In and out of the hospital

I just got back from visiting two of my members who are in the hospital. It’s unusual to have seen them four times; most hospital visits are very short. Thankfully, both are improving and should be home soon.

As I was driving home, I realized that in my get-togethers with my fellow pastors, both locally and denominational conferences, we don’t talk much about hospital and nursing home visits. We talk a lot about vision, attendance, programs, finances, buildings and staff. But we don’t say much about pastoral care. Is pastoral care still a prominent part of pastoral ministry today?

Reviewing one of my call documents, I see that the congregation authorizes and obligates me to, among other things, “visit the sick and the dying.” IOW, it’s part of my job description. This is no surprise to me, of course. It was modeled for me, I was taught to do it, and I’ve always assumed that hospital visits or visits to the sick at home would always be a regular part of my week. In my experience, these visits tend to come in bunches. There may be none for several weeks, then suddenly there are four or five people to visit. And then just as suddenly, everyone is back home and back on their feet again.

I generally enjoy going to the hospital, and always learn something new when I am there. After I return from a visit, I always ask my wife (a nurse practitioner) about what I saw and heard, and she teaches me something more about medicine. I am thankful that my mom (also a nurse) had me volunteer in a local hospital as a teenager. Because of that experience, I’ve never been uncomfortable in any part of a hospital. Plus, I get to see the healing power of God at work through doctors and nurses, treatments and medication, and spiritual care. It’s the same kind of thrill that those who witnessed Jesus’ healing miracles must have felt when someone could walk, see, hear, or speak again. When God’s at work, I don’t want to miss it.

So let me know if you’re in a nearby hospital. I’ll stop by.

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