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Siblings from Texas, Md., Fla. use chautauqua for family reunion

LANCASTER, Pa. (BP)–Was it a senior adult chautauqua, an event devoted to education and entertainment in beautiful Pennsylvania Amish country, or was it a fun-filled weeklong family reunion for a family of five?

For the Gentry family members from Texas, Maryland and Florida, it was both.

For the Gentry family, choosing to attend the Senior Adult Chautauqua at the Willow Valley Resort in Lancaster, Pa., was a way to visit with each other and more than 380 other senior adults Oct. 7-11.

John and Louise Gentry from Brownsville, Texas, and members of Island Baptist Church on South Padre Island, have attended other chautauqua events over the years at LifeWay conference centers in Ridgecrest, N.C., and Glorieta, N.M., but this year decided to come to Pennsylvania to meet three of his sisters. “We had decided to go to Ridgecrest this year, but when my sisters and I talked, we decided to come here since it is so close to Susan and Lois,” he said.

Susan Maricle and Lois Macks both live in Maryland and attend White Marsh Baptist Church in Perry Hall. Their other sister, Janice Bopst, lives in Ormond Beach, Fla., and attends Ormond Beach Union Church.

“This is just a marvelous experience,” Bopst said. “It’s so much fun to get together with my family and to be around all these other people.”

At 84, Bopst is an active senior adult. She works at a her church’s thrift shop, is involved in a church crafting class and travels as often as possible. “I have to keep busy,” she said. “It keeps me alert and I just feel better doing things.”

Being busy is a thread weaving through the lives of each of the siblings.

“Louise and I have been married 57 years,” John Gentry said. A few years ago, the Gentrys, accompanied by other family members, took a cruise to Alaska. “We renewed our wedding vows on the cruise,” he said. “I was in the Army when Louise and I got married, and I always felt like I cheated her out of a real wedding.”

Louise Gentry said she, at first, thought there was no need for the “second wedding,” but “I went through it anyway and had such fun.”

The Gentry family ate together for each meal, but then split up to attend their conferences of choice.

One day, Bopst and Louise Gentry attended “The Joy of Ministering Through Crafts.”

Mattie Ray, a crafts specialist from Ripley, Miss., led a group showing craft ideas that senior adults can use as a tool for fellowship with other seniors.

“Crafting is a good way to get people together to do something fun and to help other people,” she said. “There are so many little projects that involve very little expense, but provide fellowship.”

Ray showed several economical crafts ideas that can be used in ministry to homebound or nursing home residents, including a fabric pocket that can be attached to a wheelchair or walker. “This can be a way to minister to people who can’t get out, but appreciate visits and little gifts.”

Maricle and Macks attended conferences led by Chad Eaton, minister of recreation at First Baptist Church of Simpsonville, S.C.

In one course, “Hugs, Tugs and Giggles,” Eaton said, “I want to encourage you to be the encourager at your church. Too often we equate value with financial, but that is so untrue. Be an encouragement to the folks around you. If you lead out in doing that, other people will follow. To me, I think that is the greatest gift you can ever give to your church.”

Eaton told the group that people who live alone don’t get many hugs, so the simple act of giving and receiving a hug at church can be a wonderful ministry. As they laughed and hugged, both Maricle and Macks agreed that this was their kind of ministry. “This is so much fun,” Macks said. “Everyone needs hugs.”

John Gentry attended a series of conferences for Sunday School leaders on “Multiplying Leaders and Units in Sunday School” led by Michael Felder of LifeWay Christian Resource’s adult ministry publishing. Gentry’s wife joined him for one of the conferences.

In the conference, Felder encouraged the senior adult leaders to “spread around the love and to spread around the responsibility. It’s part of our responsibility as Sunday School leaders and members to help recognize people with leadership potential and to help them rise to positions of leadership.”

Spreading out the responsibility, he said, allows new leaders to grow.

“Spiritual growth is monitored in no other place in the church than in the Sunday School,” he said. “You can’t know about someone’s spiritual condition in one hour. It’s a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week job. That’s why it’s so important to have good leadership in your Sunday School…. You can have people in your class who can be involved with people more than just for the one hour on Sunday morning.”

Perry Sanders, pastor of First Baptist Church in Layfayette, La., for 42 years, was the preacher for the week.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing him,” Bopst said, noting that Sanders’ messages had both humor and substance.

Speaking one evening about revival of the spirit, Sanders said, “I believe God can send revival to any church — black church, white church, Hispanic church, Asian church, integrated church — except a divided church. The Bible says people will know we are Christians by the way we love one another.”

He added, “It’s awful, but sinners are hungry for the gospel, but Christians aren’t hungry for sinners.”

LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention sponsored six different chautauquas for senior adults at four locations this fall. About 2,600 seniors from 30 states attended the events.

Senior adult chautauqua events took place the week of Oct. 7-11 at Willow Valley Resort; LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center; and LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center. Three other events were held earlier Ridgecrest, Glorieta and the Green Lake (Wis.) Conference Center.

For more information about the upcoming winter chautauqua events and for the dates and locations of next year’s fall events, go to www.lifeway.com or e-mail [email protected].
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: REUNION & RENEWAL and SENIOR LEARNERS.

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  • Polly House