By Lance Finley, with Pastor Jerry Harper
Osage Oaks Church of God in Sperry, OK has a long history of ministering outside the four walls of the church building. The congregation has invested deeply in various ministries that reach their community: an after-school program, clothing closet ministry, the Helping Hands ministry which distributes food in the community every Wednesday, a John 3:16 support ministry which works with the John 3:16 Mission in downtown Tulsa, and a nursing home ministry.
Osage Oaks took a different approach from the typical nursing home ministry. Most might envision a couple of folks leading some songs and giving a devotional to some residents at the local convalescence center, perhaps having the youth group lead the effort once a year for good measure. Osage Oaks decided to invest more deeply into their elderly neighbors.
Pastor Jerry Harper (pictured at right) shares that the local congregation takes the second Sunday evening each month and moves their entire Sunday evening worship service to a local nursing home in their area. “We still visit folks in the local nursing homes, but once a month, we take our entire church body to a local nursing home to worship with the residents and offer prayer for the residents. We are always looking for ways to take the church into the world to the lost, the desperate, and the hurting!”
Harper is quick to point out that much of what is happening today at Osage Oaks finds its roots in an important decision made in 2013. “We adopted a new mission statement in 2013: We the people of Osage Oaks Church of God exist to serve Jesus Christ; not just follow but literally be servant leaders in His kingdom. We befriend our communities, evangelize the lost, encourage, equip, and edify the saved; and with God’s help, we will all Grow, Glow, and Go minister to the needs of His church and others to the very best of our ability.”
This decision led the church to nullify and rewrite their constitution and realign office, ministry, and membership requirements based upon Scripture. This required an active education program to disciple every person in the church into the service of His kingdom. Pastor Jerry relates, “We make every effort to get everybody involved in ministry. Our focus is all about being the Church instead of just going to church. We teach what the Bible teaches about being a member of the Church: you are a member of the Body of Christ. Some of us are hands, others are feet, others are an elbow or knee and still others a neck or another part of the body. We need all the parts of the body working together to accomplish the mission: to let our light shine so that others may see our faith and good works and glorify our Father in Heaven.”
There are no spectators in the membership of Osage Oaks. Living under the conviction that each person has been called to discipleship and commissioned as an ambassador of Christ, the congregation works to help people discover their unique callings and gifts and to put them into practice through service. This involves helping people discover their personality types, their strengths and weaknesses along with their spiritual giftedness and connecting them to a ministry opportunity that matches their unique fit. Sometimes this means joining an already existing ministry effort while other times it leads to the creation of a new ministry. Pastor Jerry shares, “We trust that with God’s help, we will all Grow as the Body of Christ, we will Glow as light, and Go to minister to the needs of both His Church and the unreached to the very best of our ability.”
The “Make a Wish” ministry at Osage Oaks grew out of their nursing home ministry. The church had observed that a certain nursing home appeared to be one of the most in need and most neglected facilities in their local area. Pastor Jerry says that one of the ladies at Osage Oaks provided the idea to launch the Make a Wish ministry. “This dear sister had come to me about her struggle to get connected and plugged into a ministry. I encouraged her to prayerfully seek the Lord and to visit each ministry to find a good fit. After her first experience of taking the church to the nursing home, she called me the next morning and said, ‘I think I know what I’m supposed to do.’”
She observed that many of the residents appeared to be lacking some of their basic needs. It was determined that it would be best to take some time to build relationships with the residents and to guard against anything that might embarrass them, their families, or the workers at the nursing home. For several weeks this sister and several others spent time visiting the residents of the home and joining in their activities: reading, singing, praying, playing checkers, calling bingo, and celebrating birthdays with birthday parties.
As relationships were developed, they began to ask the residents a simple question: “If you could make a wish today for something you don’t have but could use, what would it be?”
They found that the residents were more than happy to answer such an easy question. Some would wish for daily needs such as tooth paste or a new tooth brush, a comb or a hair brush, nightgowns, slippers, or a pillow. Others had more specific requests such as a special snack of Cheetos and one man wished that he could see his dog.
As folks from the church learned about the residents’ wishes, they set out to make their wishes become reality. Something as simple as a hair brush or a new set of slippers brought a lot of love and joy to the residents of the nursing home. The impact of the Make a Wish ministry has captured the attention of both the staff and the family members of the residents.
The impact of the Make a Wish ministry extends beyond Osage Oaks and this nursing home. On October 5, 2019, Osage Oaks hosted its first annual Car Show along with a Bike Rally and Ride that raised over $1,000 to help support the ministry. In addition to the bikers and car owners, several community businesses joined the effort as well.
Some of the bikers who showed up to ride did so because they had a family member in the nursing home. One biker related that his relative, a resident of the nursing home, had shared with him that his life had changed and that he had been going to church. The biker knew that his family member could not leave the facility and questioned, “How have you been going to church?” His family member responded, “Osage Oaks has been bringing the church to me and now I’m a part of the church! I even try to help the other people who live here with me.”
The bike ride was an hour-long ride led by a police escort and eventually went by the nursing home with horns honking, the deep roar of loud pipes, and lots of shouts and waves from the long line of bikes. Another gentlemen shared with Pastor Jerry that he had been a part of another car show for the past twenty years that was held on the same day, but when he “caught wind of what Osage Oaks was doing with the nursing home and how the proceeds would support the Make a Wish ministry and its residents, I decided to change events and be a part of what you all are doing here.”
Osage Oaks also invited the Christian Motorcycle Association (CMA) to the event. They came representing Christ and offered to bless the bikers and their bikes with a laying on of hands and prayer. Many of the bikers were somewhat hesitant at first, but after some food, fun, and fellowship, every single biker asked for prayer! Not one single biker left that day without a prayer of blessing upon them and their bike. Osage Oaks is grateful to CMA for their partnership in this special day.
On the Monday following the ride, Pastor Jerry received a call from one of the head nurses at the nursing home. She was weeping with gratitude and just wanted to say thank you for the Make a Wish Ministry and how it was making a difference in the lives of their residents and staff. She even offered that “something hopeful” has happened with the owners of the home and they are talking about the possibility of building a new, more modern and up-to-date facility for the residents.
Pastor Jerry concludes: “It is all about God and Him working through His people outside the four walls of the church. It’s about focusing on being the Church instead of just going to church. The only ‘church going’ we should be promoting is the church going out of the four walls to reach the world.”