My dad passed away from brain cancer 17 years ago. I can still hear the vibrato in his voice while I’m singing hymns during Sunday morning worship. Mom still talks about him often and lives in the same ranch-style home in Missouri where they spent most of their 40-plus years of marriage together raising four kids. Dad’s bright yellow 1950 Chevy pickup truck that church friends helped restore after he died sits in her garage underneath a blue tarp.
Mom might have moved away years ago to be closer to her kids, but the strong friendships and outpouring of support from the community, especially from friends at Troy First Baptist Church, were too strong for her to walk away. It was through Mom’s experience and the church’s caring outreach that I truly began to see the importance of widow ministry.
Being there when it matters
Though my older sister moved back home to help Mom, who is soon-to-be 80 years old, I’ve seen the church pick up the ball multiple times when her kids couldn’t be there. A couple years ago, Mom had a sink pipe burst in her kitchen while she was away one weekend. Steaming hot water shot into the kitchen for two days straight and flooded the basement, damaging much of the upstairs and downstairs. With all of her family scattered around the country and beyond, several church friends helped her navigate repairs and make some on-the-spot decisions. It was a blessing to know they were there — and her house looks better than ever. This is just one of many examples of how they’ve been there for Mom.
I’ve also found widow ministry to be effective at my church, First Baptist Church of Hendersonville, Tennessee. Each deacon is given a list of several widows to check in on regularly.
When tornadoes broke out this past weekend across the Mid-South, we checked on our widows to make sure they still had power and were doing OK. While some have family around, that isn’t the case for all of them.
After COVID-19 hit, many of those who have family in town were still impacted by loneliness and isolation. In many cases, family weren’t stopping by for visits to help avoid spreading the virus to loved ones. Since many of them were staying in more, I found that some of my phone calls to my widows began lasting a little longer.
Most of the conversations are light and fun. But I’ve also had the opportunity to pray with them and be there when they needed some help or just wanted to vent.
One of my widows lost her brother to suicide during the pandemic. Another lost her husband around Christmas a year ago and is finding this year’s holiday season especially difficult.
I helped one get into her house after a knee surgery. Earlier this month, I showed up to a cellphone store to lend a little moral support for another while she was changing over her phone plan. Not sure I was much help, but she seemed to appreciate the company.
For the most part, I’ve found that simply being available — or at least letting them know someone is available to help — can make a difference. I know I’m thankful someone has been there for my mom.
There are many ways to engage in widow ministry, but here’s a short list to help you get started.
Five simple ways to help make a difference in a widow’s life:
Call. A simple phone call means more than you may think. It lets them know you care and gives you a better opportunity to know how you can help.
Show up. COVID-19 hasn’t made this easy, but if they need something, be there. This might mean doing something helpful before they ask. It can be difficult for people to ask for help. No one wants to feel like a burden.
Send a card. Add them to your Christmas card list. Sending them cards on any occasion is an easy way to let someone know you’re thinking about them.
Seek them out at church. Having those face-to-face conversations as often as possible — and occasional home visits or taking the Lord’s Supper to those who are homebound — help build trust and can allow them to meet your family.
Listen. The key is to put yourself in positions where you can learn more about them and hear their stories. You’ll be surprised how much wisdom you can pick up in a simple conversation.