I never thought I could build a friendship and sustain one for years, with someone I had never met, and that I only spoke to for around an hour a week. How could I connect with someone that I had limited information about, didn’t know what they looked like and didn’t even know their last name? Were all questions I once thought about before becoming a ‘befriender’. Little did I know, God was about to show me how...

During the pandemic, I, like most of us, was moved by the many stories in the daily news cycle of the elderly and the elderly disabled, being isolated and lonely, as government restrictions were imposed across the UK. As a result, many became housebound or were stuck in care homes without visitors or someone to talk to for weeks and months on end. It was at this time that I felt I wanted to do something. I knew that in order to adhere to Covid guidelines to stem the spread, doing any type of outreach was out of the question, but I couldn’t help thinking, surely there was something else I could do. It was soon after that I heard about befriending’ – volunteering with a charity to be a friend to someone who was elderly, vulnerable and isolated. As the charity at the time were understandably not taking on any home visit volunteers, I applied for the role of a telephone befriender. What have you signed up for? I asked myself, after I was informed that I had passed my probation, DBS check and been assigned my first friendee.

That was three years ago now.

Since then, I have befriended many friendees, including Beatrice*, Olive* and Len*. Sadly, I have lost some friendees too along the way, which is inevitable but doesn’t stop it from being hard. However, I am comforted in the knowledge that at their final and possibly most challenging stage of life, I was able to bring them companionship, comfort and hopefully a little laughter too.


For many, my phone call is the only call they receive in a seven-day cycle. For Len it is the highlight of his week! With no living parents, being an only child, never married and with no children, Len truly looks forward to our weekly chats, as I am the only person he gets to speak to other than his carers.

Naturally an introvert and an optimist, it was challenging in the beginning to make a connection, to find things to talk about, to be inquisitive and upbeat when so much of their situations are bleak, their daily routines unchanging, and their prognoses are increasingly dire. There were other challenges too; sometimes the befriendees get confused or repeat themselves (due to their frailties), lose their train of thought or forget me completely from one week to the next, or in Len’s case become out of breath and semi-conscious as he struggles with sleep apnoea – just one of his many conditions.

Week after week I would try to remind myself that I was making a difference, but I started to question God as to whether it was enough. How do I inject positivity and hope into someone’s world that is incredibly dismal? I asked.

I was led by the Holy Spirit back to scripture. I observed the many ways in the Bible that Jesus too was faced with people in desperate, sometimes hopeless’ situations. From the woman with the issue of blood to the lame man who couldn’t make it into the troubled waters for healing. These people were desperate, afflicted and running out of hope. And yet, Jesus never ignored their situation, but He also never focused solely on it. He doesn’t ask the woman about her plight, instead He tells her, Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (Mark 5:34). After asking the lame man if he wanted to be made well, instead of responding to the challenges the man had faced of not being able to get down to the pool, He tells him Pick up your bed and walk” (John 5). Jesus acknowledged their present state but was always looking beyond it, to where there was hope. Even in His own desperate predicament during His crucifixion He tells the thief on the cross alongside Him, Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

"There is a beauty in befriending someone just by listening to their voice down the phone once a week."

So, although we are unable to evangelise to our friendees, I began to pray for them during my alone prayer time with the Lord, and when I speak to them, I ask them about happier times: their careers, passions, exploits and life experiences. But I also acknowledge their present, while reassuring them that there is space in their future for hope, healing and happiness.

There is a beauty in befriending someone just by listening to their voice down the phone once a week. It cuts across all divides: age, sex, race, religion. It is friendship in its purest form, just as Jesus intended as He demonstrated when He walked the earth, compassionately and indiscriminately befriending everyone from the infirm and sick to the foreign to the marginalised and even the tax collectors!

There have been a few occasions when life has become busy and I have contemplated giving up volunteering, but every time I begin the process, I am compelled to continue. You are making such a difference,” said my team lead Jennifer* when I last broached the topic. I changed my mind and agreed to continue; a month later, one of my longest-running friendships with a befriendee was cut short when they passed away. When I received a personal thank you from the family for my weekly calls, I knew that God had desired for me to stay and that through my obedience I had made a very small but powerful impact on the final chapter of somebody’s earthly life journey.

There are so many times when God will want us to journey alongside someone who is in need or does not yet know Him, and in getting that little bit closer to them and lending an ear, they might just be able to encounter His love through you, even down the phone!

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

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