Oak Park residents take a different kind of Holy Land tour

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 27, 2013

During the month of July, almost 30 residents of the Oak Park Retirement Community traveled to the Holy Land.
Yes, some had to use canes, a few had walkers and there were a couple in wheelchairs. Even those who could walk with a little less difficulty had to sit down periodically.
It was not the normal group you would see taking part in such an adventure. With air travel, hotel and restaurant accommodations, bus excursions — even the thought of such a journey would be, well, “different.”
But this was no ordinary group and certainly no ordinary tour. It was more like a journey.
One of the things that made it so different is that they never left Salisbury; really never went outside the beautiful accommodations at Oak Park.
Another difference is that each leg of the journey was held on Tuesday afternoons for a little over an hour each time.
But it was a memorable, fun, exciting time of learning about the major events, people and places of the Old Testament.
Not just learning about the “then and there” but about the “here and now.”
These residents took part in the innovative and unique educational experience called “Walk Thru The Old Testament.”
It’s not a class, not a typical seminar or a boring lecture. It is a highly dynamic, memorable event that helps people understand the Bible and make connections “between His story and your story.”
As part of the process, the group learned 77 hand signs that represented the major people, places and events of the 39 books of the Bible.
They learned where Ur, Moab, Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia were in respect to Egypt, the Dead Sea, the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
The room they met in became a living map where chairs were cities, walkways were rivers, and even people were the places they had heard about all their lives in Sunday School and church.
More than 30 people signed up for this unique experience. Juanita Johnson was surprised so many residents took part in the series.
The “Walk Thru The Old Testament” is a quick and easy way to get the big picture of over 2,000 years of Biblical history, especially when and where the events took place. “It helped us remember the process and steps of the Bible.
It was a way to refresh and renew what we had learned all our lives. And I really enjoyed the way it was presented, too,” Juanita said.
The residents have had Bible study each week for the last several years. Bob Freeman, retired Presbyterian minister, has coordinated the studies.
Freeman was taken by the particular method used to teach the scripture and how all ages could benefit.
“This is something families can do together,” he siad. “It makes you think — you can read, you can see pictures, this a more reflective way of remembering.”
Anne Hollifield was so excited about the series that she signed up for the “30 Day Adventure,” which is a follow up.
“In a short time, we were able to get an overall sense of the story of the Bible for the beginning,” she said. “We found out some things never change, people never seem to change.
“The good thing is it reminded us that God never changes either. He is always there; He never leaves us.”
Loretta McKinney had a more personal reason for investing in the series.
The methods, movements and merriment of this series were a familiar way of bringing health back to her body, mind and spirit.
She had suffered through several life altering illnesses in the past, first with a parent and then she herself.
“For me, using mind and motion into movement and fun was a way back for me.,” she said. “It was a way of coping through some very difficult times.”
She grew up the youngest of 11 children and spent years taking care of her father who was paralyzed.
“He loved for me to sing songs and to act out poetry and Bible stories,” she said.
This active method approach was something she had done at home and later on as a teacher of autistic and other special needs children. “I loved it,” she said. “I can’t wait to go through the New Testament soon.”
The activity director at the facility, Karen Leonard, was so impressed how the residents participated in the class, she made a video to send to their corporate office to use in publicity.
“It goes along with our overall philosophy here at Oak Park,” she said. “We care about you, first of all because you are a person deserving our care and respect.
“Oak Park has programs that include the health of the body, mind and spirit.”
This was not their first venture into the social media.
In 2011, the residents put together a “Senior Citizen Flash Mob” at the Salisbury Mall just before Christmas. You can still see it on YouTube.
Oak Park continues to offer opportunities for residents to stay active and explore new things.
Among the things that are offered are garden clubs, current events classes and art classes.
Mrs. Hollifield said, “Art is something I have never done before, but when I came here I tried it.”
She also plays drums in the Center’s band.
“As you get older, you find you can do things you never thought you could do,” she said.
She should know. For her 70th birthday she went up in a hot air balloon.
Loretta McKinney says, “If you want to do anything here, they give you free reign. I’ve done whitewater rafting and ziplining.”
Juanita Johnson muses, “Some people come here and say ‘I’m retired,’ but I don’t want to sit around and dry up. Right now, I’ve got so much going on sometimes I don’t even know where I’m going next.”
Being with Loretta, Anne, Juanita, Bob as well as Martha, Jim, Doris, Bette and the rest of the residents was a reminder. Maybe age is just a state — not so much of body or of mind, but of the heart.
Perhaps that’s part of what Jesus meant when he said, “It is the children, the young, that find the Kingdom.”
As the old saying goes, “The world is full of young people – some of us have just been younger longer.”
For more information about the “Walk Thru the Bible” live events, contact Rod Kerr at 74-633-0431.
The next “Walk Thru the New Testament” event is planned for Oct. 6 at First Baptist Church Salisbury.

Rod Kerr, a certified Walk Thru the Bible instructor, is a Minister at First Baptist Salisbury.