On Friday, my hurrying-out-the-door day (see my “Panic Pot Roast” post), my friend, Lynn, and I went to visit our friend in the hospital. Lynn and I have kind of developed a little “Hospital Ministry,” you might call it. We kind of “fell into” it. Of course, the Lord gave me lots of experience, what with visits to the hospital to see my brother and sister, who both had kidney disease and experienced transplants when I was growing up. I didn’t do very well with those experiences, though, perhaps not so surprisingly. But God didn’t give up on me. I gave birth to my two children in the hospital–two GOOD experiences. I was blessed by the care given my 2-year-old at Children’s Hospital when he had to have hernia surgery. And later when he had to have his broken arm reset I again saw the benefit of skilled, caring hospital staff. When my friend’s toddler had cancer and was in the hospital for a long-term stay, I visited her and saw the hospital from a different vantage point, watching her: being a wife and mom while virtually “living” at the hospital. I had a deep appreciation for the caring nurses who worked in this setting day after day, and who sometimes grew very close to their little patients and the patients’ families, only to have to sometimes watch these beloved little ones die. I was grateful that there were people like them in the world.
I’ve also had surgery to have my appendix removed. And, of course, I had many visits to the hospital during my cancer surgery and treatments. That’s when I really began to think of the hospital as a location for ministry. The hospital is unique, and perfect in many ways for fruitful spiritual endeavor. Those going through trials, experiencing and surrounded by pain, either as medical staff or as a patient (or family of one), are more open to spiritual things. Hospital staff who see and have to deal with death on a regular basis are thinking about it, and can be persuaded to think about what comes afterwards. These circumstances cause hearts to be open to the gospel, to the love of Christ shared with them, and the doors to their hearts may be more open to receiving Christ as Savior.
One day Lynn invited me to join her in visiting a mutual friend in the hospital. Thus began our little “hospital ministry.”
On our visits we have been known to bring along a vast array of items, including:
a teapot, real teacups, a small tablecloth, tea, refreshments (homemade and otherwise), a serving tray and plates, pretty napkins, flowers, a vase, and, a boombox with beautiful, edifying music.
We have brought lunch and had a picnic.
We have spent a couple of hours with the patient, and finished our time by praying with them. All of these visits greatly encouraged each one, and us! When we brought a whole Tea Party, we were able to carry everything easily by using a small suitcase on wheels. I must say, this worked amazingly well and was great fun! We moved the couch that was in the room closer to her bed. We used the kitchen area down the hall for the tea water (the nurses thought it was great and gave full permission and support:)!
We have found ministering together to be a lot easier than going alone. (Up until now, all our visits have been to female patients, so tweak these ideas if you visit male ones.) Lynn’s and my gifts complement each other: she’s an observant server, a retired nurse who understands a lot of the medical “stuff” that I don’t, and she’s a great listener. She always sees and is sensitive to the person’s needs, and is very practical in “doing” things for people (like going to get the pitcher of water refilled, or warm blankets for the patient, and coffee for us) while we’re there. I’m more outgoing and talkative and am able to keep the conversation going, I feel more comfortable in hospitals, and I like to put together “gift packages” (although she likes to bring things, too). We both have driven, depending on the location. (Some hospitals have valet parking! Sometimes it’s even been free!!) She initiates the visit by calling the person, and invites me to come along. I’m a willing participant, and enthusiastic. It’s always a fun outing–an adventure–for us when we go together.
We have visited a number of people together. We don’t always bring a full Tea Party, but we do bring the Love of Christ and joy!
For those of you with small children, please note: When I had small children, I wasn’t able to do this as much (there are seasons, you know!) However, one idea is that maybe you’re someone who doesn’t feel called to this ministry, but could, on occasion, watch the children of someone else who does. If you do feel called to this and would like to do “hospital ministry,” consider these ideas:
- First and foremost, let the Lord lead you to whom to visit and when.
- Find a friend whose gifts complement yours, if you don’t want to go alone.
- Bring along little gifts such as:
hand lotion, healthy snacks, chocolate, flowers in a vase, a journal, a daily devotional, reading material, teaching tapes, a soothing CD to listen to, a boombox for them to use while there, a real cup and assorted teas, notecards (put them in a cloth-lined basket or a large gift bag). Stock up ahead on inexpensive items.
- Write a note of encouragement, including Scripture verses for them to read and meditate on later.
- Give the gift of touch: hold their hand, offer a neck rub, put your hand on the shoulder or touch their hand when praying.
- Do bring the Lord Jesus: pray before visiting, talk about Him while there, quote appropriate Scripture (bring your Bible), give Biblical encouragement and pray with them before leaving.
- Be relaxed, pleasant and cheerful, (but not obnoxiously or insensitively loud), be caring and considerate.
- Give them an opportunity to talk about the health issues which cause their stay and their fears and feelings.
- Be friendly and a good testimony to anyone who pops their head in the door, especially hospital staff.
- Don’t overstay, or tire out the patient, and be sensitive if family arrives, to cut your visit short; but relax and stay for awhile, if possible.
Remember, you are ambassadors for Christ, and do your work in the Spirit and love of Christ!
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