord had obviously led me there. I joined in as many church activities as I thought appropriate, including a discipleship course, which at its conclusion involved a two day residential. This was where I encountered Prayer Care for the first time. I listened with great interest as Stuart Budden (Church Army Pioneer Evangelist) gave his presentation of what Prayer Care stood for and did and I could feel the Lord saying to me “this is what I want you to do!” Later that day I approached Stuart and asked him to consider me for a role in Prayer Care. He agreed, and a few weeks later we met again. Starting in September 2015, I made myself available on Tuesday afternoons each week, and for over a year now I have regularly attended two care homes in Thanet and have found it a wonderfully fulfilling thing to do.

I have found, without doubt, that we make a difference to the quality of life for the residents, and we are also aware of the importance of interacting with the care staff. The approach in the two homes is very different, but we have to acclimatise to the different situations we find ourselves in. As a team we always have a short prayer session before we go in, and pray that the Lord will guide us in all that we do. The important factor is to value each resident, so that they know we really do care about them. Many of them are in various stages of dementia, some more communitive than others. Some are as bright as buttons, though physically frail. One resident at Wychdene, Hettie, turned 100 years old in August 2015. She closes her eyes a lot, but believe me she is absolutely alert to all that is going on around her, including our conversations with others, and when prompted, she will join in. Even those who are reticent to communicate, with patience and perseverance, one can get them to open up.

At Treetops we undoubtedly make a difference. We have been told by the staff there that following each visit, the residents are talking about us for days afterwards. I personally find it rewarding when the residents want to talk to me and I am able to open up to them. They all have their stories to share and I always make a point of listening carefully to all they are able to say. We also lead a small Communion Service there. We sing hymns and conclude with the Lord’s Prayer. Then we might have a trivia quiz or a bit of a sing-song, singing some of the golden oldies to which the residents know all the words. You can see the pleasure this gives them, especially one resident Michael, who is in an advanced state of dementia and used to be a band leader, so the music is especially important for him.

The most rewarding aspect of all is the sense that I have given of myself, and in doing so, have served the Lord. I am a great believer in deeds as well as faith (James 2:14-17). I believe we as a team undoubtedly make a difference, especially to those residents who have no other visitors.

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