In 2020 I experienced a massive stroke and was confined to hospitals for close to six months. There, I lived with suffering patients and various medical personnel. Many hospital staff were new Canadians and minorities from all over the globe—assisting me were medical staff originating from the global south (Asia, Africa, and Latin America). They were physicians, nurses, laboratory technicians, dietitians, occupational therapists, physical therapists, porters, and other vital staff.
Many had left their homelands because of suffering, including political oppression, regional conflicts, and natural calamities. Many had migrated to North America seeking better economic opportunities and educational advancement and were here contributing to the building of a strong nation.
Of course, they saw me in pain, and with tears, but they also heard me pray and praise God for my life. At the hospitals, particularly the University of Alberta Hospital, I also witnessed patients who transitioned peacefully to eternity, even to the very end expressing their faith in Jesus Christ. I was surprised that, often, the patients and the staff were open to talking about spiritual life.
In the course of my time in the hospitals, I was given the opportunity to talk about Jesus to several of the staff who worked with me. I thanked them for their compassion, care, and competence. Before my discharge from the hospitals, I gifted them with DVDs of the Life of Jesus in the Gospel of John. They gladly received the gifts and my thank you cards. They even let me pray for them. One of the supervising nurses and unit managers said to me, “Tira, thank you for bringing light and joy into this unit.” Other nurses, originating in Somalia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Philippines, Nepal, and India surrounded me and told me, with tears, “Joy! You are not our patient, but you are part of our family. Please come back visit us again.” My six months in the hospitals were divinely ordained! I thank God for the struggle and pain that allowed me to enter these exclusive environments.
Now, due to new physical realities, my wife and I are moving into senior citizen housing. This is a new segment in our journey, and again, we don ’t know what God has lined up for us there and who we will meet. When my wife, children, and I toured a couple of the facilities which allowed tours over the pandemic. We encountered people living in their “sunset years” who continue to need love, affirmation, care, comfort, company, and friendship.
Further, I observed many diasporas and immigrants working in these settings—from receptionists, cooks, cleaners, therapists, and other support staff. In the facility we are moving into, there is a host of organized activities, including a chapel for Bible study and worship services. It seems to me that a senior citizen home is not merely a residence for the retired, old, or weak people, rather, it is a community in which people belong. This phase of life and communal living is another mission field that is oftentimes neglected. This can be a place to demonstrate the love of Jesus and make disciples of his way.
Missions are not just about crossing the ocean to foreign lands. Missions are from everywhere to anywhere; from cathedrals to hospitals and even senior citizen homes. If the church in North America can send missionaries to the “10/40 Window” then it can also inspire, empower, and equip followers of Jesus working in the medical and care fields to reach those they work with and care for—with cultural competence, a listening ear and loving embrace to seniors and their family, in the name of Jesus. Human suffering is real and an unavoidable part of life, yet during suffering, Jesus the Savior is near to us and gives hope beyond earthly realities.