Employee Spotlights

African grandfather’s blessing inspires career in caregiving



Israel Omariba says, "Faith is my guiding compass."As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
—Ephesians 4:1, NIV, a PHS biblical framework passage

Today we share a Better Together story that begins with an African grandfather’s blessing.

About 30 years ago, as a young man in his home country of Kenya, Israel Omariba seized one last chance to visit his grandfather.

Arriving in a small village in Kisii, Israel discovered his grandfather was in grave condition. Instinctively, he began to provide care. A change of clean clothes — plus a haircut and shave — refreshed his grandfather in both body and spirit.

Turning to Israel, his grandfather blessed him with these prophetic words: “Your hands will bless many people.”

Israel leaned in, puzzled. His grandfather prayed, while grabbing hold of Israel’s hands, “Let his hands help many people.” Re-opening his eyes, he said, “You will fly to other countries, and your hands will bless many.”

The blessing unfolds

Soon Israel’s life began to unfold according to his grandfather’s blessing. Within two years of immigrating to the States, Israel felt drawn to the mission of Presbyterian Homes & Services: to honor God by enriching the lives and touching the hearts of older adults.

As a new nursing assistant at Johanna Shores in Arden Hills, Minn., Israel experienced deep affirmation and confirmation of his calling during The Blessing of the Hands. Staff may voluntarily participate in this ceremony to prepare themselves to serve through acts of ministry.

Marking Israel’s hands with oil, the PHS leader prayed: “Israel, God bless your hands for ministry.”

Discovering life stories of PHS residents

Israel quickly grew fond of a unique group of residents — those experiencing memory loss. Perhaps deep awareness of his own story inspired him to uncover their life stories, simply by listening.

“I remember one resident who was from a little town called Minocqua in Wisconsin,” says Israel. “I spent a lot of time with her. Whenever she was having a good day, she’d come and tell me stories from Minocqua.”

Stories from family members made a difference too. “I’d enjoy talking to the families and trying to find out who they were by connecting to their past … she was a schoolteacher, or she worked in a bank, or she was a homemaker,” he reflected. “I’d look at the big picture … is she a grandmother, does she have grandkids, great grandkids? What are those other relationships in her life?”

Israel says the partnership between residents, families and caregivers enables PHS staff to meet residents’ physical, emotional and spiritual needs.

From nursing assistant to RN to clinical administrator

Israel Omariba with teammates at Waverly Gardens. Almost 25 years later, Israel reflects on the work of his hands and his growth with PHS, from nursing assistant to RN to clinical administrator. (Israel – and other employees – find support in PHS programs such as Education Assistance Scholarships and Nursing Loan Forgiveness.)

“I still look at myself as a caregiver,” Israel says. “My number one motivation is being connected to the resident and knowing their stories, who they are.”

Now Israel is helping develop the care center team — about 60 nurses and nursing assistants — at Waverly Gardens in North Oaks, Minn. His influence is powerful because it extends from his core identity and blessing.

Israel says, “I don’t want to be removed from being a caregiver. The way I lead my team is being a role model. So, when the nursing assistants see me out there helping them, such as taking a resident to the bathroom — I think that is the most important thing, leading by example.”

Christian faith, his ‘guiding compass’

Describing faith as his “guiding compass,” Israel recalls a time his calling was tested. In the days prior to his acceptance as a PHS clinical administrator, he explains, “I was offered another position at a different organization. They had a good mission also serving older adults, but they did not have that Christian foundation. So, even though they were offering more money, I chose my faith and the mission of a very Christian-based organization.”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the name Israel as “a people chosen by God.” Israel Omariba is one of those people who God has chosen to be a leader to those around him. We are certainly thankful to have him as part of our team at Waverly Gardens. His steady and reassuring leadership presence in all types of situations is truly a blessing to residents and fellow staff alike. It is people like him who play a pivotal role in making Presbyterian Homes & Services the wonderful organization it is today and into the future.

—Dan Erickson, campus administrator of Waverly Gardens

Do you know someone looking for more purpose in their work? Share the good news and the many opportunities to join our team at www.preshomes.org/careers.

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