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Hymnal Holds More than Three Decades of Precious Memories

By Vanessa Mosharaf
Buckner International

Ken Shotts, 82, remembers everything he learns about the residents living at Buckner Retirement Village. He writes it all down in his hymn book – the same book he’s been using for the past 36 years.

“I write down the numbers of the songs that we use each Sunday,” he said, pointing out his notes and showing past obituaries of loved ones lost. “I’ve written the names of most of the people that have lived here.”

The note-filled pages of his hymn book tell the stories of so many lives – lives touched by his presence.

For the past 36 years, Shotts, a retiree and member of Grand View Baptist Church in Mesquite, has been welcoming residents to Sunday morning worship service.

“And that’s a lot longer than any of you have been here,” he told residents sitting in the Sunday morning service.

Shotts started volunteering with Buckner out of his love for missions, he said, and now is one of Buckner’s most faithful volunteers. His wife Billie served as the director of Buckner Adoption and Maternity Services for years. He explained how many people think it’s necessary to leave the country to do missions, but he fulfills the need right here.

“The love that I have for this group of people, it’s a way of serving the Lord,” he said.

After years of helping in a place where life is so fragile, Shotts said he relies on God to cope with his losses.

“Not knowing whether everyone that is here this Sunday will be here next Sunday is hard,” he said. “God gives us the strength to sustain us during a time of need and that’s what keeps me going.”

However the good, he said, always outweighs the bad.

“Every Sunday is filled with memories.”

One memory in particular that stands out for Shotts is the time he witnessed an elderly man and woman who, after losing their spouses, met each other at the church service and fell in love. The couple was then married in the same chapel at a Sunday church service.

Johnnie Shephard, a Buckner resident who is also a member of Grand View, said she appreciates his presence each Sunday morning because it makes her feel more at home.

“I just say thank you,” she said with a smile.

After serving for 36 years, Shotts said he sees no end in sight. And no one questions his dedication; instead they depend on him for a smile, a hymn and a prayer.

“I have no way of knowing how long God’s going to give me the strength to keep on doing this,” he said. “For now, He has supplied the strength to keep on keeping on.”

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