New Day Herald

ElderReach | The Freedom of Thea-Mai


“When I lived in California I used to bring J-R flowers. So when I moved to Washington State I planted flowers all over my balcony. It said, ‘J-R this is your garden. I have flowers here for you and here are your flowers. I love you.’”
-Thea Mai

The photos in this article are taken by Lucy Dickinson and show Thea-Mai in her J-R Garden.

In 2008, Edward Cohen approached Patti Rayner and asked if there was some way he could assist in supporting the elders in MSIA and he started doing home visits with a handful of people.

At that time I was a member of the HeartReach Committee and a group of us were meeting with Patti and exploring ways to expand the work that HeartReach was doing. We designed several new programs including the Circle of Light (supporting individuals who were in the dying process) and the Union of Prayer Communion (a monthly meeting where people could receive prayer communion). HeartReach also had its ongoing crisis program which provides assistance for church members experiencing short-term difficulties.

When Patti mentioned that Edward had started doing home visits to MSIA elders a month or so earlier, the HeartReach Committee decided to add that as a new HeartReach program. We called it ElderReach. Patti asked me to coordinate the program and Edward continued with the work that he was doing. We did some outreach and found that some MSIA elders were having a difficult time accessing the teachings – for example, they were having challenges with new technology or were not able to listen to SATs. Other elders were in isolated areas and wanted to be able to access events online. Still others were feeling isolated socially.

We decided that the mission of ElderReach would simply be to assist elders in MSIA in remaining connected to the teachings and to the MSIA community. Since 2008, we have served many individuals, some of whom went from ElderReach into HeartReach’s Circle of Light program before passing into Spirit.

As an elder enters the program, we assign them a buddy who maintains regular contact with them in-person and/or by phone or Skype. Sometimes we assist elders technologically, that could be to assist them with accessing the teachings remotely or helping with a DVD player. The assistance could also be on a social level, providing ways to help them feel connected to the MSIA community. Support could also be financial if, let’s say, they were unable to afford a prescription medication. We have also provided short-term help with living expenses in crisis situations.

To provide a more complete idea of what ElderReach does, we will highlight one of the current ElderReach recipients. Her name is Thea Mai Reinap and she lives in Bellingham, Washington. Minister Richard Klein is Thea Mai’s buddy.

Thea-Mai lives in an area that is geographically isolated and she wants to be more connected to the MSIA community. When we started working with her, she did not have a functioning computer and wanted to get online to access MSIA events.

Thea-Mai has been diagnosed with a throat problem and is having difficulty swallowing her food. To assist her with this, ElderReach bought her a blender that would thoroughly break down food so that she could get the micronutrients she needed.

In addition, to her buddy Richard Klein, Peter and Ina Kiernan are a couple of ministers who have been reaching out to Thea-Mai. About four years ago Peter spearheaded a project to get Thea-Mai a new computer (which MSIA paid for) and to get her up and running online.

I recently coordinated a Skype call between Thea-Mai, Peter Kiernan, and myself. I have excerpted some of that conversation below:

THEA-MAI: My computer crashed and I did not have the means to get a new one and conference was down the road and I wanted to be able to at least access the Ministers and Initiates Meetings online.

PETER: In this case, MSIA and Ministers have come together in lots of different ways. First of all, MSIA has increased its technology and is broadcasting a lot. I have to mention that Julie Lurie has been fantastic in her support. We had to call her and get passwords on the morning of Conference to get Thea-Mai online so that she could watch the event.

MSIA is doing so much that I think will be beneficial to a lot of us as we get older and for various reasons have more difficulty going to all these conferences, trainings and things like that. And in this specific case, we had ElderReach willing to support. But for me, the crucial thing was that Thea-Mai was willing to ask for support – “ask and you will receive.”

THEA-MAI: Yes J-R once told me you really have to ask. So for me, this was important since I never really asked. I’ve learned my lesson.

PETER: John Lee and I got involved at least 4-5 years ago. Just to show you how Spirit works, I went and found a local computer company in Vancouver and they sold me all this stuff at just a little bit above cost. I was wondering why. Well, it was Spirit doing it. That company went bankrupt shortly after that and I’m sure they were helping us because they knew they were not going to be in business long. And so we got the computer.

THEA-MAI: Peter can access my computer from wherever he is because I don’t have the skills.

PETER: And so we were negotiating to get the computer and HeartReach was willing to pay for it. And I remember John paid for some software and I paid for something. So this was our opportunity to be of support as Ministers.

Given that Thea-Mai is isolated geographically, what enabled this to work is a computer program that I have called Logmein. The last time I renewed it the guy on the phone gave me a discounted price because I told him what I was using it for. So that also extends the ministry of HeartReach. I also added Thea-Mai as a third person on my cell phone account. This gives her a phone to call me with when she has a problem.

THEA-MAI: Yes, I do much of my ministry by telephone and this phone allows me to do that.

PETER: With Logmein I can log onto Thea-Mai’s computer remotely. If she has something that doesn’t work she calls me and I just take over her computer and can fix it.

JOHN LEE: So we are really talking about all the things that have gone into helping Thea-Mai in getting and staying connected to MSIA. And we’re talking about Richard Klein as one – as her ElderReach buddy. We’re also talking about the computer as another and the cell phone as a third way. So there’s a lot that’s gone into what is now set up.

THEA-MAI: Yes, it gives me back a normal life. I have the freedom to stay connected. I call and different Ministers. I support them as part of my ministry. This enables me to do what I normally do and I don’t feel any restriction. I’m not inhibited in being an Initiate, being a Minister and being who I am.

JOHN LEE: You’re making an interesting point because we think of ElderReach or HeartReach as supporting a person in certain ways but what we’re really saying here is that the support that you’re getting is assisting you in doing your ministry!

PETER: Yes, that’s really important. Thea-Mai is in a senior complex of 55 years old or older and most of them are much older than that.

THEA-MAI: It’s pretty big… there are 90 apartments and I am doing my ministry here too – being a Light-bearer and planting Light Columns and working with people. Yes, I think the Light has transformed this place from what it was when I first moved here 17 years ago.

PETER: I think this is an important part. When ElderReach or HeartReach supports someone, it’s also like seed money because MSIA’s willingness to do this enables people like John and me who don’t mind throwing in some extra money. And then the computer company threw in some stuff. What I am trying to say is that HeartReach’s money gets magnified and the benefit gets magnified. It’s not just connecting one person, it does so much more.

JOHN LEE: Thea-Mai, tell us a more about your experience with ElderReach. We talked about the computer and the phone and what that has allowed you to do.

THEA-MAI: ElderReach means a lot me because it has put me in connection to another minister, my ElderReach buddy Richard Klein, and we are becoming friends. Peter and Richard are like my brothers and so are you, John. I never had brothers.

I never really had a family because of WWII. I was born in 1932 and lived in Estonia and the war really tore up my family. I was in the underground at age seven. We went underground into the forest. Part of my family and I brought supplies in behind the lines. Because of my age and size, I was used to slip behind the lines and take in food. Half of my family was taken to Siberia and my father was elsewhere so I never really had a family. Other people raised me, so I have been pretty much on my own in life and there was no closeness there.

Being in MSIA has helped. I have wanted more loving relationships in my life so when ElderReach came along, it was a great blessing. I now have more people to interact with, connect with, love, and share with in close personal relationships.

Thea-Mai is just one example of the type of assistance that ElderReach is providing to MSIA Ministers and Initiates.

We need your help!

ElderReach is often unaware of specific MSIA elders who may need the services that it provides. Sometimes a local Ministerial Board might tell us, “We haven’t heard much from so-and-so for a year now.” When they check further, it might become evident that that person has fallen through the cracks.

The purpose of this article is to put out the word about ElderReach. It is likely that there are Ministers and Initiates out there who would benefit from its services.

If you or someone you know would benefit from ElderReach, please contact Heartfelt’s Director, Skyler Patten:
Phone: (323) 328-1925

Like MSIA’s other HeartReach programs, the Global Network, the HeartReach Crisis program and Circle of Light, ElderReach stands ready to serve us all when the need arises.

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