Unexpected ministry fills student's desire to help - Word&Way

Unexpected ministry fills student’s desire to help

HANNIBAL — For as long as she can remember, Katie Goldstein has been drawn to help people. Even in high school, the St. Louis native found ways to minister, especially among the homeless.

Though the school’s human services degree enticed her to enroll at Hannibal-LaGrange College, she wasn’t exactly thrilled at the ministry option that dropped in her lap as a freshman — singing and visiting at a local senior care facility.

The ministry had just begun as part of HLG’s Jerusalem Project, a concerted effort through the missions department that concentrates on community or “Jerusalem” ministries and recruits students to participate in them.

Katie Goldstein visits with a care facility resident on a recent Friday. She helped organize weekly visits to two nursing homes and an Alzheimer's care wing as a Hannibal-LaGrange College Jerusalem Project. Goldstein began the ministry as a freshman. Now the junior student is beginning to look for someone to take her place as she looks to her senior year. (Photo by Tom Hufty)

Community institutions and organizations often call the Jerusalem Project to request assistance. Beth Haven Nursing Home had asked for students to sing to and visit with residents.

The senior student who had agreed to head the nursing home ministry approached Goldstein to consider stepping in before the student graduated. Goldstein hesitated since she had never dealt with senior adults.

But she agreed to try. She found a friend with music skills and recruited others to assist them. Her ministry debut seemed destined to end before it started, though. The students were to begin at Beth Haven at 10 a.m. on a Friday, but by 9:30 that morning everyone except her friend had backed out. “One person overheard our plight and said she would come,” Goldstein said.

Beth Haven asked them to return the following Friday. “We weren’t very good, so I’m not sure why they kept asking us back,” she laughed.

That first year was tough, Katie admitted. When pressed, she still can’t explain why she stuck with the ministry. “We really got discouraged because others weren’t interested in helping,” she said. “Often everyone we recruited would back down at the last minute…. But God always provided.”

Bottom line — the ministry was and continues to be a God-thing, she said. The Lord began to show Goldstein why she needed to continue to participate.

“Last year another student really got caught up in it. We got better musically, and we started seeing what a difference the ministry made in their [residents’] lives,” she said.

The young women made hundreds of cards for Valentine’s Day in 2009, a gesture that touched the men and women they visited. “We could see that God was working in the ministry, and that seemed to give us a passion,” she said.

The students’ hearts were stirred enough to take on a second facility — Lutheran Manor — and the Alzheimer’s wing at Beth Haven, called Beth Haven Gardens. The ministry has grown from every other week to twice each Friday.

Goldstein and her recruits minister at Beth Haven every Friday, singing from 10 a.m. until about 10:25 a.m. and visiting until 10:45 or 10:50 a.m. to make sure they get back to campus in time for their 11 a.m. classes. Then at 2 p.m., they alternate Fridays between Lutheran Manor and Beth Haven Gardens.

“I have to admit that I was not too excited from the beginning…but God has used it to bless my life…. It brings so much joy to them and to us,” Katie said. “It is the highlight of our week…. I’m so thankful God has allowed me to participate.”

And that passion keeps the junior on the lookout for someone to train to step in next year. She already assigns responsibilities to freshmen. “I’m praying for someone to take my place,” she said. “I don’t want [the ministry] to end because I know how important it is and how it makes a difference in their lives.”