In the Beginning My brothers and I faced a heart-wrenching decision: should our ailing parents be placed in a nursing care facility? Dad, suffering from renal cancer that attacked his spine, was too weak to be alone. Mother’s massive stroke left her unable to walk, eat or speak so that others could understand. Though we didn’t want to face it, the conclusion was clear.
We spent long hours each day visiting our parents. As I walked the halls and noticed how lonely the residents were, the Lord began to speak to me about reaching out to these precious people. At first, I did not want to listen to this still, small voice. I had too many things going on in my own life! I worked a full-time job, my husband had many health issues to contend with, and not only that; I was far too old to begin a new ministry.
After both of my parents passed away, the Lord continued to speak to me. I began to dream that my mom was being plunged into horrible situations; situations that I would not have allowed her to be in. I often woke up crying. I finally asked the Lord, “Why am I having these dreams? My mom is no longer with me and I can’t help her.” He softly replied, “What about those you can help?” The Lord extended an invitation to me; one that I could not refuse. No longer was there a need for questions, only obedience. It was time to take His hand and walk this journey with Him.
The Need As I began my research to explore what was being done to meet the spiritual and emotional needs of the residents of our nations skilled care centers, I was heartbroken to learn the answer: “VERY LITTLE!” The care center’s staff cares for the residents’ physical needs on a daily basis, but the spiritual and emotional needs of the residents are rarely discussed. This does not represent neglect on the part of health care professionals; they are trained in the administration of physical care. At the same time, I believe it is crucial that we minister to the whole person. This includes their spiritual and emotional needs as well as the physical. Therefore, we need to send qualified volunteers into the care centers who are trained and experienced in the administration of spiritual care.
I also found that in a survey of over 16,000 skilled care centers in the United States that only 15% of the residents of these facilities receive personal visits. The remaining 85% rarely receive a visit from anyone; not a relative, friend, clergy, or members of the Christian Church. The primary reasons that residents are abandoned are the results of dysfunctional families and the geographical separation of family members. Another disturbing fact is that only 5% of these centers have on-staff chaplains. Consequently, many of the elderly are lonely, depressed, angry and bitter, and they don’t understand why they have been forgotten by the outside world.
The Ministry Crossroads Ministries USA, Inc.’s primary mission is to place trained volunteers and chaplains in skilled care centers and assisted living facilities to help meet the spiritual and emotional needs of the elderly. To carry out this mission, much of the research and planning began in 2000. In 2002, Crossroads filed for corporate, 501 (c) (3), non-profit status in the State of Colorado and began the training and placement of volunteers in 20 care centers in Colorado Springs, Colorado. We also founded a new school in 2007 called Crossroads School of Chaplaincy. Crossroads chaplains now serve in several care centers in Colorado. The Future With Colorado Springs serving as the springboard of operations—and because the national need to care for the spiritual and emotional needs of the residents of the care centers is so great—our goal is to extend this ministry to other communities throughout the nation. In addition to our headquarters in Colorado Springs, Crossroads has visiting care center residents in Del Norte, Pueblo, Longmont, Berthoud and Loveland, CO; Cheyenne, WY, Hutchinson, KS, Kauai, HI, Chicago, IL and Seminole FL