Spurred by a love of helping and sharing, along with a love and concern for older people, Shurnett Caines, a 40-plus-years member of the Hamilton church, birthed the idea of a Mobile Sabbath School.
The Mobile Sabbath School ministry has been active for the past three years and caters to the homebound members of the church, who because of age or infirmity, can no longer attend church services on the Sabbath. The ministry helps to bring Sabbath School to these former church attendees in their homes, at the hospital, or in the care facility where they reside. The ministry intends that members are assured of the church’s love and concern for them, and it encourages them to remain steadfast and true to their faith in God in their twilight years.
Each Sabbath during Sabbath School, the team— Shurnett Caines, Betty Anne Lowe, Diane Cassidy, Thelma Wong, Deana Small, and Juliet Dillas, (and occasionally, Dwayne Burgess, elder, and Robert Dillas)— leaves to conduct its ministry to one or two seniors. Presently, the Mobile Sabbath School ministry has made approximately 162 visits to former church attendees. Those consistently ministered to have mainly been from the Hamilton church congregation, but include others who are members of sister churches.
According to Bermuda’s 2016 Census, the population of the island is 63,277 persons, of which 17 percent are seniors. The official membership of the Hamilton church is 879, and coincidentally, 17 percent are seniors. Out of this group, up to 2 percent are homebound or in care facilities, and eligible for visitation by the Mobile Sabbath School ministry team.
The program includes singing hymns, praying, reading a short testimonial or sharing personal testimonies, and a brief lesson that may be between five-to-10 minutes long. The entire program can take from 15 to 35 minutes, depending on the tolerance of those ministered to. Mark Finley’s lessons in the monthly edition of the Adventist Review magazine serve as a source of Sabbath School lessons. It is heartwarming and satisfying to see the joy the seniors express when the team sings with them. While they may not remember that it is the Sabbath, they seem refreshed as the team ministers to them.
Deana Small joined the team after the Mobile Sabbath School ministered to her and her husband. The duo was involved in a traffic accident, resulting in the loss of their vehicle, along with sustaining personal injuries. Since they could not attend church, Small related that they began to feel spiritually downcast, but then the Mobile Sabbath School visited them. She recounted that the ministry encouraged and refreshed their hearts, and they were spiritually revived and motivated to continue to serve the Lord. It was with the desire to impart a similar blessing to others that Small became a member.
In a letter to the pastor and members of the Hamilton church, Allan and Yolanda Vallis, who have not worshiped in a church in more than five years, expressed their love and appreciation for the Mobile Sabbath School team. “We have experienced the joy and love in six wonderful women [who] make up the Mobile Sabbath School. Never demanding or invading, but always in love, they enter our home and hearts with prayer and songs of praise and love that uplift our Lord and Savior.
“My wife is so alert and moved during these visits that I get teary-eyed as I observe her singing, smiling, and enjoying the worship service with these dedicated ladies. They bring a ray of sunshine to our home. I am sure that the other homebound church members are as richly blessed as we are.”
The ministry is serving a need in and around the Hamilton church territory, but as the island’s senior population and that of the church increases, the team sees no decline in the need for this type of ministry. To the contrary, as they have ministered, they have seen a need to also reach out to the unchurched seniors.
Betty Anne Lowe, Mobile Sabbath School team member, Hamilton church