Rhonda Rowe and her team gathered around a diagram of the nursing home’s floor plan and determined how to split up to avoid praying with anyone twice.
Rowe made her way to a room where a 93-year-old woman lay in her bed while her 87-year-old roommate sat in a wheelchair. Rowe knelt between them and went through her “Nursing Home Gospel Soul-Winning Script.”
“Fill me with your Holy Spirit and fire of God,” the 93-year-old repeated. “I’m on my way to heaven. I have Jesus in my heart.”
Rowe was soon off to the next room, but before she left, acknowledged that she might never see them again on earth. “I’ll see you girls in heaven!” she chirped.
Welcome to the world of nursing home evangelism, where teams of lay evangelists target senior citizens for one last chance in this life for glory in the next.
Rowe, who attends The River at Tampa Bay Church, was in town for a three-week “Celebrate America” revival in downtown Washington led by the church’s pastor, Rodney Howard-Browne. Each night, attendees heard Howard-Browne preach at the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Constitution Hall. By day, as others hit the subway stations or visited Capitol Hill, Rowe and other team members made a beeline for local nursing homes.
“Do you know, for sure, that you will spend eternity in heaven?” Rowe would ask a typical resident.
Pastor Eric Gonyon, coordinator of the Celebrate America revival, reviewed the rules before the teams departed.
“If you do go to the nursing homes or assisted living homes, there’s HIPAA rules and we do follow them,” he told about 60 people at a training session, referring to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the federal law that governs patient privacy. “You can’t give follow-up information in nursing homes and assisted living homes. We don’t bring anything in.”
Ministry officials had contacted a nursing home here ahead of time to get permission for the visit. After checking in, the team immediately went to work for about an hour.
Sometimes, Rowe and her five-member team asked residents who couldn’t speak for nonverbal answers, such as blinking their eyes or squeezing a hand if they agreed with the script.
“There’s no more ‘I’ll do it next year,’” said Rowe, who has traveled with Howard-Browne’s ministry to nursing homes as far as California. “There’s no more ‘I’ll decide about this in 10 years.’ This is it.”
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SOURCE: Religion News Service
Adelle M. Banks