"I am 87 years old and I just live my life for Christ," says Margie Rich, a widow who lives in Quaker Gardens Retirement and Health Facility in Stanton, Calif. "My apartment is my chapel and without having to cook and clean, I have the time to pray and prepare lessons for the people I minister to."
Margie didn't come to Quaker Gardens to retire, but she came to nurture the sick, the helpless, and the widows. "I am a very busy little old lady," Margie says. And indeed she is. Margie's ministry ranges from the young to the very old.
For example, engaged couples and newlyweds who know Margie through Quaker Gardens staff and her home church come to her for counseling. To engaged couples she often hands them her favorite engagement resource—FamilyLife's Preparing for Marriage. And to newlyweds she offers similar encouragement and resources. She also suggests they attend FamilyLife's Weekend to Remember® getaway, a three-day getaway for couples.
"One young lady came to me who had been married after knowing her husband only one month, and now one month [after their wedding], she was here crying on my shoulder," Margie says. "These days many people don't receive the counseling that they need before they marry."
"Margie has young people coming to visit her day after day," says Chaplain Hadley of Quaker Gardens, "people who have been influenced by her ministry down through the years."
But that's only part of a ministry schedule so full that Margie uses a personal Day Timer to keep up with her routine. Once a week, she visits the facility's nursing home. Margie also takes time each week to read the Bible to a sister in Christ who has lost her eyesight. While she's there, Margie welcomes the other residents to gather around and listen.
"I have ministered to one woman for six years, and she still says there is no God," Margie says. "I have told her everything God has directed me to tell her, and I've given her some great reading material. I hand out those evangelistic booklets like pancakes."
During her six-and-a-half years at Quaker Gardens Margie has facilitated a number of Bible studies for residents and staff members alike. Right now she is meeting with four pupils a week to discuss Bible lessons one-to-one. "All of my classes have been very exciting," Margie says. "I have seen people submit to Christ, and I've seen marriages of friends outside the facility reconciled."
A favorite class was called "Bible Class For Such a Time as This." "I called it that because the fact is that these people had better hear from God soon because they don't have many years left," Margie says. Most of the residents are between the ages of 75 to 106 years old.
Some of her other activities include speaking at devotionals, pushing residents who are in wheelchairs to chapel for worship, encouraging the more than 1,000 visitors she has received since she moved into Quaker Gardens, and keeping in touch with people through e-mail. ("I have learned how to conquer the digital monster," Margie says.)
Once a month, Margie visits those with severe ailments like Alzheimer's and dementia, all the time praying for those to whom she feels spiritually drawn. She also hands out books and resources to people in spiritual and emotional need, including staff and executives at Quaker Gardens. "One man in here said that, when he lost his wife, he lost his life," Margie says. "I told him that when I lost my husband I just went on with my life [in Christ]."
"Margie is a committed Christian who has the gift of evangelism," says Chaplain Hadley. "She witnesses without fear to everybody she comes in contact with."
Ron Miller, Margie's long-time friend and a staff member at FamilyLife, says Margie "sees a lost world regardless of the age of the people, and she ministers as the opportunities provide. Her non-stop witnessing for our Lord is such an encouragement. She is bold, biblical, and busy!"
"One couple here wanted to know my secret to living because I have so much vitality and zip," Margie says. After she told them about her relationship with Christ, they both prayed and received Him as Savior. "When an 'Oldie Moldie' finds Christ," says Margie, "that person is excited, and all of us who already know Him rejoice."
Her ministry to widows came in 1980 after the death of her husband, Wayne. It was then that she wrote a 20-page article about her relationship with Christ through the struggles of widowhood. One of the hospital chaplains had it published to distribute to other widows that he was ministering to. Since then more than 600 copies have been handed out to new widows.
"I encourage widows by walking with them and showing them how a widow lives for the Lord when she has had a great loss," says Margie. "I take them with me to functions and teach them that God says they can still bear fruit for Him," sharing with them Psalm 92:14-15 which says, "They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green."
Margie exemplifies the message of James 1:27, which states that "pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."
"What motivates me is the strength, guidance, encouragement, conviction, conversation, inspiration, and teaching that the blessed Holy Spirit gives me every moment," says Margie. "He shows me what I need, and then He gives me what I need to fill it."
Copyright © 2007 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
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