In 1980, I became a pastor full time. Over the years, there have been things I really liked to do and then there was one thing that I really didn’t like. That one thing that I made myself do was to visit people in the hospital. My wife, Sylvia, has been a great help in this area, because often she would join me in making visits or she would tell me that I had to go make those visits.
Five years ago, I attended training to become a volunteer chaplain. After spending many hours with the sick and their families, I’ve become much more comfortable visiting in the hospital setting.
When my wife’s twin sister was diagnosed with cancer about three years ago, Sylvia and I visited the Sletton Cancer Center of Benefis to see what help was available for cancer victims.
The staff gave us information that was helpful in Cynthia’s treatment and care. While visiting the Staff, we discovered there were no chaplains at the center on a regular basis. After meeting with the administration, I began visiting patients and staff on a weekly basis.
I talked to our church family (Crossroads Memorial Church, Great Falls) about the opportunity and the need for our church to get involved in the chaplain’s ministry. We now have ten of our members who are trained hospital chaplains. Their ministries vary by where they serve. One couple has a weekly worship service. One visits people in rehab. Three visit at the cancer center. One started out as a chaplain at the cancer center but is now working at the front desk as an employee. She meets and ministers to patients five days a week. Several make special visits when they are called to help.
Two years ago, I began going to the Great Falls Clinic Hospital cancer facility to visit patients and staff. One of the staff members heard of the ministry we were doing at Benefis and asked us to come to their cancer center. Last October, the administration asked us to coordinate a chaplain’s program for their entire facility. One of our members took the lead. We now have a chaplain there each day of the work week. He also set up an on-call list for Chaplains who are willing to respond to emergencies.
We have had some patients and staff of these two hospitals come worship with us. God has allowed us to meet and help people who are in a great crisis in their lives. He uses us to come alongside those who are in need of knowing that God loves them and cares about what they are going through. Sometimes we do not have to say anything, but by our presence they know that we care for them and for what they are going through.
A few months ago, I was called to come to the hospital because a man had a heart-attack. My intent was to be there for his family and friends. I was surprised when the doctor came up to me after the incident was over and said he was glad I was there for him and his staff.
The Chaplain’s Ministry has helped me to penetrate the darkness of this world with His light and love. It has given me the opportunity to help our church family find areas where they can be the hands and feet of Jesus.
In addition to Hospital Chaplains, we also have people serving as Law Enforcement Chaplains and Fire Department Chaplains. I would encourage other pastors and churches to begin reaching out in their own communities by becoming involved in a Chaplain’s ministry.