When poinsettias went on sale at Wal-Mart last December, Pamela Sproul had an idea. She and her husband Paul, youth ministers at All Saints Anglican Church in Newport, North Carolina, wanted their youth group, Soldiers for Christ, to do a Christmas ministry to connect older and younger people—more than the Christmas caroling they had done in the past. But so far, nothing seemed right. Until the Holy Spirit gave Pamela the idea of setting up teams of teenagers to visit older people in the church, particularly those in need, sick or who had lost a loved one in the past year. The teens would give them a poinsettia and visit with them for 30 minutes.
“It was such a simple idea that the Lord gave me, and really so easy to do,” Pamela says.
From the beginning, she bathed the Christmas Joy event in prayer. Pamela asked God to lead her to the right people to visit, as well as the right pairings of teens with older individuals.
“The Lord made it clear,” she says.
On the evening of December 11, Pamela and Paul split 12 teens into six teams of two to visit six homes. They prepped the teams with conversation starters like, “What are you doing to celebrate Christmas?” “How did you celebrate Christmas as a child?” The teens were also instructed to pray with their hosts before leaving. Some teens had done street outreach ministry in the past, so Pamela made sure at least one person on each team had previous experience.
A few of the teens expressed concern that they would be depressed by visiting with “sick and sad” people. But Pamela suspected the students would be pleasantly surprised by their mission. They set off, Pamela with one team, Paul with another, and the remaining teams on their own. Later that evening, they reunited at Chick-Fil-A to eat together and process their experiences.
“The teens came in just beaming, tripping over each other to talk, so excited,” Pamela says. “Some of them were in tears of joy.”
Over sandwiches and fries, the teens shared their stories. One teen had visited the home of All Saints’ retired rector. His wife was ill and they have an adult special needs son.
“It’s obvious that they’re hurting,” the girl explained. “But very quickly I picked up—they are so happy. They invited us to stay for dinner and to come back, and they meant it.”
She was bubbling with joy from her encounter, eager to follow up with the rector’s family. She called them the next week to see how they were doing.
Another teen and her friend visited a man who had lost his wife. He clung to them while they were praying for him and confessed he was lonely, saying, “You are like angels to me.” The girls stayed in touch with him and brought him cookies in the weeks that followed.
“The relationships between the teens and the older people are continuing,” Pamela says. “It was such an incredible experience for all of them.”
She also received calls from the hosts, thanking her for the visits.
“It was such a blessing and bright spot in my Christmas season,” one woman in her 80s told Pamela. “Those girls were so much fun.”
Seeing the receptivity from both young and old, Paul and Pamela hope to do a similar ministry at Easter this year.
“I knew the children would be blessed but never knew it would be quite like this,” Pamela says. “And I don’t think the older people have any idea how much they blessed the teens in return. Neither side realized how much they have to offer one another. It was really cool.”
Learn more at All Saints Anglican.