Chronic pain and sickness play tricks with your mind. You feel isolated. You think no one cares. You wonder where you can find hope.
Even if you are a strong follower of Christ or have a supportive family, you still aren’t immune to the mind games.
Ken Lowrimore, a member of First Baptist Church in Houston, knows this firsthand. The 80-year-old has been battling Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma for 20 years, undergoing 10 different rounds of chemotherapy. One thing that helps him is when his friend or associate pastor sits with him during treatments.
“You sit there hooked up to poison for hours at a time, and your mind just runs away from you,” Lowrimore explains. “To have someone sit with you and talk makes all the difference. You realize someone cares. You are reminded that God does care about you as an individual, by this simple act.”
Through a visitation ministry, pastors with a compassionate heart can show hurting church members love never fails. A visit from a cheerful person can change the course of a patient’s day.
Jaye Martin has a new appreciation for this type of ministry in the church. The IMB trustee and member of Houston’s First Baptist Church has suffered severe and chronic pain for the past two years. The pain medication often clouds her thinking or leaves her unable to complete sentences.
“Never before have I realized how quickly isolation can occur,” she says. “I have been abundantly blessed by the consistent contacts of the women’s ministry director, the executive pastor, ministerial staff, deacons and friends. The body of Christ has been wrapping its arms around me and a constant source of encouragement.”
Martin understands that pastors cannot be “all things to everyone,” but they can make a touch point, whether it’s praying, calling, emailing or sending a handwritten note.
“The important thing is that the pastor makes contact, then delegates to a deacon care team, pastoral ministries or members who have been trained,” Martin suggests. “As the body of Christ, I think all of us are responsible and all share the load.”
Lowrimore suggests pastors teach their congregation how to do visitation, encouraging them to work alongside him and eventually letting them take over part of it. That’s how he got involved
with his church’s visitation. He believes pastors should encourage those who have been through different “real life situations” to go visit.
One cancer patient (or survivor) can speak to another on a unique level. They can relate to the fears, mind games, chemo side affects, isolation, etc. They can give a personal testimony for “the big question: Am I ready to die?”
The 80-year-old emphasizes the importance of prayer at the end of a visit. He says it doesn’t matter if the person is a Christian or not, they want prayer. It’s a symbol of hope.
“People want hope. Christians have that hope. If you don’t share that when you visit someone, then you are doing a disservice,” says Lowrimore, who has prayed with more than 40 cancer patients to receive Christ. “Pastors, teach your congregation to share out of their own experiences. And above all else, teach them to always pray.”