The Power of a Promise
by Phil Pinckard
“The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:39

I am a Nazarene healthcare chaplain. I became a chaplain because of the power of a promise. In 16 years I served five congregations. These frequent moves affected our children. An extrovert like his dad, Mark never met a stranger. Heather, though not exactly shy, needs to warm up to strangers before she feels comfortable. When Heather started high school, my wife, Jodie, and I promised her that where she began school, she would finish school.

At the beginning of Heather’s junior year, I resigned from what would be my last pastoral assignment. How would we fulfill our promise? I then wrote a targeted proposal to begin Chaplaincy Services for the local hospital and hospice. In January, 1997 I transitioned from pastoral ministry to healthcare chaplaincy. As with pastors, chaplains are also priests, counselors, and teachers, but minister in specialized, clinical settings.

Fellow Nazarene chaplain Merv Friberg says that two metaphors describe chaplains—an effective chaplain is like a good taxi driver. Taxi drivers and chaplains meet people where they are and help them get to where they would like to be. While they may not determine the destination, there are usually very interesting conversations along the way. Effective chaplains are also like accomplished musicians. Musicians may prefer one style of music, but are able to play a variety of styles in virtually every conceivable key. Chaplains support people of various faiths or even no faith or religion, striving to connect them with meaningful spiritual resources.

Once I was paged to the bedside of a woman in her mid-40s diagnosed with cervical cancer. She described her spiritual distress “like a weight on my chest.” Using a simple plan, I lead her to Admit she was a sinner; Believe Jesus could save; Confess her sin; and Decide to follow Christ. We prayed and the weight was lifted! At her graveside service in early October, I assured her family that I was as sure of her relationship with God as I was my own.

After a 74-year old man was led to Christ for the first time by a local pastor, the man asked to be baptized. With help from students, we transported him to physical therapy where I baptized him in a stainless steel tank.

Recently, I performed a marriage ceremony in the Intensive Care Unit for a patient who was not doing well. On oxygen, she repeated her vows after me, as did her groom. The hospital provided a small cake for the celebration!

Chaplaincy is my passion and calling.

Phil Pinckard is a chaplain and pastoral education with Spiritual Care Services at Meritus Medical Center, Hagerstown, Maryland.

Holiness Today, November/December 2011

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