By Laura McKillip Wood
A Romanian pastor and his wife were watching the news in 2006 when they heard about some elderly homeless people who had frozen to death in the harsh winter weather. Instead of ignoring the problem, the couple took action. They got into their car and found two homeless elderly people to welcome into their home.
Thus began a ministry that has expanded quickly. Through a partnership with Remember the Children, a ministry working primarily with Romanian children in orphanages, the pastor and his wife have ministered to nearly 1,000 elderly homeless and at-risk people since that night. They currently serve 230 elderly people in what they refer to as “humble care homes.”
Caring for the Forgotten
Kim Jackson began working with this ministry in 2011. By January 2016, the outreach to the elderly had grown to the point that it was advantageous to form a separate nonprofit called Elder Orphan Care. The term “elder orphan” comes from the concept of an orphan that extends beyond a child without a guardian but rather includes any person without a protector. Many older people in Romania and around the world fit that definition and are often overlooked by society. As Kim said, “The National Institute on Aging, the U.N. World Population Aging Report, and the World Health Organization all agree that there is an aging tsunami coming. In 1950 there were 205 million people over the age of 60 worldwide. By 2050 that figure will be 2 billion, and 80% of those 2 billion are projected to be living in developing countries.”
Kim’s passion for ministry started long before her involvement with Elder Orphan Care. Encouraged by a high school Sunday school teacher, she earned a degree in Christian Education at a Bible college. She then went on to work in several ministries with children, speak at youth and women’s events, and work in Christian publishing. She also served in an assisted living facility for three years before joining the work of Remember the Children. When Elder Orphan Care branched off, she became its director.
Kim currently lives in North Carolina and supports the Romanians who work full-time with the elder orphans. “My main role is to be a voice for at-risk elderly [in Romania], raising awareness and funding, so at least for the present time that is done best by traveling and speaking in the U.S.” She travels to Romania two to three times a year, usually accompanying teams there. The people on the teams come home excited about what God is doing in Romania.
Kim’s favorite part of her work involves the relationships she makes along the way. “When I visit my elderly friends in Romania, it’s like a family reunion—for them and for me! So many of the elderly we serve have been abandoned by family or have no family left.” She said that even though she’s not exactly an elder orphan, she is nearly 60 years old, has never married, has no parents and only one living sibling, and is financially dependent on the support of the church and generous friends. “I think my life situation gives me a good framework for the call God has put on my life for this season. It also makes me exceedingly grateful for the wonderful people around me. I am blessed!”
Kim also loves visiting churches and telling them about the work of Elder Orphan Care. She enjoys telling stories about her friends in Romania and about the faith of those whose care and obedience have impacted so many lives, including her own. She likes taking people from the United States to visit her friends in Romania and seeing how God uses them to meet needs.
Kim’s work isn’t all fun though. Many times when she returns to Romania, she finds that some of her elderly friends have passed away while she was gone. She finds solace in the fact that she will see many of them again in Heaven, but she misses them while here on earth. She also struggles seeing the great needs the people in Romania have and not being able to meet them herself. For example, right now there is a need for firewood to heat the 10 homes that house 230 elderly and frail people. “I wish I could just write a check for the thousands of dollars it will take to meet that need,” she said. “Instead I have the privilege of praying and watching God and his people act.”
Kim hopes to be working with Elder Orphan Care for a long time. She feels like God wants the organization to exist long after she is gone, and she is already praying for the young person who will come on board to lead Elder Orphan Care in the future.
If you’d like to learn more about Elder Orphan Care, check out their website (elderorphancare.com) or email Kim (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Laura McKillip Wood formerly taught missionary children in Ukraine and now works in the academic office of Nebraska Christian College. She and her husband, Andrew, have three children (lauramckillipwood.com).