More Than Conquerors: Elderly outreach thrives at New Hope UMC
(Kari Barlow for the AWF) - Facing old age can be frightening, but at New Hope UMC in Theodore, the congregation’s most senior members—and the people who serve them—have become More Than Conquerors.
That’s the name of the outreach ministry that formed in 2015 after Pastor Vann Bush enlisted the help of church member Sharron Larimer to better serve the church’s shut-ins.
“She just took the ball and ran with it, and it’s been such a blessing!” Bush said.
Like many churches today, New Hope has an increasing number of its senior members grow too old and frail to attend regularly. For years, they taught Sunday school classes, sang in choirs, decorated sanctuaries and greeted visitors at services, but they now live in nursing homes and other facilities, separate and apart from all they once knew.
But thanks to Larimer, her husband, Raliegh, and roughly a dozen other volunteers, More Than Conquerors is reconnecting these New Hope members—and many others—to God’s family.
“We are more than conquerors because God loves us that much,” Larimer said. “Every one of us. … God doesn’t want anyone to feel abandoned.”
The vibrant and self-sustaining ministry performs two concerts a month at multiple nursing homes across the Mobile area and also hosts a Restore My Soul Craft Day once a month at various other senior living facilities.
“The more you see them, the more you realize how lonely they must feel,” Larimer said. “It’s given us all a sense of purpose. We’ve got to be God’s hands and feet and eyes and ears. We are there to really look in their eyes and see what they need.”
The group, mostly comprised of retired folks, includes a guitar player, several practiced vocalists and a Christian humorist who always warms up the crowd with a few jokes. They sing old gospel hymns, lead prayers, hand out flowers and other trinkets, read to residents and sometimes simply sit quietly and keep them company.
“They really love the music at the nursing homes,” Larimer said. “They’re still singing when we leave.”
Ministering to the elderly—particularly those who are no longer able to communicate—is sometimes heartbreaking, but the work reminds Larimer that God is still very much at work in our lives—no matter our age.
“It’s just shown me that it’s not over until it’s over,” she said. “These people, even if they can’t say anything, you know a soul is in there. … They know our faces, and when they smile, that’s the greatest feeling in the world.”
Larimer said More Than Conquerors makes it clear to every facility that it’s there to share Jesus Christ with the residents, love them and make their lives more comfortable.
“We are doing this for God Almighty,” Larimer said. “Even the employees will seek us out for prayer, so we know they know that’s why we’re there.”