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Senior lay pastor steps down from seniors' ministry

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
May 4, 2012 at 12:04 a.m.

Herschel Jordan began a church ministry nearly 40 years ago to serve residents at Twin Pines Nursing Home. Jordan has decided to step down from his volunteer position as a lay minister because of  health reasons.

Sitting in an Elizabethan-patterned arm chair, Herschel Jordan glanced at a shimmering, ornamental crucifix resting on the end of a long table in his Victoria living room.

The crucifix is one among many Christian-themed ornaments scattered throughout the room, appearing in tasteful sequence with the French-country decor.

The cross, like Jordan, is regal in the room, yet humble and unaware of its glow.

Jordan, 80, doesn't hear as well as he once did. The ailments of aging have slowed the lifelong car salesmen and devout Baptist to a moderate pace.

The seasoned, non-retired Blackwood Toyota salesman has plenty of stories to share about life and the decades of volunteer service he gave to Christian ministry. And if the right opportunity allows during conversation, Jordan knows how to charmingly insert a sales pitch into conversation, internally chuckling before transitioning back to his original point.

"I've never retired from work. It's all I've ever done, and I enjoy it," Jordan said.

"He's not yet ready to retire. He's getting closer," his wife, Bette, giggled. "We're hoping it will be soon, though."

Jordan did retire from one long-running role this year. Last month, he stepped down from his lay preacher position at Twin Pines Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, a position he's had nearly four decades.

"It was hard. I love that ministry. You get attached to the people, and I've seen many of them come and go," Jordan said, discussing his decision to retire several months ago. "I hope I left a good impression over there. It was just time to call it quits."

Thirty-seven years ago, Jordan's pastor asked if he would consider assisting with a developing ministry at his home church, Northside Baptist.

Northside's new nursing home ministry aimed to bring the gospel and Sunday church services to elderly, sick and dying residents who were unable to attend church.

"They move out there and they can't go to their church anymore," he said. "So we tried to make them feel important, and like church was important."

Though willing to accept the task of service, Jordan said he was initially indifferent about the request and the ministry.

"They pulled me aside for a lot of things in those days. If they needed me for anything, they'd ask and I'd do it," he said. "I don't know what led me to Twin Pines. I just showed up one day and liked it."

The ever-devoted Jordan agreed to attend the nursing home weekly, praying and helping the elderly in any way he could. He didn't realize, years later, he'd be pastoring the residents, and the ministry would become one of his favorite weekly obligations.

"I didn't have a big part at first. I just had to go get their wheelchairs and help with residents. Finally, they built a chapel, a real nice chapel, and we'd bring them down each week," he said. "It's hard to get young people involved in that ministry. We ran out of speakers, so I started doing it."

Jordan said some of the Twin Pines residents could walk, while others couldn't. Some were more physically ill, while others lost their wits to dementia. But Jordan found he was comfortable around the elderly - even if they were sick - and enjoyed their company and faith-seeking questions.

"I love those old people, and a lot of time, they need somebody because their families forget them," Jordan said. "It was always hard to find help because some people find it depressing."

Jordan's wife once accompanied her husband to the Twin Pines services, but admitted she wasn't as comfortable as her husband with some of the more ailing residents.

"To see those people in that condition, it just bothered me," a heavy-hearted Bette said.

"Some are really pitiful, they were physically and mentally disabled," Jordan added. "But they still like to come to church."

Every Sunday, Jordan would get to the chapel for the 9 a.m. services, assist the volunteers with the ministry, lead the service, then drive across town to attend Northside church services with his family.

"They were busy days," he said, smiling.

Through the years, he offered spiritual guidance and prayers, friendship and support to many of Victoria's elderly - ultimately watching them age, and eventually experience their death. He attended several funerals of Twin Pines residents, but knew they were always in a better place, he said.

"Most of them are old, and hurting - It's a tough place to end up," he said.

As the residents neared the end of their lives, it wasn't uncommon for them to question and discuss faith. Several residents gave their lives to Christ while living at Twin Pines, while another small handful became Christians on their death beds.

"There weren't many, a few. We don't really know how much effect we had," he said.

The nursing home ministry was a beloved part of Jordan's life, and he plans to return to visit his friends at the home.

"He's already had several calls for him to come back," Bette said.

But Jordan hopes he impacted lives there, even if only in a small, unassuming way.

"I hope we had something to do with their salvation. It's a wonderful ministry," he said. "It taught me that I want to always be close to the Lord and be ready to go when it's my time."

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