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06 August 2018

Abigail’s Court: “We try to reach them before it’s too late”

Abigail’s Court: “We try to reach them before it’s too late”

Abigail's Court, an outreach ministry of Jesus House for All the Nations, has been demonstrating God's love in word and deed within its community for more than 10 years, as part of its mission to extend the life-changing gospel to the most vulnerable people.  

British Nigerian Stella Jackson, leader of the team of volunteers who make the work of Abigail's Court possible, invited the Evangelical Alliance, of which Jesus House is a member, to its annual Celebrating Life event that took place on Saturday, 21 July. It was my pleasure to honour the invitation, as a representative of the charity that has been dedicated to serving evangelical Christians since 1846.

To be honest, I didn't know what to expect, even though Stella (who's known as Aunty Stella among fellow Christians at Jesus House, a Redeemed Christian Church of God fellowship in Brent Cross, north-west London) explained over the phone that hundreds of senior citizens, many of whom have limited mobility, will be escorted to the church for a three-hour banquet which will be attended by two local mayors.

On entering the auditorium, where the celebration was held, I found that my colleague, membership engagement manager, Joseph Aninakwa, who attends Jesus House, was right when he said his church, which was founded in 1994, has a 'go big or go home' mentality when it comes to ministering to and serving its local community.

"We started raising money for this event in January," says Aunty Stella, after the banquet, as volunteers worked around us, getting the church in order for the Sunday service. "With donations from generous church members, money raised through different fundraising initiatives, and allocated funding from the church, thousands of pounds were generated for this event, and this has allowed us to put on this year's celebration for 430 elderly people (or 450 if you include their careers and the mini-bus drivers)."

Aunty Stella and her team of 130 volunteers, including children, pulled out all the stops with the funds raised. Each guest was presented with a fresh rose on arrival. A three-course meal, with options to choose from, was served. A DJ and small choir made sure music flowed throughout the afternoon. Tables were dressed. Fancy balloons were erected. Happy birthday was sung to those who gained another year in July. And cakes were cut. It was a pretty swanky affair – not that dissimilar to what you might expect at a corporate awards function.

But, as much as Celebrating Life is about giving older men and women in nursing and residential homes in the boroughs of Barnet, Brent and Harrow a chance to get out, mingle and have some fun (particularly as many people in this age group are isolated), it has a greater purpose. "We try to reach them with the gospel before they die," says Aunty Stella, who worked in old people's homes for 12 years. "At our annual Celebrating Life events and the many old people's homes we visit throughout the week, we meet scores of elderly people who don't know Jesus yet: Hindus, Muslims, atheists, people who haven't heard about Jesus, and others."

Abigail's Court was set up in 2005 to minister the good news to senior residents in their homes, by singing hymns, reading and explaining Bible passages, and praying for them, as well as showing appreciation for the contributions they've made to society by hosting this event. But "at the heart of it all", stresses Aunty Stella, "is the message of truth, which has the power to save lives".

Earlier in the afternoon it did hit me that this was the purpose of Celebrating Life. Sandwiched between Athena, 78, and Barbara, 82, during the meal, it occurred to me that while both spoke jubilantly about the progress their children and grandchildren are making in their careers and relationships (Athena even whipped out her mobile and showed me some pics), neither mentioned the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ when I asked them, what next?

Barbara, who shared fond memories of when she and her husband used to cycle over the course of a week on a tandem from London to the New Forest, spending nights at farm houses en route, before upgrading to a motorbike and going for spins, said: "I'll get around to thinking about what happens next. It's a mystery." Meanwhile, Athena, who's originally from Crete in Greece, after telling me she survived a heart attack in June, said she's just not sure whether there's a heaven and hell.

Before it's too late, Aunty Stella and her team at Jesus House are determined to do what they can to help the elderly in their community come to know that Jesus has invited them to spend an eternity with God. "Even those among them who don't speak can hear in their inner-man the word of God we share," she says, hopeful and prayerful that they'll receive Jesus as Lord of their lives.

The mayor of Barnet, councillor Reuben Thompstone, commented: "It's wonderful that this growing ministry values the lives and experiences of older residents in 42 homes."

By Naomi Osinnowo, editorial content manager at the Evangelical Alliance