“Maybe it’s not an accident that your pastor is in Chile,” the woman said as I gripped her mother-in-law’s hand in the hospital room. “Maybe it’s a chance for you to consider your call to another kind of ministry.”


The beginning of the week brought quips like, “I’m just grateful that it’s usually John who’s here” and “I just feel sorry for everyone that’s had trouble this week that their minister is out of the country and they are stuck with me!”

I mean, for goodness sake, I burst into tears when the guy at the information desk at Methodist Hospital pretended he couldn’t understand me because he was “just trying to make {me} smile!” I was grateful to other ministers who came in to handle the funerals that were necessary, but balked at when I should be with the families or what I should say and do for them. My voice got all shaky when I read Scripture at someone’s bedside. And speaking of Scripture, I had no idea what to read at the bedside of someone having open heart surgery…or someone who had had a stroke…I mean, I was hearing enough of the Scriptures shared at funerals and felt that I should probably avoid those. It might be scary if the minister (or minister’s substitute) shows up and reads the passages you hear when someone dies. I almost started calling minister and seminary friends to find out what they would read, but took a few breaths and just read passages I like to hear and read, mostly from John and Philippians.

But by the time Linda (the woman above) said those words to me, I was already anticipating them. And I received them with gratitude–first because she hadn’t said “a greater kind of ministry” (which can be a sore subject for those of us who serve youth and children sometimes–the idea that pastoral ministry is greater than youth ministry–or a “promotion.”) and second because they rang true and I needed someone to say them.

For some reason, when so much tragedy came to our church with John and Pam’s departure to see Whitney in Chile, I felt the need to be his sub even more than usual. The holidays are such a tough time to lose a loved one or sit at the bedside of a family member and I wanted to be sure that families knew they were supported and loved by their church. The good news is that by the end of the week, the super overwhelmed feeling had subsided and I was able to read Scripture and pray without sniffling so much that the nurses  brought me Kleenex. I’ve learned my way around a couple of hospitals and feel a bit more confident about my role.

Today, I do my last official hospital visits. John and Pam have just landed in Evansville and tomorrow he will resume his duties. Both of our members still in the hospitals will remain there for awhile longer and I imagine I’ll visit once or twice more–in a more relaxed capacity.

I’m grateful for God’s comfort and peace that sustains us when we’re overwhelmed, whether in the death of a family member or in injury or sickness or in the face of a job that seems too big. And I’m grateful that God continues to call me to grow.

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