by Reverend Bill Denham
Every hospital visit is unique. Different rooms, patients, medical issues, outcomes. One of the things that some special lay men and women do is volunteer to visit hospitalized persons in the Medical Center. These volunteers enter the hospital room knowing that they represent not only St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, but also the healing hands and voice of Jesus the Christ.
Before entering a hospital room the volunteer washes his/her hands and, more often than not, offers up a silent prayer, asking God to be with them in this visit. These men and women volunteer with a servant’s heart. At the end of the visit, whether two minutes or ten, volunteers ask the patient if they would like to have a word of prayer. A few don’t, but most do. When I visit, I make a practice of asking the patient if there is anything specifically the patient would like for me to pray about. Most of the time persons ask for healing or prayers for their various family members which are very appropriate responses.
Sometimes, on days when there seem to be more hospitals than hours, I get a bit frantic. I am anxious about whether I will be able to make all the hospital visits. When the temperature is blistering from one hospital garage to another, I sometimes feel my soul drooping. I can feel the need for restoration. “He restores my soul” echos in my mind. Amazingly, it is often the patients who do this for me. My role is to help in restoration, but often I am the one who is restored.
This happened recently. I made a hospital visit to a lady in her early nineties. Betty Mohrman was a longtime, faithful member of our congregation. She was unwell and the end seemed likely, but she was still conversant. When I asked her if there were anything she wanted me to pray about, she said, “Our church. St. Luke’s.” Not her family, not her health, not her funeral. “Our church.” I was stunned and thrilled and humbled by her answer. Here was a lady who had spent her whole life in the church. She had been a faithful, productive member. With her husband and sons and their families, she was fully participatory in the life of the congregation in various ways through the decades.
I thought her response was an extraordinary snapshot of a life-long Christian. Her thoughts, in the very last days of her life, were for the well-being of this congregation. Her request was a picture of where her heart was and where it had been all along. After praying with her, I left her room, praying my own prayer of petition, “Lord, let my life be so fully lived out in You so that, when I’m dying, my last thoughts will be about You and your church.”
Restoration can come from the most unlikely places. For me, it came at the end of a hospital visit, surrounded by wall charts, IV bottles, beeping machines, a hospital bed, and syringes. True to His promise “He restores my soul.”