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domingo, março 19, 2006 

I Love Hospital Visitation

I Love Hospital Visitation

Sort OfIt's sad, routine, and sometimes very sweet.

by Joe McKeever

When did you learn to love visiting people in the hospital? I enjoy everything about pastoring but that."

Carl had returned to the local seminary for a postgraduate degree following a three-year pastorate in another state. When he and his wife Pam joined our church, he asked if I could mentor him. In our first session, he confessed to disliking hospital visitation and asked his question.

That got me thinking: When exactly did I start loving hospital visitation? Or have I started?
I admit that I enjoy getting out of the office for a couple of hours, and sitting in the corner of the hospital cafeteria with a cup of coffee and the magazine I've carried around for days trying to find time to read.

I like the people I meet in hospitals and have even reached several for the Lord and our church. But do I enjoy ministering to the sick? To tell the truth, I rarely think of it that way. I'm just calling on friends who are going through tough times.

Today, as I write this, I spent time with 5-year-old Nicole who was lying on the bed in Children's Hospital in a room crowded with two grandmothers, two aunts, an uncle, coloring books, get well cards, and assorted medical paraphernalia. Her right wrist sported an IV, but otherwise she looked fine and felt great, even though the doctors threaten to run more tests. We laughed and I drew pictures for her and we prayed. And for this I get paid!

Across town, 85-year-old Clarice is recovering from hip surgery as well as the broken arm that doctors had just found from the fall that sent her to the hospital in the first place. As I stuck my head in the doorway, a nurse and two family members were tending to her. She brightened up as she caught my eye and said, "I was just talking about you. I knew you would come."

We had a pleasant, brief visit, and prayed together. I left feeling honored to have such a calling upon my life.

Who's cheering who?

When Emmalee Holland lay dying from cancer, she said to me, "Preacher, I must be sicker than I thought. Everyone who comes in the room tells me they love me." She was perceptive, because she lived only two more weeks. The wit that characterized her life inspired story after story at her funeral service that brought tears of joy to her friends and family.

Often, God's people who suffer have a divine way of cheering up the rest of us. When I heard that octogenarian Maybelle Mont-gomery had fallen and broken her hip, I hurried to the hospital emergency room. When she spotted me, this saint called out, "Praise the Lord, Preacher! He left me one good leg!"

Emmett lay in ICU with tubes everywhere, rendering him unable to speak and barely able to grunt. I said, "My friend, I want to give you a little prayer you can pray. 'Thank you, Jesus.' Just say those three words. That will be enough. 'Thank you, Jesus.'"

Until the day Emmett went to heaven, every time I entered his hospital room, he held up three fingers, his way of telling me he was praying our little prayer. Since that time, I have found myself prescribing Emmett's prayer to a host of people in a variety of situations, even praying it myself all the time.

Avoid loose slips

David was a lawyer, a Sunday school teacher, and a deacon assigned to make periodic hospital visits. "I'm uncomfortable in hospitals," he said. "Can you help me?" We agreed to meet a few mornings that week at the local medical center. After a brief conversation in the parking lot about the people on our list, we went inside.

"At first," I said, "don't do anything. Just go along and listen." After a few visits, I told David he would be praying with the next patient. Ten minutes later, walking down a flight of stairs to our next visit, I said, "David, normally that would have been fine. But in a hospital room, I don't think I would pray, 'Lord, help us to live this day as though it were our last!'"

I shared with David something an old doctor told me. In the days when some preachers visited every patient in the hospital, whether they were welcome or not, the medical team was prepping a woman for surgery when a minister walked in and took over, saying, "I just want to pray for her."

In the middle of his prayer, he intoned, "And, O Lord, if she should die on the operating table, would you take care of her children." It unnerved the patient so much they had to postpone surgery.

Hospital situations force ministers to pay attention to the way we pray.

Through the years, hospitals have become for me a place of laughter and learning, of warmth and love and healing, of meeting new friends and encouraging old ones.

Oh, and this one hospital has a deli that serves the best desserts. Maybe Carl just needs a taste of the chocolate macaroons!

Joe McKeever is pastor of First Baptist Church of Kenner, Louisiana.

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