Missouri Dogs Go Into Pawstoral Care! (5/25/22)

Posted by on Aug 4, 2022 in Godprints, Mission: AroundTowns | 0 comments

A United Methodist couple in Hannibal MO has embraced the ministry of visitation with a unique way of outreach.   They stand about 2 feet high, weigh 165 pounds, have long fluffy hair, and their names are Ranger and Odin.  And, they walk on four feet! 

Yep- a pair of big fluffy dogs is involved the visitation ministry of this Missouri district.  Ranger and Odin are accompanied by Bob and Sue Mitchell, Lay Servants from Hannibal MO.  The story was told in a recent article which was posted on the website for the Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church.



Imagine that you’re a kid going to church one Sunday when your parents “encourage” you to answer the pastor’s invitation to come forward during the Children’s Sermon.  You’re nervous and would rather stay in your pew rather than to be seen by the whole congregation.

Or imagine being a nursing home resident and some “stranger” from “outside” comes into your world to visit you.  You don’t know them and you’re probably a bit suspicious that their motives might be more to serve their own conscience than to serve you.  And imagine that you’re the person who is visiting that nursing home.  You’re thinking about what to say and worrying about what not to say.

In any case, the initial introduction is a bit frosty.  The ice needs to be broken.


Ice Broken…

But as you approach the front of the sanctuary, you’re greeted by a big huggable dog.  Dogs in church?  Or as you’re wheeled into the room to meet the visitors, you’re greeted by a creature resembling an enormous teddy bear? 

Welcome to Ranger and Odin!

Ranger and Odin, two Newfoundland dogs, accompany Bill and Sue Mitchell when they visit nursing homes and churches as part of their Certified Lay Servant ministry.   A wagging tail begging to be petted lightens up the mode.  You don’t have to worry about how you look as you sit on the floor in front of the pastor; everyone is watching the dog.  It’s hard to be suspicious of visitors when their lovable dog is greeting you.  And if you’re a visiting Lay Speaker, you don’t have to worry about what to say; the dogs give the introduction.




Using Any Means…

John Wesley (the founder of what is now known at the United Methodist Church) said:

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

Jesus (the Founder of Everything!) frequently used the surrounding environment as a means to teach people. 

  • He once taught a crowd on a hillside by a lake and described the special care God has for “lilies of the valley” even though they don’t “labor or spin… yet God clothes them,” and He will likewise take care of us (see Matthew 6:25-34).  
  • On another occasion He walked along the shoreline of the lake calling people to discipleship.  He told a pair of fishermen that He was inviting them to become “fishers of men” (see Mark 1:16-18).
  • He met with a women who was drawing water from a well and used the opportunity to tell her about forgiveness and a “water of life” that will never run dry (see John 4:1-26). 

To share our life’s story, we need to recognize the life’s story of those around us.  To share the love of God, we have to “think outside the box” and use any means available.  Showing God’s love doesn’t have to happen in a church building. Sometimes the reality of God’s love gets smothered up in a lot of cliche and “church talk.” 

Jesus wants us to be witnesses and to share God’s love (see Acts 1:7-8).  Jesus spoke to people using illustrations of lilies, fishermen, or wells to relate to those He met.  In the same way, the Mitchells are using their big furry dogs to communicate the love of God with those they meet. What resources is God supplying you that can be used to brighten the lives of the people around you?


To learn more about how this unique ministry is helping people, click the below button to read the article from the Missouri UMC Conference site:

The Fluffy Love of Christ



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To see some of the ways PUMC is reaching out to our community, try clicking this button:

Community Partnerships


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