After a short hiatus from ministry to senior adults and youth while Darwin and Yolanda attended Life Bible Study, the first break since God’s call during his college days, Darwin longed once again for an opportunity to minister to others. And though Yolanda had always been active in churches every stop along the way during her 20-year Air Force career, the couple had been praying for a ministry that would allow them to work together to make a difference for Christ.
“Elderly members at the church are well taken care of,” said Darwin, “but I wasn’t aware of any outreach to the elderly being done outside the church.”
Darwin’s call to ministry came during college, and as a Navy man, he had taken every opportunity to minister to students or retirees in local nursing homes when he shipped in to port in various countries or while on “liberty.”
During the course of his studies, Darwin majored in communications and theology and later worked bi-vocationally as a journalist while leading small churches in Louisiana and Illinois that had no funds to pay a full-time pastor. He had interned at the New York Times and worked as a journalist in several large media outlets in those states and around the country while knocking on doors, ministering in nursing homes, and getting involved with “unchurched” youth and their families.
Last year, about the time Darwin and Yolanda began praying for ways to reach out in ministry, his small Green Technology business took him to Ashford Gardens, an elder care facility with 132 residents in Northwest Houston. Once he finished his presentation with the director, the subject of church came up. She was looking for someone to offer church services for residents. The timing couldn’t have been better — or so they thought.
Darwin had been battling what he thought was a harmless infection. A biopsy and two surgeries later showed that he had cancer at the base of his tongue in his throat. In spite of 35 rounds of radiation and seven chemo treatments that lasted through the end of last year, Darwin and Yolanda moved forward on the idea put forward by Ashland Gardens’ director to begin church services for its residents.
“We refused to put the Lord’s work on hold,” said Darwin. “We determined that whatever the ailment, God is stronger.” He was no stranger to health problems; an arrhythmia in 2005 required the implantation of a pacemaker to stabilize his heart rhythm. “God has things for me to do,” said Darwin. During chemo treatments, he and Yolanda began teaching Bible lessons, leading worship, and visiting and praying with residents one-on-one. “Two residents have accepted Christ since we began,” he said. “We reach out to residents, their family members and Ashford Garden employees to share the Gospel.” When they began visiting Ashford Gardens in October, 15 residents came. Attendance has doubled since then.
Their ministry to residents has become a family affair since their 13-year-old son Patrick got hooked after his first visit. Yolanda was moved by Patrick’s empathy for the elderly residents. “He said, ‘I didn’t know they didn’t have many visitors,’” recalls Yolanda. “Patrick began looking forward to interacting with the seniors after that.”
In addition to providing worship services for Ashford Garden residents, the Campbells get their Life Bible Study classmates and other Houston’s First members involved in the ministry. They make lap quilts to distribute to residents and each holiday the seniors receive special baskets with treats and a Gospel tract so they can celebrate the season with a fun surprise.
“Differencemakers is the best series Pastor Gregg could have done to motivate others for the cause of Christ,” said Darwin. He and Yolanda hope to expand their ministry to other nursing homes across the city. They most recently had a request to bring services to a retirement community on T. C. Jester, not far from downtown.
As the Campbells wait on the follow up report on Darwin’s cancer treatments, they continue the ministry that God handed to them for such a time as this. “God laid it on our hearts to revitalize our ministry to senior adults,” said Darwin. “We want to shine the light of Jesus to these residents while at the same time being motivators to get others involved in the community. They really can make a difference.”