By Jenna Ebener
I was on my way to the nursing home to give the residents Communion as I do every month. This Sunday, however, was a little different. First, it was not my scheduled week. I was asked the evening before to be a substitute and didn’t feel as prepared as usual. Second, our first youth group meeting was scheduled that afternoon and I had been busy preparing for it, so I felt rushed. The third difference helped me to make a difference in someone’s life.
I arrived at the nursing home and noticed that something was off; only about a third of the regular residents were present. We went about our service as usual and I was especially struck by God’s presence that day. Even though I did not have an opportunity to ponder the readings beforehand, God spoke through me as I talked about the readings, helping me to make connections I did not come up with on my own.
His presence continued to stay strongly with me. My mind kept going to one resident in particular who had not attended the service. I knew she had been struggling with depression, and she had been in my prayers. I “needed” to get going to prepare for youth group and the work week, but God kept sending the image of this individual to my thoughts. I finally followed his nudging and, instead of going home, found out what room the resident was staying in and made my way there. I knocked, waited for a while and knocked again. After more than a minute, I started to walk away.
At that moment, I crossed paths with another resident I knew. I asked if she had seen the other resident, a friend of hers, and we spoke for a couple of minutes. As I was leaving, she mentioned that she had just seen the other resident poking her head out of her door. I headed back to her room, knocked again and waited. Another minute later, she opened the door.
I could tell she was struggling. From my conversation with the other resident, I knew what she needed was not a discussion about how great God is and how she should come back to church. What she needed was compassion. I simply said I wanted to check on her and knew that she was struggling. I listened to her. At the end of our visit, I told her I was praying for her and encouraged her not to give up. Then, she initiated a hug.
While this conversation lasted around a minute, it is my hope that it stayed in her memory a lot longer. I believe God brought me to that room for a reason. While I do not know whether I helped, I also have no idea what ripple effect may have started. All I know is that God has a plan and he asked me to be a part of it.
It was when I was overwhelmed with things I “needed” to do that he pushed me to pause and take a step back. He made me see that I was not too busy to say yes to a plea for a substitute or to take a few extra minutes to check in on someone. Even when it seemed like the effort to visit the resident was fruitless, God appeared to me through another resident to tell me to go back.
“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me’” (Isaiah 6:8). What is he sending you to do?
(Jenna Ebener graduated with a Master of Social Work from St. Ambrose University in Davenport.)