Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Hospital Visit

I have obviously been away from blogging for a while. I took my wife to convenient care Wednesday morning (a week ago) with sharp, terrible pains in her side. We were sent from there to the ER and eventually were in the hospital until Friday. There were some tense moments as the cause was unknown, and then the early diagnosis was a likely blood clot in her lung. Eventually they discovered there was no blood clot (great relief!), but the cause was pneumonia which was creating inflammation and irritation in the lining around the lung. Antibiotics have worked well so that we came home last Friday, and, while she is not back to 100% yet she is much, much better. We were sustained in many ways by our church and other believing friends. It has been a wonderful thing again to watch the church at work.

Our last night in the hospital, we had an experience that reminded me of the importance of the pastoral role. We were awakened about 2 am by much commotion. A man on the floor had suddenly quit breathing and there was a scramble to save his life. In the midst of it the grief of his wife could be heard. My wife stirred me suggesting a pastor might be needed. As I emerged from our room and let the staff know I was available if needed, I heard the wife of the man in danger cry out amidst her tears, “Oh, I wish my pastor were here!” It was no fault of her pastor’s that he was not there. They were from out of town and no one had expected the visit to be life threatening. I was able to sit with her and pray with her as she waited. In the end they were able to regain a pulse and eventually they were moved to another floor. The last I heard the man was continuing to improve.

This experience powerfully reminded me of the importance of the shepherding role. It is a lot easier to read and write sermons than to walk with a person through the valley of the shadow of death. I do not intend to minimize the importance of study or preaching, but simply to assert that our wrestling with God and His word should result not only in sound exposition but in a reservoir from which to draw to aid individuals facing crises in life. This is a demanding task, and we need much grace. We must also habitually walk with God to be prepared for these instances. I found myself feeling unprepared.

Also, the cry- “Oh, I wish my pastor were here!” – has stuck with me. How often is this the cry, spoken or silent, of people whose pastors see themselves as simply business managers, professional speakers, etc.? May this never be so in our flocks. Let us be faithful to the charge given by the Chief Shepherd to watch over those whom He has bought with His own blood (Acts 20:28).


Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear that your wife is doing well now. Your story concerning the woman at the hospital is touching. I often think how unprepared I am for those unplanned moments. I believe many of the key moments in ministry are found not in planned programs but in the spontaneous happenings of life. There are some things that cannot be premeditated. Certainly that was a unique moment that called for the heart of a shepherd. This moment is a great example to us that role of a pastor is not as an organizational leader but a shepherd of souls.

Perry McCall said...

Praise God for wife's recovery.

May it be that God will bless us with a new generation of pastors who will have a conviction that it is their role to be with the people in their times of great need! Circumstances often prevent it but it breaks my heart to hear people share about asking their pastor to come for prayer only for him to refuse because it "isn't his responsibility" to visit.

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Dr. VN,

Part of the solution is in the heart of the pastors, as you say, but part of the solution is in the training of the congregation.

The Bible lays out the procedure in James:

1. Someone gets sick.
2. The person (if he is well enough) or the loved ones call for the elder(s) to come pray.
3. The elder(s) come pray.

The people typically do not follow this model, but might if we teach it to them.

Love in Christ,


Preston G. Atkinson said...

This is the best word on your blog. But, I am sure of my bias as a social worker among desperate and drowning people.
Can you imagine a candle trying to stay lit out in a violent storm at night? May the church GO OUT! and bring them to the one who can calm both storm and soul.
I love you brother, and my dear friends at Cornerstone.

Ray Van Neste said...

It is true that we need for the people to let us know of their needs. Too often there are people who become bitter over there unmet needs even though they never made their needs known. At our church we seek to stress the dual responsibility we each have- to meet the needs of one anotehr, and to make our needs known. Both serve the church.
Too often, though, pastors do not consider this sort of thing part of their responsibility, which is what Perry is referring to.

Ray Van Neste said...

Thanks, Preston.
You are an encouragement!

Unknown said...

Glad to heatr that your wife is doing better. Thanks also for allowing God to use you in a difficult situation.

Anonymous said...

My post from the above article was to be on this article. My husband caught my mistake. I am easily confused. I hope you are doing well.

Ray Van Neste said...

Thanks, Jerilyn!
It is great to hear from you. Thanks for your encouraging words.