Background Image
Table of Contents Table of Contents
Previous Page  11 / 36 Next Page
Show Menu
Previous Page 11 / 36 Next Page
Page Background


CIU Student Initiates


By Melissa McCutchan, CIU Student Writer

t’s a quiet Wednesday afternoon in

March when sophomore Caroline

Crabtree picks at her guitar, finding the

tune for Louisa Stead’s “’Tis So Sweet

to Trust in Jesus.” As Crabtree starts to

strum, others join with her in singing the

beloved hymn. This is a common activity

for Columbia International University

students — except this time those joining

in the singing are decades older than

the students. They are 10 nursing home


Some residents sing softly from their

wheelchairs; others close their eyes and

listen. This is their chance for weekly

worship and fellowship, both with other

residents and with CIU students.

CIU students have been volunteering in

nursing homes around Columbia since

2013, when during her sophomore year,

Noël Fortner felt the Lord moving her to

minister to the elderly.

“Going into sophomore year, I felt led

to start ministering in nursing homes,”

Fortner said. “I had no idea how it would

work with my schedule or where I would

serve, but I liked the idea of starting

something [for CIU students]. Then in the

beginning of sophomore year, God very

clearly shut the door of the other ministry

I was involved with. Right away I knew

that I was meant to do nursing home

ministry instead.”

Fortner made a connection with Harry

McCoy, who hosts weekly services for

nursing home residents who can’t leave

the nursing home to go to church. McCoy

had been praying for extra help for two

years when Fortner contacted him.

“We met for coffee, he took me around

to the different nursing homes, and the

rest is history,” Fortner said.

McCoy began this ministry in 1997 under

the umbrella of North Trenholm Baptist

Church in Columbia. He preaches at the

services — sometimes as many as seven

per week — and coordinates with Fortner

to recruit and organize CIU volunteers.

“I find that the residents are in the

autumn of their life’s journey here on

Earth,” McCoy said in a letter about

his ministry. “To be able to come and

worship in a simple, meaningful, non-

threatening gathering is very important

to their continued walk with Christ.”

With this vision in mind, Fortner began to

attend services, where she occasionally

led worship. She also started recruiting

other student volunteers. She admits

that this was a slow process, but the

ministry is now thriving at CIU. About a

dozen CIU students volunteer at the six

weekly services, each of which happen

at different nursing homes. Students

lead worship, pray, build friendships with

residents, and occasionally preach.

“Over time, we have built up trust and

rapport with the residents,” Fortner said.

“They know that we love Jesus and we

care about them. I think it encourages

them to see that not all kids these days

are punks — they really like us and treat

us like grandchildren.”

The student volunteers are in agreement:

the relationships with residents make it

all worth it.

“The community of believers (at the

nursing homes) is so good about

supporting each other and taking care of

each other’s needs,” said Crabtree, the

guitar player. “Going every week and

getting the chance to pray with them and

talk about their kids, grandkids, and life

experiences is so refreshing for me and the

rest of the CIU students that volunteer.”

For many of the nursing home residents,

these meetings are a vital part of their

spiritual lives.

“Residents have commented on how

much they love the authentic spiritual

atmosphere of our services,” Fortner

said. “It is church for them and there

is real fellowship taking place. It also

seems that having young people around

brings a lot of joy and energy to the

atmosphere, and that may be our biggest

contribution to the whole endeavor.”

As a senior, one of Fortner’s priorities

was to pass on her ministry to younger

students. She has a team of student

leaders in place for next year, and she

hopes that the nursing home ministry will

continue for years to come.

“I am so grateful that God somehow

blessed our ministry with some of the

best student leaders at CIU, and that

they are a true group of friends who work

fantastically as a team,” she said.

For CIU students, this ministry is not

glamorous, but it is rewarding. Students

find that they can come in to lead

worship or pray with residents, and leave

with a new friend or two.

It’s a quiet Wednesday as sophomore

Allison Wiiki prays over the various

requests nursing home residents have

shared. McCoy encourages residents

to take heart, because soon Christ will

make all things new. This truth certainly

resonates with elderly residents; and until

God calls them home, they will continue

to worship alongside their friends from


Editor’s note: After graduation in April,

Noel Fortner landed a full-time position

as an activities assistant at The Crossings

in Columbia, an assisted living facility.

“It also seems that having young people around

brings a lot of joy and energy to the atmosphere,

and that may be our biggest contribution to the

whole endeavor.”

–Noel Fortner




are required to volunteer

at a local church or in

the community before




Hours students

volunteered in churches

and in the community

during 2014-15.


Hours students

volunteered in

nursing home/

hospital ministry.



• Youth Ministry

• Children’s Ministry

• Church Ministry


CIU Today