Maria Ossipova is a 43-year old mother of two children, a fresh alumna of the Theological Seminary of the Estonian Methodist Church (graduated in 2019, cum laude) and she works in a dental clinic as the assistant of an orthodontist. She is also the wife of Pastor Stanislav Ossipov who is appointed to the newest congregation of the Estonian Methodist Church in Estonia – The New Beginning congregation.
Earlier, Maria served in the children’s ministry, but lately, she has worked with the elderly, which is close to her heart. As part of her initiative, three men and women from Tallinn’s New Beginning congregation go to visit the elderly regularly at the Iru nursing home. Right now 20 people are being visited who do not have close family or friends or have been abandoned by their families.
Below is an interview with Maria Ossipova about the older adult visitation ministry at The New Beginnings Church.
At the Iru nursing home, there are around 335 people. Some do not have relatives: husband has died, no children or relatives live in a foreign country and nobody visits them. They are very glad if someone comes and talks to them.
When we read The Old and The New Testament, we can see that God asks us to especially take care of two specific groups of people. These are orphans or children, whose parents don’t take care of them and widows or old people who can’t take care of themselves. To adopt a child you need courage, knowledge, and be morally prepared. “Adopting” an elder is also very sophisticated. You need dedication, time, money, and preparation. But every person is able to bring light to another’s life by visiting him/her a couple of times a month warming their hearts.
I always answer this question like this: we “work as their children”. We go to visit them, ask how they are doing and bring something good with us. They love homemade baked goods. Sometimes they ask us to bring sausages. We drink tea together and walk in the garden. We feed those, who can’t feed themselves. From time to time they need help with their cell phones or cleaning the closet. Sometimes I’ll help to get their glasses repaired or bring them toothpaste if they ask. We read the Bible and The Word for Today for them and we always pray for them before leaving.
Mainly we chat with them. They want to talk about their childhood, families, children, hobbies, health, diseases, etc. Amongst the elderly are former teachers, athletes, and people with different life experiences. Athletes and people, who have traveled much like to talk about their traveling experiences. They have talked about their relationships with their children. For example one elder has had to bury two of her children, who committed suicide. They want to talk about these topics. Some of them talk about how their relationships with their children are ruined and they have not had contact with their children for a long time. Sometimes we search for the contacts, call their children and try to sort the things out. We try to encourage them and we pray.
We talk about ourselves, that we are believers and we think that to take care of the elderly is God’s will. We start to talk more about faith with them if we see that they really understand that we care about them.
I feel like this needs to be done. The Bible talks about widows, but I think that also includes elderly people who can not take care of themselves. Adults can handle all the things themselves, go to work, etc. but the elderly can not help themselves and they need to be taken care of. Matthew 25:34-36 says, “Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’” (NRSV)
Some of the elderly are lonely because all their relatives are dead, live in foreign countries, or have alcohol problems. Some of the elderly are lonely because they have been forgotten, nobody visits them nor calls them. These old people can not tell anyone that their back hurts or if they want a chicken loaf. It is sad. They need the care and warmth of a person. It is our duty to visit them and let them share their burdens with us. If we see that we bring the elderly warmth to their hearts if they see that somebody thinks about them or that someone cares for them it makes me feel good, that I am following the Lord’s will.
One time at the nursery home one elderly Christian said that he/she is no one since he/she is so far from home and his/her congregation. I answered that it is not like that. Maybe God sent us to you because He knew that you need a spiritual family here. Now we are your spiritual family.
Interviewed by Marjana Luist
Translated by Karl Saamuel Hollman
Additional editing by Andy Morris