An older adult with his adult child spending time on a park bench.

Celebrating the work of Wesley chaplains

October is Pastor Appreciation Month, so join us in recognizing Wesley’s chaplains.

During our nearly 80-year history, Wesley residents have always enjoyed the spiritual guidance and emotional support of our chaplains. This year, in honor of Pastor Appreciation Day, we spoke to our chaplains about some of the things they enjoy about their work with Wesley residents, their families and staff.  

Chaplain Michael Byrd sees a richness in his role in working with residents at Wesley Des Moines at a time when they are contemplating their purpose and meaning in life.

“Looking back, they try to make sense of it all,” he explained, “from understanding their purpose to why things happened the way they did.” Then as many residents explore their new life at Wesley, they start to look ahead. Chaplain Mike said he is there to help them “understand and facilitate their purpose and meaning at this stage of life and through the years ahead.”

Wesley Lea Hill’s Chaplain Haggai Habila welcomes a visiting llama.

Among the many things Chaplain Thomas Irby enjoys is his time meeting new residents at Wesley at Tehaleh and offering a compassionate ear. Taking the time to listen can sometimes make all the difference. Being heard and understood is important for us all. He mentioned a resident who had experienced a lot of change, having recently lost her husband and moving to Wesley from out of state.

“Just by supporting her and allowing her to put down words helped,” said Chaplain Thomas. “When I commented how much change she’d been through, she thanked me and said how much she appreciated my saying that.”

Ministering to our residents is only one part of what our chaplains do at Wesley communities. Wesley Lea Hill’s Chaplain Haggai Habila said he enjoys being available for staff as well.

“They come to me for spiritual support and encouragement and to share their hearts,” said Chaplain Haggai. To recognize and honor staff, he and Chaplain Mike lead a “Pray for the Hands” day. “It’s a time when we pray for our nurses and staff who use their hands to care for us,” he explained.

From vespers to resident support groups, our chaplains are there.

All Wesley chaplains lead vesper services to provide guidance and comfort from the scriptures. They know the importance of providing one-on-one time during caregiver and grief support groups.

Chaplain Michael Byrd at the Blessing of the Animals at Wesley Des Moines.

Chaplain Mike’s Alzheimer’s Caregiver support group allows residents to “receive gentle guidance while having some comradery, support and encouragement with people who are also undergoing the same challenges in life,” he said.  

The benefits of the caregiver support group led by Chaplain Thomas are two-fold.

“This is a space where residents can share the stories with one another and realize they are not alone. It helps them to grow together as a community and understand one another not just as people who live in the same place but as actual friends and neighbors. It’s an opportunity to vent frustrations or feelings of grief in a supportive place,” said Chaplain Thomas.

In addition to hosting a caregiver support group, Chaplain Haggai also hosts a grief support group that meets regularly for anyone who wants to drop in. It’s a valuable time to be together.

“These groups are an open space for residents to come when they feel the need to connect with other people,” he said. “It’s good to able to share the same or similar grief to encourage each other.”

A heartfelt thank you for the support and care our chaplains bring to Wesley residents, their families and staff.

If you are interested in joining a Wesley support group, please contact a Wesley community today.

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