Dear friends of Vital Signs Ministries, February 2018
Relevant topics for this month’s letter could include our participation in the Walk for Life in Lincoln (complete with our information booth at the Student Union and my interview with a KETV crew), items I’ve written for Vital Signs Blog (such as “Pro-Lifers in the Public Square” and “Can Someone Be Sure They Are Going to Heaven?”), or the sinister actions of the Democrat Party and the media as they stridently oppose the defunding of Planned Parenthood and other pro-life legislation. All of these could easily fill a letter. However, I promised last month to use the February letter to catch you up on some of the highlights of our ongoing “When Swing Was King” ministry whereby we take entertainment, comfort, inspiration, and friendship to audiences in 11 senior citizen facilities every month. I hope you find in these updates at least a little taste of how stimulating and heartwarming the “When Swing Was King” outreach is to our friends…and to us too.
First of all, however, let me admit that this ministry can be a bittersweet one for us because though we are profoundly blessed to present these programs and develop friendships with the residents of these senior care facilities, we must frequently face the realities of pain, loneliness, grief, boredom, confusion, guilt, and fear. And we must deal with the death of people who have become very dear to us. Just in the Christmas season alone, four of our favorites passed away, four of our friends who were big fans of “When Swing Was King.”
One of these friends had recently written us a beautiful note after we had to discontinue “When Swing Was King” at a particular place because of staff changes. He had also several other residents sign the note which read, “From: Your fans …We understand you will not be coming to ——- any longer. Therefore, it is with a sad heart that we are writing this letter. Your stories and pictures will be missed, but more importantly, both of you will be missed. You and us are part of the ‘Great Generation’ and your monthly visits bridged that gap back to the 30-60’s for us. This is to let you know that we feel fortunate that our life’s paths crossed.”
We visited with this friend at a Christmas concert at Joslyn Art Museum just a few days before, quite unexpectedly, he died. Thus, we didn’t realize it was a goodbye meeting. But, in the case of another of our “When Swing Was King” friends, we did know. We learned about the eminency of E—-‘s passing from her daughter who met us ahead of one of our shows with the sad news that E—- was in hospice and in her last days. She told us how much her mom loved us and how our programs had brought so much beauty and peace into her life. She was overjoyed when we asked if we could visit with her mom. “Oh, would you? She thinks the world of you guys and that would be a wonderful gift to her.” We went down to E —-‘s room and were able to visit with her awhile, to share Scriptures and exciting facts about heaven, to emphasize the gospel, to pray with her…and to say goodbye.
This intense moment is a stirring example of how doors into people’s lives are opened by “When Swing Was King.” Our audiences absolutely love the program itself and we work hard to keep it as informative, comforting, and entertaining as possible. But we appreciate so much that these programs have also created opportunities for us to meet real needs, to create genuine friendships, and to shine the light of Christ in places that desperately need it.
Another example of this is P—-, a woman who has lived a pretty hard and sorrowful life but who has surprisingly found two Christians friends in her regular attendance at the “When Swing Was King” shows we present at her assisted living place. Last month, after we had hung around after the program talking to her, P—- told us, “I really love you guys. I wish you came every week. You’re about the only friends I have any more.”
And we are also delighted that “When Swing Was King” is appreciated by the staff of the facilities as well. Here, for example, are a couple of the notes we’ve recently received from activity directors:
“Hey Denny and Claire, You both truly have such a positive impact on our residents and we are so very thankful for you both…Thanks so very much. You two are the best.”
And from another: “Dear Claire, We want to thank you & Denny so much for continuing to come to ——————- every month to present ‘When Swing was King.’ Our residents love your programs!!! It has been so fun to see it continue to grow & grow & grow! Last week on Dec. 20, 2017 we had 37 residents attend. We could have squeezed in a few more people, but it was getting crowded. It is so great to see everyone enjoying the music & the pictures. They also really appreciate your commentary, Denny. Dr. B—— & his wife have commented several times how much they enjoy the show & we all love learning the history of the songs & songwriters. Thank you for all the work you put into each program with the research, the music, the pictures & all. We also love that your newsletters are large print as they really enjoy reading them. We appreciate you two so much!!!”
Another of the recent highlights of our “When Swing Was King” outreach is the new move made by the staff at Brookestone Village to host special “tea parties” for their residents and to coordinate them with our program. These fun (and semi-elegant) parties are scheduled for 3:30 in the afternoon, not only to have a lot of people already in the commons area for when our program starts at 4:00, but also because Claire and I agreed to come early and help visit with residents beforehand. The staff is as delighted as we are that this combination has worked so well. As the activity director said, “You two are so friendly and so good in interacting with everyone and in getting them to open and talk. And the tea party has also helped to get a lot more people to the ‘When Swing Was King’ shows and they end up loving it.”
Anything else? Well, there was the very positive response to our latest “When Swing Was King” quarterly newsletter, the extra blessings to the residents when we have volunteers come along to visit, the over-the-top delight from both staff and residents when we brought a huge box of gorgeous flowers to one of the facilities (courtesy of the wholesale florist that one of board members works for), and the enthusiasm shown by a 93 year-old “When Swing Was King” fan who had just finished my novel, The Christmas Room. “What a great book! I couldn’t put it down. And I found it such a sweet story. Thank you for such a wonderful blessing!” And, of course that’s what Claire and I can continually say to the Lord about the “When Swing Was King” ministry. “Thank You for such a wonderful blessing.”
Okay, that’s enough for now about “When Swing Was King.” What about what’s coming up next regarding other aspects of Vital Signs Ministries?
* There’s a lot more of the regular things, of course. The internet outreach, the pro-life presence at the abortion business, the intercession, correspondence, writing, personal meetings, etc. And we need as much prayer as always – prayer for protection, discernment, open doors, and holy, joyful behavior in all we do.
* We are having an open house art show at our home on February 18 featuring paintings by Carol Coppi. Carol is a dear and longtime friend, a pro-life colleague, and the wife of VSM Board Member Quint Coppi. The Coppis are moving into a smaller place and need to pass along some of Carol’s finest pieces. We’re delighted to help out.
* The next of our quarterly letter-writing parties is at our home on February 20.
* I do have a couple of speaking engagements coming up – in Lincoln on February 24 and up in George, Iowa on March 4.
* We are bringing in our Belarussian friend Hleb Yermakou for a few days of ministry and meetings March 1-5.
* The Assure Women’s Center featuring guest Franklin Graham is on March 8.
* After having had such success with the showings last year of a one-man dramatization about C.S. Lewis, we have decided in 2018 to screen a few other films relating to history, spiritual values, and Christian activism. The first in this series is A Man for All Seasons (the one starring Charlton Heston) on March 16.
* The Wild Knight book club will be discussing the classic Sir Walter Scott novel Ivanhoe on March 26.
(If you are interested in any or all of these, please give Claire a call at 402-341-8886.)
Okay, I think that’s about it for this month except to thank all of you who read these monthly letters, who pray for us at least now and again, who send along words of encouragement, who utilize the information and inspiration you find in these LifeSharer letters and the Vital Signs’ internet sources (Vital Signs Blog, The Book Den blog, VMS’s website, VSM Facebook page, and our personal Facebook pages), and all of you who help us with financial donations. We are truly and deeply grateful.