First Baptist’s reflection choir shares talents with ‘Thankful Christmas’
An idea that came to Eva Hart in the middle of the night has turned into one of the most popular, but least publicized, ministries of First Baptist Church of Jackson.
For more than 15 years, the church has hosted “Thankful Christmas,” a ministry for senior citizen shut-ins, individuals Hart believes are all too often forgotten during the year.
This year’s event is November 16 and 17, at the church’s fellowship hall.
“I wanted to do something for these people, especially for the holidays,” she said.
The program features live singing from First Baptist’s Reflection Choir, followed by a Christmas meal and dessert.
The program lasts about an hour and half, and includes performances of seasonal favorites, like Sleigh Ride and Holly, Jolly Christmas.
“Everyone laughs and has a good time, and we tell them about Jesus. That’s the whole reason we do it,” said Hart, the church’s pianist and music assistant.
Residents of 53 care facilities are expected to attend, as well as church members who are bringing aunts, parents, grandparents and other family members.
Thankful Christmas has proven so successful that rest home officials plan their visits months in advance.
“People start calling the day after saying they want to reserve their place for next year,” she said. “Our deacons and church staff, we open up the arms of the church to these folks. I wish we could do it several times a year.”
Hart never thought the program would grow into the event it has become today.
“It started with my mother, who had a terrible illness that lasted 37 years. When somebody is first diagnosed with something, everybody asks, ‘what can we do for you?’ If they do not pass away, everybody gets busy and forgets,” she said. “The family suffers. The patient suffers.”
Hart’s mother was diagnosed with a disease that left her incapacitated for 37 years. Hart was 13 at the time, and remembers how her mother’s illness changed her family.
“We kept her home for 16 years and we put her in a nursing home for 21,” she said. “I had to learn how to cook, wash clothes – do all kinds of stuff I was not interested in as a young kid. I just appreciated anybody that came over and brought anything.”
Hart didn’t know how she wanted to help individuals like her mother, until the answer came to her in a dream.
“That’s how it started. The Lord has blessed it. We have a huge fellowship hall that we decorate for Christmas. We serve a free Christmas dinner. (The) whole church comes out to help bring (individuals) in off of the buses and to help serve the food, and get them back on the buses (when it’s over),” she said.
“We shower them with hugs and shake their hands. Some comes dressed in their Christmas attire, some come in their bathrobes,” she said.
She remembers one lady, in particular, who thanked her after a performance.
“A lady was in a wheel chair and she came up and thanked me and said that was the only time she had been out of the nursing home in a year, except to go to the doctor,” Hart recalled. “There are so many lonely, lonely senior adults. We seem to forget about them during the year because everybody is so busy.
“This time of year, they don’t need to feel left out.”
Between 400 and 450 people are expected to attend each day.
“We send out carts in the summer to let people know about it. (The choir starts) rehearsals in August. Our people get really excited about it. Some make little favors to give.”
Each person in attendance receives a hand-made Christmas card, complete with a Bible verse.
“I know how much it helps when someone comes up and gives you a hug and says, ‘I love and am thinking about you,’” Hart said. “It’s just a wonderful, wonderful event.”
For more information, call Hart at (601) 949-1951.