Ministering to the widows and widowers is a very sensitive responsibility. It is, therefore, necessary to handle this with care and caution. It is expected that those who will serve in this ministry, apart from being Christians, must be people who have listening ears, are available, can sympathize, and can pray as well as be hospitable.

This is because widows and widowers need people who can understand their plight and come to their aid. That is why the ministry to widows and widowers is very important and necessary in the church.

Caring for people with physical disability is a God-given responsibility and must be taken as such. A physically challenged person is deficient in an area or may not be able to do certain things for himself or herself Therefore they should be listened to and cared for. When Christians listen well to those they minister to, they demonstrate God’s compassionate love to those who have a physical disability. This is the reason why ministering to the physically challenged is very important and necessary.

1. MINISTERING TO THE WIDOW/WIDOWERS

A widow or widower is anyone who has lost his or her spouse. Unfortunately, widowhood cuts across all communities, cultures, races, ages, and socio-economic backgrounds. Widows/widowers experience grief, anxiety, hostility, guilt, frustration, hopelessness, loss of identity, and a sense of alienation. Their experiences differ from tribe to tribe and culture to culture.

The bottom line is that all of them face difficulties. Widowhood is commonly a transition. A transition is a major change in life circumstances that takes place over a relatively short period but has lasting effects on large areas of a person’s life

Most widows go through an intense grieving process, especially young widows and widowers. This change is marked by depression, mood change, disruption of sleep patterns, obsessive thoughts about the disease, and disorientation.

However, the intensity of grief usually decreases significantly during one year. Many widows and widowers begin to develop new strengths and means to stay strong and remake their social networks to include new friends and contacts.

No matter where and when it occurs, it brings about grief; it makes some widows and widowers desolate, others lonely, and some bitter. Naomi and Ruth’s case is a good example. It was a pitiable condition (Ruth 1:21).

How to Minister to Widows and Widowers

When people are bereaved, they are emotionally destabilized and may not be able to coordinate things around them: The Church, through the leadership of the pastor, should quickly swing into action through visits, phone calls, words of comfort, encouragement, prayer, and singing of hymns that are capable of bringing them comfort.

These expressions can be more meaningful if they come from people who have passed through similar experiences. Widows and widowers should not be left alone throughout mourning.

The church should arrange foodstuffs: In addition, the Church should arrange for some food items like rice, beans, beverages, fruits, and so on, because the bereaved might not think about it, yet they need food to survive.

The Church should be able to provide spiritual guidance through the Scriptures and Christian counseling and prayers: This can be done by organizing spiritual retreats like widows/widowers retreats, where they can be spiritually uplifted and listen to other people’s testimonies. Some widows are confronted with how to manage the properties left by the deceased like estate, firm, and landed properties.

The church should assist legally: The Church should assist them in getting a legal practitioner in their congregation to help them so that they will not lose their properties to fraudulent people or their in-laws coming to confiscate them. The Church, through her leadership, needs to be trained to financial assistance that may be required to help the widows/widowers and their children periodically, not once, render. However, this must be properly monitored to avoid abuse.

Sharing Time: How can widows and widowers be helped when they are lonely?

Other Ways to Minister to Widows and Widowers

Apart from the responsibilities mentioned above on how the Church can minister to widows and widowers, the following can also be helpful:

  • The Church should organize programs where they can fellowship together.
  • The Church should provide counseling sessions to hear them out and encourage and assist, when necessary.
  • The Church should pray for them and visit them from time to time.
  • Give them support and loving acceptance as they adjust to their new status and lifestyle.
  • Give them both financial and material support from time to time to elevate their burdens.

Sharing Time: What can we do as individuals to alleviate the problems of the widows and widowers in our midst?

Conclusion

It has been observed with dismay that some Christian family members aggravate the challenges of widows and widowers by applying socio-cultural and traditional dimensions, as against biblical injunctions. This ought not to be. It is our duty as Christians to be part of the solution to their problems. We must visit, comfort console, assist, and help to put smiles on their faces once again during Easter and beyond.

Prayer: Ask the almighty God to comfort widows and widowers each time they remember their loved ones.

Post-Group Activity: Visit two elderly widows or widowers this week; encourage and pray with them.

2. MINISTERING TO THE PHYSICALLY CHALLENGED

A physically challenged person is an individual who has a physical impairment, which may manifest in impaired sensory, manual, or speaking abilities, and results in a functional limitation in gaining access to and using a building, facility, or structure.

Nations General Assembly Resolution 3447(30) of 9th December 1985 defines a handicapped or physically challenged person as “any person unable to ensure by himself or herself wholly or partly the necessities of life, as a result of a deficiency, either congenital or not, in his or her physical or mental capacities”.

People in this group are the blind, deaf, or those with paralysis or with missing or deformed limbs or orthopedics conditions. These are people who are denied certain privileges, which society would regard as exceptional, and many of them are being marginalized.

In the past, the physically challenged did not suffer because of their incapability because people then lived together in the same community and saw one another as their brothers’ keepers. Unfortunately today, the search for economic, social, and educational pursuits has taken many away from their origin and only close family members.

These categories of people sometimes feel ashamed and dejected or at other times, bitter toward others because of the traditional viewpoint the society holds about them.

How to Minister to the Physically Challenged

To minister to the physically challenged, the Church must make a deliberate effort to show concern for this class of people.  We need to bear in mind that there is ability in disability. When the physically challenged are given adequate assistance, they will live normal lives. Therefore, we need to:

  • Develop a positive attitude towards them, that is, treat them as normal human beings; they are very sensitive to neglect as well as over-pampering.
  • Show them love because whatever may be their disability, they are human beings created by the same God who created us, in His image and likeness for a purpose.
  • Be friendly with them and their family to build confidence in them.
  • See abilities more than disabilities in them.
  • Provide opportunities to empower them by providing training opportunities or encourage their parents to enlist them in training institutions or programs.

Developing Interest in Ministering to the Physically-Challenged

Believers should have a support system for the physically challenged. Building a support system means having a group of concerned and faithful men and women who can join their parents to pray with, counsel, and nurture the physically challenged persons. Counselors should interact with physically challenged to discover their particular interests and strive to meet their needs by connecting and contacting people who can take care of those needs.

Practical Ways to Help the Physically Challenged

  • Visit institutions for the physically challenged in your locality like schools for the handicapped, schools for the deaf, blind rehabilitation centers, etc. Your visit to them makes them feel the love of God and gives them a sense of belonging.
  • Organize fellowship and care for them. This will enable them to express themselves.
  • Assist them by providing relief materials such as foodstuffs and groceries.
  • Volunteer to help them physically, spiritually, or financially.
  • Provide gadgets that can make them independent and useful such as wheelchairs, Braille, Bibles, and other teaching materials.
  • Organize get-togethers and other spiritual programs for them during festive periods like Christmas, Easter, or other special days. On such occasions, plan routine health checks, tell them Bible stories, and organize game competitions to make them happy.
  • Provide funds for their education, especially those who want to study in institutions of higher learning.
  • Pray for them always.

Sharing Time: How are the physically challenged persons you know around the church and community coping?

Prayer: May the Divine Healing of God be experienced by the physically challenged.

Post-Group Activity: The church should organize a visit to an institution for the physically challenged in your locality like schools for the handicapped, schools for the deaf, and blind, and rehabilitation centers, and pray with them. Look for a physically challenged in your neighborhood and present him or her gift(s), no matter how small.

Conclusion

Remember to reach out to these categories of people we have discussed this month with words of love and encouragement. Besides, make it a priority to regularly love the people around you, and encourage them by meeting their needs. Be determined each day to do something for someone that will make his/her life better. You will discover that serving God by ministering to others is the most wonderful, exciting thing you can ever do!