Back in 2014, we started to help others in a way that we've never helped before. We established a Visiting Nurse Service as a part of our social ministry. It has been six years of helping the sick and the elderly - the people who really need help.
The Visiting Nurse Service is a combination of everyday assistance, psychological support and spiritual nurturing for bedridden patients. Most of those people are also elderly, so it is mostly impossible for them to take care of themselves properly.
Today, the Service is a team of like-minded people whose desire is to help others, just like our Lord Jesus Christ did during His time here on Earth. The team consists of Orthodox Christian lay brothers and sisters with extensive medical knowledge. They are all parishioners of our Convent and they often gather together to pray for all of their patients.
The nurses have all the special equipment their patients might need: anti-bedsore mattresses and medical beds, bedpans and crutches, urinals and close-stools. We also help financially vulnerable patients to purchase necessities such as diapers, wipes, special soaps and creams and other products.
Our lay brothers and sisters visit their patients regularly. Their typical duties consist of taking care of their patients' hygiene, helping them to take needed medications, cleaning their homes, and even teaching the patients' relatives how to take care of their ill loved ones properly.
Apart from those common tasks that any visiting nurse must do, our Convent's Service makes sure to also provide mental and spiritual support.
A lot of elderly patients are sick and completely alone. They need human interaction. They want to talk to someone. Our nurses are always there to listen to the patients, to talk to them, to read them a book, to give them advice.
Sometimes a simple conversation can truly make a great difference.
As Christians, we also make sure to try and bring Christ into the patients' lives. Jesus Christ is the ultimate Doctor, so we talk to the patients about God, tell them about Eternal Life. Many of them are happy to hear the Good News, their hearts are open to God. If a patient wishes, the nurse can invite one of our Convent's priests to come, so that the patient can confess and receive Holy Communion.
Being a visiting nurse is not an easy thing to do. Many lay brothers and sisters have daytime jobs and families so it makes it even harder to come and help on a daily basis.
What is it that motivates them to help anyway, regardless of how difficult it may be?
Firstly, they are motivated by Jesus Christ Himself. As we know from the Gospel, Christ healed many people during His lifetime on Earth. He made sure to help every person who asked for His help. Our nurses are trying to follow our Savior's footsteps and help those who need it the most.
Secondly, the patron saint of our Convent Saint Elisabeth is a big source of inspiration for lay brothers and sisters. During her life, she established a Convent where she and other sisters would help the homeless and the needy, as well as take care of sick and bedridden people. We see Saint Elisabeth as our Heavenly Intercessor and we believe that she prays for our nurses, which definitely gives them the strength to continue their difficult ministry.
This homily, written in 2008, is published in blessed memory of the recently departed Metropolitan Filaret, the Patriarchal Exarch Emeritus of All Belarus. A tireless advocate of Orthodoxy, he argues that God is the same forever.