【February 2018 No.396】20 Years of Mutual Care Ministry

by Suzuki Mikio, member Nishi-chiba Church, Chiba Subdistrict, Tokyo District

 Mutual Care Ministry is a program of Nishi-chiba Church that provides care for the elderly. Preparation for this program was carefully done through workshops and questionnaires before it was launched in 1997. It marked its 20th year in 2017. At the beginning, the services were limited to 1) visiting people in their places of residence,2) helping with household chores, and 3) helping with travel to and from hospitals and clinics.

 These services were provided to those who applied for them, with the church being reimbursed for the actual expenses for items 2) and 3) above. We were a volunteer organization of 45 people, including 12 committee members, and we continued to think about the meaning of these activities. Our booklet Mutual Care was written around that time with Galatians 6:10 printed on the cover: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” This idea is the basis of our ministry.

 I can recall receiving these words of encouragement from Rev. Gudrun Scheer, the missionary who served as the pastor of this church and who directed its ministry from the beginning. “Some people distance themselves from the rest of the group because they are afraid of becoming an inconvenience. However, love, service, and sharing in fellowship are at the heart of what the church is all about. By putting these into practice, both those who receive care and those who give care come together as the family of God and become the driving force of evangelism. The best volunteers are those who request care. Those who request care give something to live for, and give joy to those who give care. Those who feel that they are just useless are actually God’s gift to the rest of us.”

 There is a coordinator who chooses and sends volunteers to those who apply for care. The present coordinator is the fourth person to hold that position. Our organizational structure has been improved by doing such things as appointing a committee chairperson whose main roles are leading committee meetings, preparing workshops, and negotiating with other organizations.

 A committee meeting is held once every three months. First, we hear reports about the care given and discuss any problems there might be. Second, we discuss the content of workshops. Third, we make sure we really understand the circumstances of elderly people. From the beginning, these words were inscribed upon the hearts of the committee members: “There is a limit to the goodness of people. If we rely on people alone, we will all fail together. No matter what, we must have Jesus standing among us.”

 Missionary Scheer presented lectures at least ten times. We also have workshops once or twice a year, led by a specialist either from inside or outside the church. This learning experience is open not only to the approximately 60 volunteers but also to all church members. We study such topics as:

1. Specific directives on how to visit people in their places of residence, help with housekeeping and travel to and from hospitals, and read to people over the telephone;

2. How the public eldercare system works, and the situation of public eldercare in general;

3. The reality of the emotions, bodies, and lifestyles of elderly people;

4. The spirit of mutual care; and

5. Various activities that can delay aging.

 We have implemented these various activities, making adjustments along the way. Recently the volunteers themselves are progressively getting older, so we are diligently researching the fifth topic above.

 For the church worship service and other meetings, “protective assistance” has also been added. Recently, public nursing has become a complete system. Taking into account the fact that the volunteers are also getting older, help with housekeeping and help with going to and from the hospital is our response only when there is an emergency. Basically, the help we provide is in the form of introducing people to places like the regional comprehensive support center.

 Currently, the main activity is visiting people in their places of residence. Most of the people who receive care are residents in a facility. Volunteers always ask them how they are doing, listen to what they say, sing their favorite hymns with them (the popular hymns being “Jesus Loves Me” and “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”), and pray with them. The cognitive functions of some people have declined, but we remember that they are companions who at one time participated in church activities together with us. Volunteers visit them and listen, even if it is something they have heard many times. Volunteers all experience the joy that comes from putting your face close to someone, holding hands, and praying together.

 Sometimes volunteers also talk with family members of the elderly people and with the other people in the facility. We keep in mind that visitation by church members plays an important role in connecting our church with the families and with the facility.

 This ministry has continued for 20 years, and the effect of its fruit has spread throughout our church. Awareness has formed among church members to inquire about each other’s health. In every home meeting as well as in groups of elderly men and groups of elderly women, friends check up on each other. This has become the most important part of the reports during the regular monthly meetings.

 There will be more and more people who, even though they want to come to church, cannot attend because of their advancing age. We must never forget even one such companion. At all times, every step of the way, we want to put love into practice so that each one will be inside the church’s circle of fellowship until the end. To do that, we continually receive encouragement from the Great Shepherd Jesus Christ, who leads us. We pray that our ministry can go forward humbly. (Tr. KT)

From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend), November 2017 issue

Summarized by KNL Editor Kawakami Yoshiko

 

相互ケア活動の20年

鈴木幹雄 すずき みきお/西千葉教会員

 西千葉教会の高齢者ケアの取り組み「相互ケア活動」は、学習会やアンケートを通して入念に検討をし1997年に発足しました。今年で20年になります。スタート時の活動は、①問安、②家事援助、③通院援助に絞り、申し込み制。②③は実費をもらうこととしました。教会における信徒同士のこの活動の意味を問いつつ、12名の委員を含む45名のボランティア組織でした。

 当時作成した「相互ケアのしおり」の表紙には、「今、時のある間 に、すべての人に対して、特に信仰によって家族になった人々に対して、善(原語は愛の奉仕)を行いましょう」(ガラテヤ6・10)が掲げられています。この思いが活動の原点です。

 本教会の教師として活動を初期から指導してくださったシェーア宣教師から、「迷惑をかけるのではないかとの理由で群れから遠ざかってしまう人がいるが、教会は愛・奉仕・交わりの分かち合いが中心 だ。神の家族としてこれを実践することで、ケアを受ける人、する人が共に宣教の力となる。ケアを願う人は、する人に生きがい・喜びを与える最上のボランティアだ。〈邪魔者〉になったと思っている人は、神の〈賜物〉なのだ」と励ましをいただいたことを思い出します。

 ケアの申込者に、ボランティアを選定・派遣するコーディネーター(調整役)は現在4代目です。委員会運営、研修会準備、対外交渉を主とする委員長を置くなど、組織改善を実施しました。

 委員会を3カ月ごとに開き、①ケア内容の報告、その際の問題点の話し合い、②研修内容の検討、③高齢者の状況把握などを行います。委員会は当初から「人間の善意には限界がある。それに頼るなら共倒 れになる。どうしても、私たちの間にイエスさまが立ってくださらなければ……」の思いを肝に銘じています。

 シェーア宣教師は10数回の講義をして下さいました。その他、教会内外の専門家による年に1、2回の研修会が持たれました。60名前後のボランティアのみならず、教会員全体に開かれた学びとしています。①問安、家事・通院援助、電話朗読の具体的方法、②公的な介護の仕組み、一般の介護事情、③高齢者の感情・身体・生活などの実態、④相互ケアの精神、⑤老化予防のための諸活動など、変化をさせつつ実施してきました。最近ではボランティア自身の高齢化が進んできたため、 ⑤の研修に力を入れています。

 教会の礼拝・諸集会での「みまもり介助」も加わっています。公的な介護が充実してきている昨今です。ボランティアも高齢化してきた実態を踏まえ、家事援助、通院援助は、緊急時のみの対応とし、基本的には地域包括支援センターなどを紹介する形を採っています。

 現在の主たる活動は問安です。ケアを受ける人の多くは施設入居者となりました。安否を問いつつ話に傾聴し、愛唱賛美歌(「主われを愛す」「いつくしみ深き」が人気)を共に歌い、祈りを捧げます。認知機能が低下している人もいます。 しかしかつて教会生活を共にした仲間です。訪ねていき、何度も聞いたことのある話であってもしっかりと聞き、顔を近づけ手を取って祈り合える幸いをボランティアは共に喜んでいます。

 ご家族や施設の方々とお話しすることもあり、教会メンバーの訪問は教会とご家族や施設をつなぐ役目を果たすこともあることを心に留めています。

 20年の長きにわたってなされてきた実績が教会内に浸透しています。各家庭集会の仲間内で、また高齢の男性・女性グループの中でも互いの安否を問い合う意識が形成されてきており、毎月の例会で報告事項の重要な部分を占めるようになりました。

 高齢化が進み、教会に来たくても来られない状態の人たちが多くなるでしょう。一人の仲間も決して忘れない、最後まで教会の交わりの輪の中にいられるよう、あらゆるとき、場をとおして実践していきたいものです。そのためにも、先立つ大牧者イエスさまの励ましをいただきつつ、本活動を粛々と進めることを願っています。
(「信徒の友 2017年10月号」より)