This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.
-Psalm 118:24 (NKJV)
Joy! Joy! Joy! Every Tuesday for four hours I get to see this scripture come to life in real-time around me and through me. I get to experience joy that only comes from our Father and through the outpouring of the grace and love He freely gives to each one of us daily. I am a part of the REACH Community Respite Program, otherwise simply known as REACH (Refresh, Encourage, Activities, Care, Hope).
REACH is a weekly program that provides four hours of support, care and entertainment to those living with dementia whether from Alzheimer’s’, stroke or injury. It also allows care partners and families time to run errands, see friends, get some things done, or simply rest. Those are the two purposes on paper, but what happens is larger than that. We invite joy into our day, into that hour, into that moment. We celebrate and honor the men and women in front of us. Where isolation tends to occur with the entire family living with dementia, REACH is a place where we try to bring light into the darkness of loneliness and confusion. Words of encouragement and affirmation are there. A warm hug and smile are there. Understanding and acceptance are there. Joy is there! And what ends up happening in this beautiful dance of laughter and activities, friendships are built and a community in itself is formed.
Though housed at Auburn United Methodist Church, REACH is a community-based ministry. Currently, there are nine area churches that are represented within program, whether volunteer or participant. Now I will not pretend to put on a façade that this ministry is old and established. We are very much the opposite. Over two years ago, the desire for a faith-based program to serve and support those living with dementia began to form. Through the hard work of Rev. Julie Hare and others in the community, REACH was formed. The REACH Ministry is the beautiful product of God pulling together the threads of numerous churches, groups, institutions, and conversations to weave together a ministry for this community. After beginning this past summer once a month to test the waters, we increased to weekly in October 2016 and are hoping to expand to two days a week in the near future.
So what is involved exactly? From 10am to 2pm, we all participate in activities that work the mind, the body, as well as the soul. Every activity has a purpose – memory work, exercise that stimulates the brain and body, serving and enjoying a social lunch, creating through painting or story-telling, as well as music. You do not have to have any specific skill set to join in and volunteer your time. You just have to have the ability to love and appreciate the person next to you. I invite you to visit one of our sessions and see what it is all about first-hand. Bring your laughter, your smile, and your joy and join in to what is becoming a small sliver of God’s massive kingdom here on earth.