Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What Else Is "When Swing Was King" Producing?

A very important goal of our “When King Was Swing” ministry in nursing
homes and other senior centers is to develop quality, ongoing friendships with residents, residents’ families, and staff.  It is why we present the program in the same facilities every month, why we include time for personal visits before and after each show, and why we continually invite volunteers along to help us involve more residents in those visits.

Though we remain disappointed at the lack of “visitor helpers,” our efforts have been blessed.  We have thus won not only a loyal fan base for “When Swing Was King” but, over these last four and a half years, we have made a lot of genuine friends too. We have been able to express that friendship in various ways; always presenting “When Swing Was King” free of charge to the facilities; making a framed photo of a Navy PV-1 Ventura bomber for Glen; giving tapes of Stan Freberg’s radio show to Michael; sharing a compilation tape of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin songs with Minnie; bring cookies and candy to the LCC staff on Christmas morning and on many other visits; and so on.

We are rightfully wary about about accepting gifts from residents but there have been times when we know it’s okay. The walnuts from Tom. The root beer barrel candies from Evelyn. The honor of conducting Doc’s funeral and preaching the gospel there. Being asked to pray at the bedside of dying friends. Bernie’s personal signature on the book about the experiences of his outfit in World War II.

But, not surprisingly, it is the gifts we receive of the audience’s enjoyment, their applause and complements, their urging us to come back soon, and all of the wonderful stories they tell – those are the priceless gifts we will forever treasure.

One of the newest extras created by our “When Swing Was King” outreach are oral history interviews we are doing with selected residents.  Claire and I schedule a personal visit, bring along the recorder, and invite our friends to tell stories of their lives and special interests.  We then have a CD that can be given to the resident and his or her family members.  In some cases, we believe that groups like the Nebraska Historical Society will be interested as well.

Our first project involves Michael, an engaging fellow who was a popular musician here in the Omaha area. Michael played almost every night for over two decades – even though he had a full-time job at Union Pacific!  When we first asked Mike if he would like us to interview him, he cried with joy.  And when we were thanking him after our first session, he said, “No, I should be thanking you.  In fact, it is a double thank you – for taking the time and for helping me remember all these stories.”  Mike is 78 and not in the greatest health. He is blind, cannot get out much anymore, and the many friends he once had have drifted away. He told us a few days after our first interview that it had been the highlight of his year!

It is another example of how “When Swing Was King,” as delightful an entertainment program as it is in its own right, opens doors for other ministry too.  No wonder we thank the Lord every day for the blessing of being involved in it.  But perhaps you can see how your involvement could expand this blessing even further.  Your prayers, your financial support of Vital Signs Ministries, and your direct participation in helping us build friendships with the residents of nursing homes and other senior living facilities can be of immeasurable worth. Please consider it prayerfully.