By Avonlea Brown
The white halls of Xenia Health and Rehab are silent. Several nurses sit at the information desk and the echos of a TV channel trail from an open door at the end of the hall.
Outside, a white van parks, and a group of 13 Cedarville University students unloads into the parking lot. They pray and divide into teams of three before quickly filing into the lobby, then head down the three hallways of the facility and begin visiting with the residents.
“Hello, Tom! I came back to see you!”
“I’m glad I get to see you today, Marilyn!”
“Hi, Christian! Got any jokes for us today?”
Their clear voices break through the gloomy atmosphere and the halls are filled with conversation, singing and laughter.
The recently renamed Crossroad Ministry is one of two ministries at Cedarville focused on reaching out to the elderly and sharing the gospel. Abby Albrecht, Julia Malander and Grace Cowell lead the three branches of the ministry which are prayer, crafts and visits.
Every Monday night at 5 p.m. the group meets at Chuck’s for dinner before leaving promptly at 6 p.m. for Xenia. They meet briefly in the parking lot to pray and hand out devotionals, the previous week’s crafts or other materials before heading inside. The group meets two more times during the week on campus, once on Wednesdays at 4 p.m. for prayer and another time on Thursdays from 7 to 8 p.m. for crafts. Their goal is to pray through the resident’s prayer requests and create decorations for the rooms. Often the only decorations in a resident’s room are from past projects of the craft team.
“Our goal is to brighten up the room a little bit,” Albrecht said. “One of the first things I noticed was how bare the white walls are, like a hospital-type feeling. And so we try to create something nice that we can give them when we go in, just to show that we’re thinking of them, we’re praying for them.”
Albrecht and Malander joined at the end of their freshman year when Albrecht heard about the ministry from a friend while looking for opportunities to get involved in local outreach. They were immediately put into leadership positions the next semester and began the efforts to resurrect the ministry on campus.
“When we both joined the ministry, it was kind of dying out,” Malander said. “It was after COVID and they were not able to go inside during COVID just for health reasons. And so there were really only a few people that were still part of the ministry, and most of them were graduating seniors.”
In the fall of 2022, the doors to the nursing home reopened and the students could begin visiting again and creating relationships with the residents.
Crowell joined that fall semester after hearing from Albrecht about the ministry. The three students quickly began recruiting friends, classmates and
curious passersby at the Involvement Fair to visit the nursing home and spend time with the quiet residents of Xenia Health and Rehab.
Xenia Health and Rehab houses different types of residents, those who need long-term care and those who are recovering from injuries and cannot live alone.
“I remember getting in the van to leave the first day I visited and just crying,” Julia said. “It was just such a desolate place.”
After their first visit to the nursing home, Malander and Albrecht decided to take on the ministry and expand it. Crafts and prayer started last year as an effort to provide more care for the residents and give the students more time to meet with each other.
The ministry seeks to have consistent members so that the students and residents can form genuine relationships and foster them every week. This ministry is not just an opportunity for evangelism, it is about giving love and care to those that need it.
Crossroad is centered around James 1:27 which reads: “Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
“Going in, I had never been in a nursing home before,” Albrecht said. “And I’m like, ‘What am I doing?’ And it was kind of awkward at first, but then this semester coming back it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, the residents remember us. They remember the Cedarville students, and they’re so excited.’”
Indeed, the impact of each student who visits Xenia Health and Rehab is evident in the joy written across the faces of the residents.
“I keep coming back to some of the times when you get to know their personalities or also when they admit that you’ve influenced them and there’s been a couple of those,” Malander said. “There’s a particular resident in my hall and she is a very sweet old lady but she struggles with depression a little bit. She is a believer, but her memory just isn’t too good.”
“And so we started making her posters for her wall with just one or two verses in really big font and then we would hang it up on her walls. And now almost every time we go in, she always says to us, ‘You have no clue how many times a day I read those posters. I just sit here and I read them.’”
“And I think that’s probably a very specific memory of just feeling impactful for me because that’s kind of one of her main sources of scripture. It came from us. She does have a Bible, but her limbs don’t always cooperate so she is able to read those [scriptures] on the wall. It just was a really cool thing that I was able to do.”
The students not only share the gospel, but they also spend time every week intentionally encouraging the residents to pursue God. This could be in the form of the students providing devotional books to the residents, talking them through passages of the Bible, singing hymns and praying before leaving every week.
“Some residents who we’ve determined aren’t necessarily believers or following the Lord we seek to share the gospel with them,” Albrecht said. “We will pray with them, read Scripture, talk about Scripture. It really depends on the resident, but we found honestly that most of the residents are very receptive and just love talking with us, even if they aren’t believers.”
The teams are there to share the gospel but also to care for the residents who may not have anyone else to take care of them.
“But I think the main reason why I really stuck with it is because, obviously, it was sweet to be making them cards, but as soon as we went into the nursing home and you meet those people who are really kind of abandoned and neglected by society,” Malander said. “For a lot of them all of their family members have died and they don’t have friends in this area. And so they’re just alone all day.”
The relationships that students make with the residents are meaningful not just for the residents, but for the students as well.
“As a nursing student, I can’t take the time to sit and listen and get to know my patients as I can do in this ministry,” said Rebekah Neilsen, a junior nursing major and returning member of Crossroad. “It’s as much of a blessing for us as it is for them.”
“I think [this ministry] really brings a lot of perspective,” Albrecht said. “Especially in the Cedarville bubble you always talk about how there are a lot of hurting and suffering people out there, and just to go and to see how happy they are to see you and how much of a difference an hour can make to hear their wisdom and hear their life stories. To me, that is not a one-sided ministry. I feel like I’ve been so changed just by the residents there as well.”
Occasionally, the students will also strike up conversations or bring small gifts to the nurses who work there such as bring them cookies or thank you notes. The nurses of Xenia Health and Rehab always welcome the students when they come to visit, sometimes even chiming in when the students are singing or talking with the residents.
Albrecht, Malander and Crowell worked hard to recruit members the first year, making sure they had enough people every week to visit each resident. Now, Crossroad Ministries has grown from 3 to over 12 members in a year.
“It’s just been such a blessing and really an encouragement especially to both of us,” Albrecht said. “Because we both love this ministry so much and just being able to see God is using that and it’s growing so much that we can have a craft night and the prayer ministry that we can actually feasibly have because we have enough interest to do so and that impacts the residents in that way.”
The growth has encouraged the three leaders and reassured them that when they graduate, the ministry will continue to care for the residents of Xenia Health and Rehab.
“It’s kind of sweet to be able to take care of them,” Malander said. “To pay them back almost for the lives that they lived that no one probably really remembers all that much now, but just to show that we want to remember that and respect them.”
Avonlea Brown is a junior Broadcasting, Digital Media, and Journalism major from a small town in Maine. She is the co-editor of Campus News for Cedars Student News and currently working towards going abroad to study international journalism. She likes reading, travel, and learning new things.
Photos by Avonlea Brown