By Stan Friedman
MINNEAPOLIS, MN (October 25, 2013) — Bethany Care Center, a nursing home with assisted living, began its annual 40 Days of Global Awareness on Sunday.
During the 40 days, which will culminate the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, residents and staff learn about each other’s countries and engage in activities that inspire and inform residents about the larger world, says chaplain Fran Decker.
Most of the residents never leave the facilities, Decker says, and the 40 days is a way to stay connected, and some residents are able to help others beyond the nursing home. She notes that some residents are able to assemble packages for Operation Christmas Child as well as sew blankets for the needy.
Decker started 40 days in 1993. “It is more than a program we do at Bethany,” she says. “It is a way of honoring those who live and work among us, getting to know them and understanding their culture.
“It is a way of discovering what God is doing throughout the world and in our community,” she adds. “It is a way of being God’s hands of grace, a way of showing God’s love to all people—to the nations who have come to us.”
The census of residents reveals just how much the world has come to the nursing home, which once served primarily the people of Scandinavian descent who settled in the area. At any one time, Bethany residents and staff may include people from Nairobi, Russia, Ukraine, DR Congo, “with just a smattering of Scandinavians,” Decker says.
Multiple activities include the concluding worship service on the fortieth day when residents read the Scriptures in their native languages.
Decker initially intended for the idea to focus on residents, but the foreign-born staff members were quickly eager to become involved. “They share concerns about their native country as well as customs,” Decker says. Staff also bring food from their native countries.
More than 60 flags from around the world that Decker has purchased during her travels are displayed in the entrance and around the building.
Reactions from residents and staff encourage Decker about the importance of the 40 days. She recalls the staff person who arrived for her late shift and saw all the flags.
“When she saw her flag, she burst into tears and hugged her flag,” Decker says. “She explained that in her country, they are not allowed to fly the Tibetan flag.”
There is a pharmacy delivery man who every year comes to see and hold his flag. Residents share with pride the meaning of their flags.
Decker says she always is looking for new ways to further enhance the 40 days experience as well as reflect even more the continually changing neighborhood. “With Bethany at the heart of this northeast community, the possibilities become opportunities,” she says.