We are thrilled to welcome you to our Q&A series, where we will be shining a spotlight on our extraordinary chaplains at Cassia. Through their unwavering support and compassionate presence, our chaplains provide comfort and guidance to our residents, their families, and our staff.
In this installment, we are honored to feature Pastor Joel Pike, Chaplain at Lake Ridge Senior Health & Living and Park View Senior Health & Living in Buffalo, MN. Join us as we delve into Pastor Joel’s approach to chaplaincy and explore the vital importance of spiritual care in our communities.
Q: What inspired you to become a chaplain? Tell us a little about yourself.
A: “I had no idea God would lead me to become a chaplain! Yet I can see the connections He was making to prepare me for this ministry. My father often led nursing home services as a pastor. While I didn’t particularly enjoy them as a kid, I could see how much his kind words and prayers meant to the elderly.
As a young adult, I especially enjoyed church prayer meetings attended primarily by seniors. Even after I joined Youth With A Mission (YWAM) with my wife and kids, doors continued to open with the seniors in our community, including a volunteer role at Lake Ridge, where I now work!
There are many other threads I can see woven into God’s plan: growing up in a rural farming area; working blue-collar jobs—as many of my residents in Buffalo have; leading worship in a conservative Baptist church where I learned to play all the old hymns! And, as is true with many chaplains, our family has had our share of suffering and death, through which God has grown our compassion for these dear ones who’ve been through similar things.
When we began to pray about the chaplain position, the affirmation from those who had supported us as missionaries was a solid confirmation of God’s call. He even provided us a home three miles from Lake Ridge long before I knew I’d work here! Today, my inspiration to be a chaplain is the residents themselves who desperately need to know that God has not forgotten them.
Q: What led you to become a chaplain at Lake Ridge?
A: The previous chaplain felt like I’d be a good fit for his position when he retired, having observed my work as a volunteer at Lake Ridge prior to COVID restrictions. I’ve served here since November of 2021. I’ve gradually released my teaching and traveling with YWAM. As of February 2023, I work full-time for Cassia, between Lake Ridge and Park View, also in Buffalo.
Q: How do you provide spiritual and emotional support to residents?
A: I’ve incorporated and modified much of my experience with YWAM for our seniors! I love to lead sing-a-longs with my guitar (at least 5 hours a week), drawing them into worship, incorporating Bible stories and prayer with the songs.
I love to teach the Bible during reading times, Bible studies and church services. I challenge our residents to keep growing their worldview—staying thankful, praying for those around them and for God’s work worldwide.
I try to participate in the planned and spontaneous activities, whether it’s crafts or a water balloon fight or an impromptu story-telling circle. I like to help transport residents to and from meals and activities, making short relational connections each day.
I provide a Sunday service at both Lake Ridge and Park View where I am the worship leader, preacher, sound guy and chauffer all-in-one! But, above all, my greatest privilege is being invited into the grief and loss each of our residents and their families are experiencing. Whether in 1:1 visits, at the hospital or a deathbed, these are holy and precious times where God’s Holy Spirit brings comfort as only He can.
Q: What is your favorite Bible verse and why?
A: The passage I return to often for calibrating my ministry is 2 Corinthians 2:1-5. Specifically, desiring that everything flows out of “knowing Christ and Him crucified,” desiring that the Spirit draw people into a deeper love for and trust in Jesus.
Personally, Galatians 2:20 reminds me that, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Q: How do you provide support to residents who may not have a specific religious or spiritual belief system?
A: Most of our residents have strong connections to local churches yet still like to attend our services while they are at Lake Ridge. I incorporate liturgies and elements that are common across denominations into our services. For those who have no specific religious or spiritual belief system, I find there are many ways to connect with and support them. People love to tell their story once they know someone will listen to them. For those who don’t attend Bible studies or worship services, I find other ways to be present in their lives; a game of cribbage, doing a puzzle together or just talking until we find something in common. These things provide opportunities to share how God has worked in my life.
Q: How do you collaborate with other staff members to ensure residents’ spiritual needs are being met?
A: Our clinical, activities and social work staff are excellent caregivers in that they are attentive not only to our resident’s medical needs, but also their emotional and spiritual health. Many times, I see staff taking a few minutes to sit with a resident and show they really care about how they are doing. The staff involve me in their team of care as specific needs arise, being quick to inform me if someone is really struggling or a family needs pastoral care.
Q: Can you share a particularly memorable experience you’ve had as a chaplain?
A: One of the honors of this work is walking with residents as some of their closest friends and neighbors cross the threshold of death. To sit with friends and family by a deathbed, holding hands, singing favorite hymns and praying quiet prayers; then lifting a solemn hallelujah together as they enter glory, is a memorable experience every time.
Q: How has your work impacted your own spiritual and personal growth?
A: I’ve been challenged personally with the ability to articulate the foundations of faith in Christ in everyday language and situations. What does God say about suffering to someone in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death? How do you explain the Gospel to someone who is unsure of their eternal destiny? Can I cast a vision for God’s purposes in someone’s life who feels they’ve lost purpose? There are textbook answers for these questions, but it is the presence and power of God that makes all the difference. And thus, chaplain work is driving me deeper into the necessity of study, prayer and worship unto Jesus the Answer.”
Thank you, Pastor Joel Pike, for everything you have done for our residents, their families, and our staff at Lake Ridge Senior Health & Living and Park View Senior Health & Living!