Ministering to the Widowers
David Brauch, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, USA
For many years, my wife and I hosted dinners for international students every four to six weeks. However, about ten years ago, God clearly redirected the focus of our hospitality ministry toward widowers. This occurred when two of the husbands in our neighbourhood lost their wives within a few months of each other. With one couple we were having a Bible study – the wife was a weak believer, but the husband was a sceptic. The second couple lived next door. We had a fairly good relationship with this couple. Also, several times we had gone out to dinner and had taken in a few musical presentations with them. On a few occasions we shared the gospel with them. On her deathbed each of us had the opportunity to question her regarding personal faith in Jesus Christ. Neither of us were convinced one way or another.
As most acquaintances do, we attended the funerals of each and expressed our heartfelt sympathies to these men and their extended families. Two passages which we found appropriate were: ‘Better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart’, Eccles. 7. 2; ‘Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep’, Rom. 12. 15.
The Spirit impressed upon us that the steps we had taken were fine for a start, but that was not to be the end of our mourning with/for them. It occurred to us that these neighbours had not only lost their life companions but the primary housekeepers. Specifically, neither of these men had done much, if any, cooking, and their grown-up children lived remote from them. Shortly after the first lost his wife, we sensed the Lord leading us to invite him over for a meal. We decided to make the atmosphere and meal as pleasant as possible. This involved setting a nice table for them. My wife made a special point to make a complete and tasty meal, along with freshly-made rolls and pie for dessert. Beforehand we were concerned how the conversation would go, as the widower was a sceptic. However, we decided to ask questions about him and his wife and let him talk, unburdening himself. To summarize, the experience went well – he seemed to genuinely appreciate our efforts and he felt comfortable in sharing. We determined to invite him over monthly or every six weeks.
Shortly after the next-door neighbour’s wife died, we invited him to join us also. At the same time, we invited another neighbour, a man of approximately the same age, who has been living alone for over thirty years, since he and his wife divorced. From the outset these three got along well. The fact that they come from different walks of life has not been a problem. From the start they have felt comfortable with and have shown interest in each other’s lives.
Before these dinners, we usually pray that the Spirit of God will open up a time for spiritual exchange. We don’t conduct a formal Bible study, but have had a number of lively biblical discussions where the gospel has been discussed and clearly presented. We have given the Gideon New Testament, pointing out salvation verses, such as 1 John chapter 5 verse 13. Sadly, the first widower we hosted passed away suddenly.
Not long after this, some of the Gideon men with whom I formerly distributed New Testaments lost their wives. We questioned if we should invite them to our existing group, or should we begin one with just believing widowers. Realizing that we are growing older, and that we both have limits to our strength and time, we prayerfully invited the first Gideon widower to join us. He was formerly the postmaster of our township. From the start the original guests welcomed the latter, and good camaraderie has continued. Since then several other Gideon widowers have joined us. All those present have learned a considerable amount about the different occupations in which each was formerly engaged.
Typically, these men stay around for several hours afterwards. Sometimes we continue our dinner-time conversations. Alternatively, at our encouragement, one of our widowers will bring pictures of himself and his family (on vacation) and/or of him at his former work setting. On other occasions we’ve shown DVDs of excellent and accurate presentations of some biblical subject or issue. At the end of each, the gospel is clearly presented.
Frequently, we’ll do a slide show of some location in the world that my wife and I have visited, such as Israel or Turkey, and its biblical sites. Finally, between get-togethers my wife occasionally prepares an extra amount of homemade soup or other entree which we drop off with one or more of our widowers. In summary, it is our prayer that our simple efforts will take some of the ‘sting’ out of losing one’s wife for our widowers and offer us continuing opportunities for sharing the gospel with them.