Features, Highlights

Bringing Jesus to their neighbours at MWS Bethany Nursing Home

Vincent Lim and his family leading worship

Some 15 years ago, Aldersgate Methodist Church (AMC) sent a request to its members for volunteers to reach out to the residents at MWS Bethany Nursing Home (Choa Chu Kang).

Among those who stepped forward were Loh Han Chew and Benson Woon, who were from the same cell group at AMC, and they started a befrienders group at the nursing home.

Han Chew and Benson organised monthly singing and dancing activities for the male residents at the Peace Ward of the nursing home, and roped in their cell group members to take turns to run these programmes. The volunteers often brought snacks for the residents. They would also spend the time chatting with them, and getting to know them personally.

Soon, these visits evolved to Sunday Services every 5th Sunday of the month, at the Home, where up to 40 residents were ministered to each time.

Children and parents serving together

Today, the Outreach and Befrienders’ Ministry at AMC which now has many befrienders groups, is led by Mr Vincent Lim, a senior manager in the aerospace sector.

Since they started serving in 2018, Vincent and his wife, Carene, have brought their four children along with them as they wanted them to grow up learning about compassion, and to exercise it in practical ways.

“At Bethany Nursing Home, my children learned to care for others and treat them with kindness. Through this experience, they developed a strong desire to help others who are in need. The residents like having the children around as they bring joy to them.”

Vincent’s children are an invaluable part of the ministry. “They help to push the residents around the nursing home in their wheelchairs and organise simple games that are well-received, leading to much laughter between the residents and volunteers,” Vincent told Methodist Message.

Open hearts despite language barriers

As not all the residents at the home speak English, one of the biggest challenges Vincent faces is having to use Mandarin or Chinese dialects to communicate with them. He tries to overcome this by using a mixture of English and Mandarin, and the team supports each other by jumping in when they notice anyone having difficulty with the language, or if they spot conversation gaps.

Yet the openness of the residents has shown that the language barrier does not matter. Vincent recalled an encounter with an elderly resident who spoke only Mandarin and was blind. The resident, although not a believer, requested for the volunteers to pray for his health. Carene, who is more proficient in Mandarin, led the prayer while their children prayed alongside.

Another volunteer, Mr Allan Howe, a retiree in his 60s, is encouraged by the residents’ open hearts. “Uncle L, who is a Taoist, said that Jesus told him ‘all have sinned’ when we shared how all need Christ to take the punishment for our sins. Uncle L is willing to listen to us and share his thoughts.”

Leveraging on technology

When Covid-19 hit, many on-site activities at Bethany Nursing Home were curtailed. In November 2021, Jessie Lee, a Communications and Partnership Executive at Bethany Nursing Home, suggested that the befrienders group try to conduct virtual sessions via Zoom.

A small group of six volunteers got together to kickstart monthly Zoom meetings to engage the residents of Peace Ward. During each session, the befrienders would take turns to engage with one resident for 10-15 minutes.

Jessie observed that the residents are meaningfully engaged in quality conversations with the befrienders, who are each proficient in different languages and dialects.

“The laughter and smiles on the residents’ faces are genuine. The advantage of virtual sessions is that they can continue even when not all the volunteers are available. This way, the residents and nursing home staff can plan our routines with minimal disruption,” she said.

After the long hiatus, Allan said, “We were happy to see that they were open to hearing the gospel again.”

Kate Lim (the author), a community healthcare professional, feels thankful that she can connect with residents despite the pandemic, and being unable to meet them in-person.

“Mr Y is in his late 40s, and used to go to church with his late mother or aunt when he was a child. He shared about how he did not have the opportunity to receive Christ, and his long recovery process after a serious road traffic accident. I was encouraged by the look of renewed hope in his eyes and the smile on his face when we prayed for him and reminded him of how God has been at work in his life. He has made the miraculous recovery from being bed-bound to regaining mobility now.”

The befrienders group has also produced videos to entertain the residents. Last Christmas, a video with carols and an animated story of the birth of Jesus was shared with the residents. They also delivered home-baked snacks to the residents during Chinese New Year and when there are special requests.

Vincent hopes that on-site visits to Bethany Nursing Home can resume soon but, in the meantime, they will continue to find creative ways to reach out to the residents.

“The kids are raring to go back to serve. It is about putting our faith into action—to go out and reach out.”

A quiet time of art expression
Bringing fun and games to the elderly residents
The children helping during the 5th Sunday Service

Kate Lim worships at Aldersgate Methodist Church and serves in the Bethany Nursing Home Befrienders Ministry. / Photos courtesy of Vincent Lim