The One Hope outreach of North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM) was planned in 2018, launched in the summer of 2019, and exploded in March 2020. NCBAM’s ministry director, Sandy C. Gregory, sees no coincidences in the birth of One Hope.
“If we had desired an evangelical outreach for isolated seniors and knew it needed to be ready for the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, we couldn’t have planned or timed it any better. It humbles us to have witnessed God’s hand in this for he truly knows the end from the beginning.”
Chris Schofield, director of the Office of Prayer for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) and Mark Smith, senior consultant for BSC’s family evangelism and discipleship, were each instrumental in helping NCBAM frame the outreach as a Christian spiritual response that would offer connection, community, and Christ to those suffering from isolation and loneliness.
Schofield and Smith both continue to serve as advisers for One Hope.
Integral to the One Hope outreach is the NCBAM Hope Line which accepts calls 9 a.m.-9 p.m. In March 2020, as the pandemic began, two lines were added to handle increased call volume and service was expanded to include weekends. Trained volunteers and NCBAM team members offer a listening ear to callers 65+ who are new to isolation or have been experiencing it for years. Knowing that many callers in need of connection might not initiate a call to the Hope Line, NCBAM added an outbound “friendly call outreach” in June.
In August, Schofield was guest speaker at the bi-monthly Hope Line Volunteer Forum. Schofield encouraged volunteers to prepare their hearts for ministry encounters each time they serve. He also offered practical tips like taking notes while listening. “You may never talk to them again, but, through prayer, you can invest in their lives eternally.”
Regarding the timing of One Hope, Schofield says, “It is no secret that God’s timing is always perfect. One Hope is one way God has providentially set in place for His people and churches to pray for and share God’s Great Hope in Jesus Christ with the lost, lonely and isolated in their communities and beyond. To God be the Glory!”
“The response to One Hope from Baptists has been great,” said Gregory. “We reached out to hundreds of ethnic Baptist churches seeking Hope Line volunteers and we’ll soon be able to offer return calls in Spanish, Chinese, and Korean. We also have English-speaking volunteers on a waiting list for the training which will soon be available as a remote option.”
At the October Hope Line Volunteer Forum, Smith encouraged volunteers in their privileged role as ambassadors for Christ. He shared a “tool box” of strategies for sharing the gospel with Hope Line callers and highlighted the most irrefutable – one’s personal testimony.
“How God made a difference in your life is always in your tool box and is many times the most effective tool we have,” said Smith.
Smith also authored and compiled a devotional resource for the outreach: “One Hope: 30 Devotions for Overcoming Loneliness.” Smith agrees that God’s timing was perfect. “The devotional was in production for a year and fresh from the printer in early May – just in time to throw a lifeline to those suffering. Our prayer is that they will stay tethered and that through the devotionals they will see where their hope is – in Jesus.”
The devotional is offered to Hope Line callers free of charge and is also available on the One Hope website for purchase, as a free download, and as audio recordings.
Other advisers to the One Hope outreach include Rebecca Freeman, healthy aging specialist with the Division of Aging and Adult Services for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services; and Whitney Brooks, certified integrative health coach through Duke Integrative Medicine.
Brooks developed the specialized training for Hope Line volunteers that focuses on mindful awareness and listening skills such as reflections, summarizing and the role of inquiry in active listening. She was also instrumental in planning the outreach – and is glad to see it growing.
“There is joy and confirmation knowing that NCBAM led the charge in this space. Word has gotten out, and groups outside North Carolina want to know how they can implement a similar approach. NCBAM intentionally developed a program that can be replicated nearly anywhere, helping as many seniors as possible.”
Brooks’ connections with Duke Integrative Medicine have led to a partnership with the Baptist State Convention of Tennessee as they begin forming a similar outreach.
NCBAM was recently awarded a $1,000 special projects grant from the North Carolina Baptist Foundation for One Hope. The funds will be used to mail One Hope devotionals to Hope Line callers and to purchase call management software for the Hope Line.
A new website is dedicated to the One Hope outreach. To learn more about One Hope, or to schedule your training, visit onehopeNCBAM.org or call (877) 506-2226.