Eldercare for Jehovah’s Witnesses Celebrated in England
Representatives from 11 countries came together in Knutsford, England, for the Jah-Jireh International Seminar on May 7 and 8 to share their successes, challenges, hopes, and insights regarding the care of elderly Jehovah’s Witnesses in their respective countries. This was the largest group ever to attend this international seminar and everyone was very excited to meet each other and discuss their projects.
Touring England’s Jehovah’s Witness Homes
I was pleased to be part of the U.S. delegation, which included nine attendees. We arrived a day or two early to tour two of the Jehovah’s Witness care homes in England that have been running for many years. The residents living there expressed their happiness at being able to live among those who share their faith. The staff said that the work is hard, but the joy they find in caring for those who have been so faithful over so many years is a great reward. The pride they took in their work was well earned, and they showed tremendous love in every interaction we witnessed.
Some of the Trustees in England told stories about how they got started many years ago — and how little they understood initially about the world of long-term care. They soon learned that the governmental regulations were an integral part of the adventure. When government officials arrived to see whether the homes were meeting the necessary requirements, they found that important information, such as temperature logs for the refrigerators or maintenance records, were not being tracked, and there was also very little documentation related to resident care.
Then the officials went to observe and speak to the home’s elderly residents and staff. To their surprise, there was not a single complaint. All the residents reported being well cared for and loved by the staff. Upon returning to discuss the observations with the operators, they said that what they experienced was a wonderfully run home with very happy and contented residents and staff — which was the purpose of all the regulations produced by the government! In spite of the fact that they hadn’t known the regulations they needed to comply with, they complied with the spirit of the regulations by following their faith. The officials have since then recommended that managers from other care homes in England visit the Jah-Jireh care homes as examples of how to properly and lovingly care for elders. (There are currently four care homes in England — one of which is a skilled nursing facility — with plans to build another care home southeast of London in the near future.)
Seminar Provides Opportunities for Sharing Information
On the first day of the seminar, representatives from Poland (which currently has two homes), Netherlands (two homes), South Korea (one nine-story home), the Czech Republic (one home), and Canada (three homes), provided an overview of the work that has been done to build and operate their respective homes. Those attending from Ireland, Denmark, and the U.S. discussed the property on which they plan to build homes and the support they have received from their local congregations. German and Swedish representatives had just begun the process of learning all they could so they could determine what might be possible in their countries.
In the next morning’s program, home managers and supervisors from England provided information about media opportunities that they are exploring as well as how to ensure enjoyable “family” worship for those living there. In the afternoon, we enjoyed a symposium that asked the question, “What spiritual qualities and principles do we constantly need to develop in caring for the elderly?” The answer? Love, patience, warmth, humility, and maintaining cheerfulness.
During the evening on both days, there was exciting and meaningful conversation over dinner. Attendees spent time discussing the legal challenges that many had experienced when trying to get the myriad approvals necessary to buy the land for the homes and then to prepare build. Many experiences were shared that inspired everyone to persevere moving forward. Passages from scripture offered reminders of our obligation to the elders among us (Psalms 71:9: “Do not cast me off in my old age; do not abandon me when my strength fails”) and the spiritual goals that we strive for in these homes (Psalms 92:14: “Even in old age they will still be thriving, they will remain vigorous and fresh”).
Jah-Jireh Homes of America Scheduled to Open in Pennsylvania
Those who have homes in their countries are looking for ways to build more, and those who don’t are excited at the prospects of getting started. In the U.S., Jah-Jireh Homes of America reported that after the long process of design planning, as well as obtaining approvals from the state and township, they broke ground in March for the homes being built in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The group was excited to share that a camera will be installed so that all can witness the progress of the construction through the Jah-jireh website. The three houses are scheduled to be open by the end of the year.
— by Kathy McCollett, PHI Organizational Change Consultant