By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
Tennessee Baptist volunteers will man the Tennessee Hope Line, in partnership with the Governor’s Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives and the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability (TCAD).
Dave Worland of the governor’s office observed that the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board has been “a great partner for our office. They were able to help with every need as the COVID restrictions began.
“When this opportunity arose, knowing their heart for serving the Lord, they were the first organization that came to mind. A quick phone call later and they were on board, leading the Tennessee Hope Line, bringing hope and encouragement to older adults across Tennessee. We are thankful for their partnership and eagerness to serve God by serving His people,” Worland said.
Joe Sorah, compassion ministries specialist for the TBMB, said “we are honored to be a part of the ministry of the Tennessee Hope Line. “We envision a ministry to lonely, needful senior adults,” he noted.
“Our ministry to our senior adults will include listening, responding, and serving. As senior adults call in to the Tennessee Hope Line, we will be ready to respond with practical ministry and assistance. Harvest Field volunteers have been enlisted to help us to work with Baptist associations and churches to minister to those who call in,” Sorah added.
A training session, led by representatives of the governor’s office, TCAD and the TBMB, was held for potential volunteers in a Zoom call Nov. 18. The session was recorded for future volunteers, Sorah said.
“We need volunteers to answer the Tennessee Hope Line,” Sorah said. Churches also will be needed to respond when called upon to serve those who request assistance, he added.
Anna Lea Cothron, legislative liaison for TCAD, described the plight of senior adults in Tennessee. They are the fastest growing population in the state, she said.
One of the most common problems faced by senior adults is social isolation, Cothron said. “It has been made worse by COVID-19,” she observed, reporting that two-thirds of senior adults have experienced social isolation.
The virus has affected senior adults in other ways, she continued, noting that seniors comprise 80 percent of all hospitalizations and have a 23 percent greater risk of death.
Cothron said TCAD has “a renewed interest in helping combat social isolation. We are so excited to partner with you (Tennessee Baptists) to implement the Tennessee Hope Line.”
Tim Bearden and his wife, Carol, are serving as volunteer coordinators of the Hope Line, at least in the initial stage, Sorah said. Bearden retired in 2018 as manager of the Tennessee Baptist Conference Centers.
Bearden shared several tips for responding to phone calls but emphasized the main role of volunteers “is to listen.”
He noted that doors of opportunity may arise to share the gospel and to pray for senior adults if they are willing.
“If the door opens, share your faith,” Bearden encouraged.
Bearden said volunteers will be encouraged to collect as much information as possible on the senior adults if follow up is needed. Local churches will be encouraged to meet needs whenever possible but if the needs are beyond the churches’ ability to respond, they will be referred to the state, he noted.
Sorah stressed that the Tennessee Hope Line “is a wonderful opportunity to meet needs, develop relationships, and share the love of Christ with our senior adult population, a group of 1.2 million in Tennessee. Senior adults make up a sixth of our population. That’s a large segment of our mission field in Tennessee.”
The Tennessee Hope Line initially will be manned by volunteers in three-hour time slots, Monday-Friday, from 9 a.m-3 p.m. CT. The Hope Line was scheduled to launch Dec. 1 but more volunteers are needed to answer the calls, Sorah stressed.
Anyone interested in serving as a volunteer can go to www.tnbaptist.org/missions-ministries/compassion-ministries/ to fill out a Tennessee Hope Line volunteer application form. B&R