God’s instruments: Volunteer pastors enrich lives of residents at Specialty Care Center

By Carey Miller

Volunteer pastor Almetea Taylor baptizes Methodist Specialty Care Center resident Charles Ball in the therapy pool at Methodist Outpatient Rehabilitation in Flowood.

Methodist Specialty Care Center volunteer pastor Alan Kolodny signs the marriage certificate as newlyweds Annie and Danny Gilmore look on.

Baptism is a sacrament and rite of passage for many people of faith.

But for Charles Ball, a Baptist, his chosen denomination’s doctrine of full immersion presented a challenge.

“I had made up my mind to get baptized before I came here,” said Ball, 36, who recently became a resident of Methodist Speciality Care Center, a long-term care facility for people with severe disabilities.  “But we never could figure out how to go about doing it until recently.”

Ball cannot use his hands and relies on a power wheelchair for mobility, so getting into a baptismal font seemed difficult, even dangerous.

As part of its extensive volunteer program, MSCC features a volunteer ministry to see to the spiritual needs of residents. In addition to one-on-one counseling, its dedicated volunteer pastors lead weekly worship services at the center.

Almetea Taylor of Jackson, who is also a minister at the Greater Bethlehem Temple Apostolic Faith Church, presides over Sunday services.

“Normally when I finish ministering, I ask everyone if they have any questions or anything I might be able to help them with,” Taylor said. “With all the power that God gives me, whatever I can do to meet their needs and help them I will certainly do.”

When Ball inquired about baptism, she made it her mission to find a way to help.

“I told her that Sunday at church and that Friday I got baptized,” Ball said.

“I asked volunteer director Robby Scucchi if Methodist had any facilities that could accommodate a baptism,” Taylor said. “He said they didn’t, but then he thought of the pool.”

Next door to MSCC, one of MRC’s outpatient facilities houses a therapy pool designed to accommodate people with disabilities. It features a motorized chair that safely lowers patients into the water, which was the answer to their prayers.

“Everything went smooth—I thought it was going to be kind of difficult,” Ball said. “The chair was a big help.”

“Now, if anyone else so wishes to be baptized, we can perform them on Friday afternoons,” Taylor said. “God used Mr. Ball to get the ball rolling!”

Ball says in his short time as a resident he’s been impressed with the dedication of MSCC’s staff and volunteers.

“They do their best to help you reach the goals you want to accomplish,” he said,  adding that he has been taking an online course in airline dispatching through Flamingo Air Academy. “I’ll be finished in October. They’ve helped me achieve that.”

Danny Gilmore, 35, echoes Ball’s sentiments. He has also been a resident at MSCC for less than a year, but he already feels at home.

“When I first came here I automatically knew I was home and in the right place,” Gilmore said. “They go out of their way for us and all our needs.”

One of those needs was wedding bells—Gilmore said his now wife Annie had proposed marriage to him not long after he came to MSCC, three years after the car accident that changed his life.

“We’ve been together for 17 years,” Gilmore said. The couple has four children together, ranging in age from 5 to 15. “Back then I wasn’t ready, but a lot of times it takes something like this to happen before you realize what the Lord is trying to tell you.”

They were planning to get married on Danny’s birthday, which was fast approaching.

“We were just going to go to the justice of the peace, but Robby and them were like, ‘We’d love for you to do it here,’” Gilmore said.  “I was stunned.”

Alan Kolodny, pastor of New Beginnings Community Church in Natchez, performs Thursday services at MSCC and was glad to volunteer his time to officiate the wedding.

“He’s a great pastor,” Gilmore said. “He likes to have fun with us. He has a great spirit.”

MSCC’s dining area was decorated and transformed by staff into a chapel and reception hall.

“With the Lord’s help everyone made it happen in such a short time,” Gilmore said.

Kolodny says that he has also performed two baptisms at MSCC himself, but they required less preparation.

“I’m Presbyterian, so we just sprinkle the water,” he said.

Kolodny, who suffers from a rare liver disease and relies on a wheelchair for mobility, has volunteered at the center for over a decade.

“So many of their residents just need someone to be there for them,” Kolodny said. “To have a regular pastor makes a big difference. I’ve known some of them for years. They’re like family. And since I’m limited in my mobility as well, I fit in!”

To find out more about volunteering at Methodist Rehabilitation Center, call 601-420-7769 or email rscucchi@mmrcrehab.org.