Church Values Gifts in Those with Dementia
An estimated 47 million people in the world struggle with some form of dementia. Those who have the disease are often seen as helpless, but not in the eyes of Montgomery First United Methodist Church in Alabama. The church’s respite ministry offers engaging activities, social opportunities, and care for those suffering memory loss from dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or stroke.
(Locator: Montgomery, Ala.)
(Daphne Johnston greets woman at door) “Oh, there she is! Oh I’m so glad to see you.”
“Thank you very much.”
“Man, I’m glad you’re here.”
“Thank you, I’m glad to be here.”
Daphne Johnston, Respite Ministry, First United Methodist Church (Montgomery): “These are the people that have built your church. They’re the pillars of your community. They have given their time, talent and treasure. And now when they need you the most, what has your church got for them as a ministry?”
Daphne Johnston: “My name is Daphne Johnston, and I’m the Executive Director of the Respite Ministry at First United Methodist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.”
Ann Longshore: “When I was young, I guess if you had dementia you just sort of went on the back porch and rocked. We have so much to give and we are still very vital to ourselves, our families, and our community.”
Daphne Johnston: “Everything we do, we try to have purpose.”
(Daphne Johnston instructs group) “I want us at each table to come up with 15 ways that we can help our neighbor.”
Daphne Johnston: “We do art. We do music. We do pet therapy. We do weight training. We do yoga. We do chapel service through the month. We need to do projects that lift people up. So we do these things together, to send to the hospital, to send to the nursing home, to send to shut ins. We travel all over the city to sing in different places, and they have a final concert to put on for the community. I think my group thinks they’re the Rockettes.”
Mondean: “There are so many things that we can do and help anybody that would let us help them.”
Bobbie Carter: “I do want to be there for anybody that needs me.”
Virginia Harper: “I go home and I feel so different than when I came.”
Ann Longshore: “...the twinkle in everybody’s eyes, the joy that I see. I see God when I am here. I see him in every face I look into.”
Daphne Johnston: “With the disease comes isolation. We realized that they didn’t even have an opportunity to be a part of a spiritual community.”
(Daphne Johnston reads Scripture) “I am a God of plenty. I never run out of good things.”
Daphne Johnston: “And so when someone can’t remember their loved one's name anymore, or they might not be able to remember how many grandchildren they have, they know they’ve got an internal need to pray for their family and not themselves. It’s in us. And we need an outlet to be able to pray together. The ministry has spread. We’ve helped four or five other programs get up and running, and two or three in the cooker, and they’re all based in The United Methodist Church. And there are 140 different volunteers from eight different churches and two synagogues. It is our duty to get out there and do new mission work, not just the same ministries we’ve done year after year, and be the hands and feet of Christ.”
The program at First UMC started in 2012 with just two participants. Now the program has volunteers and support from eight different churches and two synagogues, which help fund scholarships to cover the $30 a day cost to attend the program. Participants and their caregivers are also part of the program’s Side by Side Choir which performs around Montgomery.
For more information on the Respite Ministry, contact Montgomery First United Methodist Church at 334-834-8990.
This story was first posted on June 20, 2017.