by Payton Clark, Assistant News Editor
“The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old,” Proverbs 20:29
Every Monday and Friday at 4 pm, students meet at the steps of Raley and walk to Shawnee Care Center together in the ministry called Age to Age.
At the center, students visit with residents, share stories and fellowship together.
“It is a really neat opportunity that the Lord has given me to serve,” sophomore elementary education major Olivia Dudley said. “The Bible talks about visiting the poor, orphaned, widowed, and elderly and I know that since I am well and able, I want to follow that call in my life.”
Senior family and community services major Olivia Reel leads a group of students to the center every week.
“We go across the street to Shawnee Care Center a couple times a week and spend time with some of the residents,” Reel said.
“Sometimes we play games with them- they love Uno, and sometimes we just sit and talk to them because they don’t get that very often. We form relationships with them and let them know that people still care about them, because a lot of them don’t have people that visit.”
While the students enjoy playing games and talking to the residents, they also try to share the Word with them.
“We try to share the gospel when we can,” Reel said. “A lot of the residents are already Christians or they at least have an idea of what Christianity is already, but being cooped up inside those walls all day long can make it really hard to live a Christian lifestyle.”
“It can be really hard to have patience, and even courage, in their situation so a lot of what we do is just encouraging the residents and in some cases sharing scripture with them to help make it through.”
Last Saturday, Age to Age worked with Prayer for the Nations and Hope House and took a group to the nursing home where they played Uno and Bingo with the residents and helped them make pine cone bird feeders.
“The week before the event, I had a table set up in the GC and we had blankets set out for people to come by and tie knots and pray for the residents,” Reel said.
“The people who won the games won the blankets we made, and I was able to tell them that the blankets were prayed over as people tied the knots and that people prayed specifically for them, which was really cool to see.”
Dudley said she thinks that both students and residents benefit from the Age to Age ministry.
“Many residents in the nursing home don’t have visitors very often, so I know that they are very encouraged to have people come see them consistently,” Dudley said. “They remember you and look forward to your visits-you kind of become an adopted Grandkid.”
Shawnee Care center resident Eva Dean Jones especially enjoys the visits from OBU students.
“They’re always really nice,” Jones said. “The people that I’ve talked to have always been respectful.”
Residents Mary Johnson and Betty Wilson both like listening to the students and their stories from the past week.
“We like to talk talk talk,” Wilson said. “I also like to see how the students are doing and what’s going on in their lives.”
Cultivating relationships is one of Dudley’s favorite aspects of the ministry.
“It is a really fun time because the residents are hilarious and genuinely care about us,” Dudley said. “It is a really rewarding ministry because you get to continuously build relationships with the same individuals as you see them every time you visit.”
One of the main reasons Reel is drawn to Age to Age is her belief that Christian community is not just about being in fellowship with people our own age, but with all ages.
“There are scriptures in the Bible that command us to take care of the elderly and stuff like that, but passages like our theme verse in Proverbs, it talks about the glory of a young men is their strength but the glory of an old man is their grey hair,” Reel said. “I puzzled about that for a while thinking, what does that mean? But I think it really just means their age and having them involved in our community. “
“It benefits us as much as it benefits them,” said Reel.
Dudley believes that the ministry broadens her perspectives because of the differences in time and the wisdom brought by the residents.
“Some of them have had difficult lives and it is very encouraging to see how joyful many of the residents are,” Dudley said. “Honestly, it is a mutual service; I get to encourage them by visiting them and they bring me joy by sharing their stories and friendship.”
Reel, the Age to Age chair, recently learned from Dean Griffin the origins of the ministry.
“In the 1980s there was a social club on campus that started visiting the nursing home,” Reel said. “They eventually [disbanded] but the people in the group continued going to the nursing home, and that is what became Age to Age.”
Since Reel is a senior this year, she said she is hoping to grow the organization in order to have new leadership after her graduation.
“Before this semester, a lot of people didn’t even know that it existed, so I’m trying to get the name out and to get students involved,” Reel said. “I love these people, and when I leave I want to leave somebody here to spend time with them too.”
Since Age to Age is such a small organization, Dudley encourages students to consider participating.
“I know that the residents would love to see some new faces,” Dudley said. “I think it would be great if students who were interested could come out and try it to see if Age to Age is something that they feel called to get involved in.”