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 Dale Clifton, Chaplain at Milaca Elim Meadows in Milaca. Join us as we delve into Pastor Dale’s approach to chaplaincy and explore the vital importance of spiritual care in our communities.
Q: What is your favorite Bible verse and why?
A: While I have many favorite Bible verses, a life-long foundational verse of Scripture is found in I Corinthians 10:31. It declares “whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” This truth has motivated me throughout my life.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself. What inspired you to become a chaplain?
A: I’m married and have three sons. I have served as a pastor in the Evangelical Free Church for 24 years. Throughout those years, I considered it a priority to minister God’s grace to everyone, including the older saints.
Consequently, I made it a priority to go to nursing homes and the assisted living of those communities. When an opportunity to interview for chaplain at the Milaca Elim Meadows, I thought I would explore the possibility and find out if my spiritual gifts and talents might be a good fit.
Q: What led you to become a chaplain at Milaca Elim Meadows?
A: When I came for a campus visit in September of 2014, I expected the facility to be quiet, calm and serene. I was pleasantly surprised: While the facility was, in fact, quiet and calm, there were many times when I heard laughter as I walked the hallways. Their administrator was upbeat; the assisted living director was joy-filled; and the nurses I met were quick to smile, converse and laugh. I knew these were people I would enjoy working with.
However, what convinced me that God could use me in chaplain ministry, was meeting some of the residents. (The sit-down-interview included three residents). The residents asked me questions about myself and my family; they also provided me with answers to what life was like in a skilled nursing facility and assisted living.
I learned that many of the residents who served their local churches for years were looking for a chaplain who would be like a pastor to them. It was then that I sensed God “calling” me to serve senior-saints that had served their local church. Thankfully, I was hired and began ministry here at Milaca Elim Meadows in October 2014.
Q: How do you provide spiritual and emotional support for the residents at Milaca Elim Meadows?
A: All my years as a solo pastor for rural churches taught me a lot. I’ve used all of it in ministry as a Chaplain:
- Each week I lead Bible Studies… the SNF begins with visual PowerPoint prompters for conversation. The A.L. Bible study begins with thought-provoking questions.
- Being a guitarist has opened many opportunities such as “singspiration,” taking a guitar to those on hospice, and on some occasions, playing with musical group guests.
- Throughout my years as a pastor, I did children’s sermons— here I do “Faith Object Lessons.”
- As a pastor, I learned the value of a comforting funeral— this prepared me for the more frequent spiritual ministry of funerals and monthly memorial services.
- As a solo small church pastor, I learned a lot about video and audio equipment— so I embraced managing the technology of the chapel. I also often help residents with their “Smart TVs.” This was a relief to the residents as well as our administrator J
- Lastly, an unexpected opportunity was to serve as pulpit supply to local churches. A resulting benefit of this was being able to welcome folks from those local churches later as residents.
Q: How do you accommodate the diverse religions & denominations of the residents?
A: Throughout my college years I attended InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. This brought students together from the various backgrounds. I also served as a staff member with InterVarsity for 5 years. Thus, chaplain ministry to a wide variety of backgrounds was nothing new to me. I listen to their level of spiritual interest and help them in appropriate ways on their life journey. It seems as though God was preparing me for chaplain ministry since I was 18 years old!
Q: What is a particularly memorable experience you’ve had as a chaplain at Milaca Elim Meadows?
A: While there is a host of meaningful experiences with residents over the past nine years, one stands out: “Gordy” was a resident who was a musician. Though he rarely came out of his room, he loved music. He delighted in my bringing a guitar to his room and playing songs like “Country Roads” and “I Saw the Light.” I noticed an old banjo and a classical guitar in his room. I offered to help refit the guitar with new strings. He was grateful for the help.
Not long afterwards, however, I received a call from Gordy’s daughter. Gordy’s health had taken a sudden turn for the worse. She was grieved to tell me he had died. They asked if I could come to the hospital to provide a “bed-side service.” Those moments at the hospital brought comfort to a grieving family.
A week later, after the funeral, the family sat with me. They said they wanted to give Milaca Elim Meadows Gordy’s classical guitar and banjo. Initially, I turned it down … but the family persuaded me, stating that it was Gordy’s wish that I have both of them to provide music, comfort and joy to Milaca Elim Meadows’ residents. The result of this generous gift was my journey learning how to play the banjo. But, more importantly, I carry the classical guitar to residents’ rooms to play music that encourages the lonely and comforts the weak.
By God’s will and His sustaining grace, I hope to continue to serve as chaplain for Milaca Elim Meadows for years to come. What motivates me now, is what motivated me years ago: “Whatever I do, I do all for the glory of God.”
Thank you, Pastor Dale Clifton, for everything you have done for our residents, their families and our staff at Milaca Elim Meadows!