Since 2015, Oskaloosa resident Diana Fryer and a few fellow Jehovah’s Witnesses have regularly visited long-term care facilities every week.
The state of Iowa has over 400 such facilities, home to more than 18,000 residents. Because of safety concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, visits were abruptly halted. Together with her husband, Danny, they made big signs that read, “We love you. We haven’t forgotten you.”
Fryer went to great lengths to search for safe alternatives. Her motive: She wanted to be sure that none of the residents who joined her for weekly Bible discussions felt forgotten or abandoned.
“It brought so much joy to my heart to see that it touched their hearts,” Fryer said. “You know, it meant something to them.”
Before the pandemic, one facility let them use a 65-inch television.
“I could put the Scriptures we were reading up on the TV screen,” Fryer said. “We were able to show videos, too.”
To compensate for the loss of in-person visits, Fryer suggested connecting via videoconferencing and continuing with the Bible-based discussions. The big-screen TV played a significant factor.
“I see them, and they see me,” she said. “I can show videos by holding my iPad up to the camera. They get to still watch the videos.”
The online discussion was not the only alternative Fryer implemented. Up to three times a week, they visit the facility without going inside. They walk around the residents’ windows and wave to them.
“We would go to the windows there,” Fryer said, “and hold a sign up.” For some, “we even made signs and taped them to the outside of their windows.”
The staff helped by pointing to the window to ensure they saw the Fryers.
“It was a reward for me to see the smiles on their faces,” Fryer said. “How happy they were to know that Jehovah still cared about them and that we love them. Their faces light up!”
Fryer went a step further.
“Every week, I write a letter,” she said.
She shares her daily activities in the opening paragraph, such as gardening. At the pandemic’s onset, the rest of the letter focused “on an encouraging thought from the Bible,” something “comforting and encouraging.” Since then, the letters have covered different Bible stories and topics.
To date, Fryer has written more than 110 letters to the residents of various facilities. The residents appreciate her efforts.
“I have gotten a few letters just thanking me,” Fryer said.
As time went by, strong connections formed. Sometimes that can be bittersweet.
“I was there the day before she died,” she said, referring to one of the residents before COVID-19. “We said prayers, read scriptures from the Bible and tried to keep her hope high.”
During the pandemic, Fryer lost most of the friends she had forged in the last five years. It worsens when you learn about it through a newspaper obituary notice.
“That’s been sad and hard,” she said.
Fryer shares what many other fellow believers feel.
“If you can make the Bible stories touch their hearts,” she said, “it can make a difference in their life; it makes a difference in their outlook.”
The considerable effort to reach out to residents in long-term care facilities with the Bible message of hope is a worldwide effort that Jehovah’s Witnesses take to heart.
For more information, please visit jw.org, the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses.