One Church's Dedication to Caring for Seniors
By: Aimee Yeager
Operation Cast Me Not
On March 12, Bishop Leeland asked United Methodist churches in Western North Carolina to refrain from meeting in person for at least two weeks. Fifteen days later, Governor Roy Cooper issued stay-at-home orders for the state of North Carolina. At that point, the members of First United Methodist Church in Mocksville realized they would have to do something to take care of the most vulnerable among them during this time. With public officials warning of increased COVID-19 risk for adults over the age of 65, church members asked how they could best care for their twelve elderly, homebound members and Operation Cast Me Not was born.
Named from Psalm 71:9, "Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone," Operation Cast Me Not pairs a church volunteer with one of the church’s homebound members. This volunteer is tasked with running errands for the elderly member, whether that be to the grocery store, the pharmacy, home and garden supply, or any other errand they need.
Since its inception, the ministry has only grown. A community member has prepared and delivered homecooked meals. Another church member has baked and delivered zucchini and blueberry loaves. For Easter, the church delivered each homebound member a frosted cake shaped like a lamb and a goodie bag filled with a chocolate bunny, candy, Kleenex, and a card from their church family.
“I have received more blessings from participating in this adventure than I have delivered,” shares Alice Hanes, volunteer shopper. “My folks were always so excited to receive homecooked meals and the Easter treat bags!”
Operation Cast Me Not soon grew to include the Stephen Ministry, a lay-led ministry in which volunteers are trained to offer one-to-one Christian care for individuals going through difficult times. The church divided the names of all members 65-years and older between the twelve Stephen Ministers and asked them to call the individuals on their list one to two times per week.
Lillian Sharpe, one of the Stephen Ministers, says, “This has been a good experience at a time when we all feel disconnected from our church family. We have been in touch with friends just to check in and have found that the calls lead us to others who are not on our list. It’s been a joy to do a little something to help during this time.”
One of the benefits of the ministry has been increased community between members. “It has been a blessing to be able to help someone during this time,” Tiffany Evans shares. “The person that I was matched with wasn’t someone I had met before, so it was nice to make a new friend, too! I have enjoyed calling her a couple times each week to check in about her needs. Most of all, I have been blessed by the opportunity to use this unusual and uncertain time to show God’s love.”
FUMC-Mocksville also determined to not neglect the other senior group among their ranks – their high school seniors. In mid-April, they began the Adopt-A-Graduate program. The church sent out a call for volunteers who would be willing to adopt one of the ten high school seniors they have in their youth group this year.
The senior adults decided to return the favors they had received through Operation Cast Me Not. The church received phone calls from several senior adults who wanted to adopt a high school graduate. The volunteers are sending encouraging notes and small gifts to lift the spirits of the students who are missing the final months of their senior year, including their graduation ceremony.
During the month of May, one Sunday school class will be holding “We Miss You Wednesday” drive-by parades. The route will be sent out to participants, who will be encouraged to decorate their vehicles and drive by the homes of senior adults, senior graduates, and the children of the church. Instead of throwing out candy, like a normal parade, participants will be handing out Upper Room devotions and homemade face masks.
Don Routh, a recipient of the Operation Cast Me Not shopping program says, “I am 74 and my wife is 72. I have asthma and had pneumonia at the beginning of this. Because we have a shopper we have not had to go out in public. I thank First United Methodist Church for being The Church.”
Reflecting on the heart of FUMC, Lisa Prillaman says, “In a time when so much is uncertain, there are some things I know for certain. God is with us. God continues working in His people. At FUMC-Mocksville, we take care of one another and we have church leadership that is willing to adjust and develop new ministries as needed. Operation Cast Me Not is an example of these things and the way that God’s light is shining in the darkness of uncertainty.”
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