Retired Pastor Encourages Nursing Home Residents

Retired Pastor Encourages Nursing Home Residents

Residents of Roselawn Gardens have been encouraged by the ministry of resident Gary Summerland and the outreach of Cornersburg Baptist Church during the isolation of Covid.

By Stephanie Heading

For the past two years, Gary Summerland has been living in Roselawn Gardens, a nursing home in Alliance, Ohio.  With the 2020 arrival of Covid, visitors, including pastors, have been banned from Roselawn Gardens, as well as many other care facilities.

However, despite a ban on visitors, it’s impossible to ban the work of the Lord through a willing servant.

Summerland, an 82-year-old retired pastor, saw needs around him and decided to minister where he was, fielding spiritual questions from other residents and encouraging them.  However, a lack of supplies was a hurdle that Summerland needed help to overcome. “Being a retired pastor in a wheelchair, I can’t get around to a lot of people,” said Summerland. “They asked me questions and there are no Bibles they can read.”

Summerland called Cornersburg Baptist Church in Youngstown, and asked the church to pray for the 48 residents. Cornersburg Baptist Church did more than pray.  They met the needs at Roselawn Gardens.  “Pastor Randy Langham sent me fifteen extra-large print Bibles with concordances,” said Summerland. 

Through the gift of Bibles, Summerland sees God working in the nursing home. “I had a man come to me in the dining room and he started to cry.”  The man shared that he had been reading the Bible daily, but being quarantined in his room because of Covid caused him to get angry with his roommate and use the Lord’s name in vain.  “Can God forgive me?” he said. “Yes He can,” said Summerland, sharing Romans 8:38.

The long years of Covid isolation have left many residents struggling, according to Summerland.  “I’ve heard them say that no one cares about them and they have no one to pray for them when they are sick.”  A ministry from Cornersburg is sending birthday cards to the residents and recently sponsored a party with cookies and coffee when the residents were allowed to gather outside their rooms. 

As a nursing home resident, Summerland thinks about those in other Ohio nursing facilities who need encouragement and support during this time of isolation.  He hopes other churches will adopt a local nursing home and become the hands and feet of Jesus, so those who are isolated can feel the love of Jesus right where they are.