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Activities director supports the spiritual health of residents with music, prayer

Spiritual wellness is woven into the fabric of the life enrichment department at Rolla Presbyterian Manor. However, spiritual activities have looked a little different over the past couple of years.

“With COVID-19 hindering outside visitors, I had to get creative on different ways to provide spiritual health for our residents,” said Noah Rhoades, life enrichment director.

Fortunately, there are a wealth of spiritual resources online. Noah often turns to YouTube to select content he thinks will speak to the residents.

Once a week, Noah hosts a 45-minute spiritual activity, often right before the ice cream social on Tuesdays.

“I try my best to make it as close to what a real church service would look like without actually having a minister or clergy present,” he said.

He finds YouTube videos of gospel hymns and selects three or four to start the “service.” They include classics such as “Eastern Gate,” “Just a Little Talk with Jesus,” “I Saw the Light,” and “Great Is Your Faithfulness.” Often, the music portion ends with a favorite hymn, “How Great Thou Art.”

The music is followed by a recording of a sermon by the televangelist Billy Graham, and the activity always ends with a prayer.

“I will usually hear several residents, even hours later singing or humming along to the songs we sang to praise the Lord,” Noah said. “This activity probably has the most lasting impression on them and has become of my favorite activities as well.”

Another favorite is the hourlong hymn praise program held every other week. It’s similar to the Tuesday activity in that Noah selects videos to play from classic gospel artists such as the Gaither Vocal Band and the Easter Family.

For this program, Noah draws on his own deep knowledge of music to introduce the residents to new groups.

“I grew up in a very musical area and have been blessed to learn and grow from watching very close friends and family members who have been in gospel quartets,” he said. “I try to feature a couple of people that I know personally who perform in groups such as the Harper Family, Crimson Gold, the Lesters and the Kingsmen.”

One of Noah’s relatives, Garry Sheppard, was a member of the latter quartet.

One activity the pandemic has not interrupted is the morning devotional in the health care neighborhood. After the exercise class, a staff member reads a passage from “Our Daily Bread,” as Mark Bruner is pictured doing above.

“It always gives a good start to our day,” Noah said.

He is looking forward to having volunteers help with Bible study and other ministries again soon.

“One very faithful and well-spoken pastor that we are very excited to have back is our former chaplain, Allen Teal,” Noah said.

For Noah, helping to care for residents’ spiritual wellness is a blessing.

“While I am not an ordained minister, I, too, am very devout in my faith in Christ and love to converse with the residents about their walk with Jesus,” he said. “Some of my favorite moments at the Manor are the times I get to have prayer with them. To me, developing a spiritual connection with someone is un-paralleled to any type of superficial bond you can have. It’s comforting to work at a place where this is encouraged.”

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