Our guest blogger today is Aaron Gordon. Aaron works as a chaplain and will be ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament on Sunday (see details below). Aaron’s reflection provides a glimpse into a day in the life of a chaplain.
As I walk into the room, I am instantly disturbed by what I see. A man who looks like pale skin and bones, gasping for air. His eyes are wide open, but he’s staring into space. His throat is hooked up to a breathing tube. He is restlessly taking shallow breaths and moving his head subtly left and right. This man is actively dying.
After a moment of taking in the sight, I realize the room is eerily quiet. I feel a deep sadness. I speak to the man. No acknowledgement. Examining patient records, I see this man has Christian (non-denominational) listed as his religious preference. I tell him that I am here with him, that I am praying for him. I pray for him to experience God’s peace. I pray for him to have strength as he prepares to be gathered to his ancestors. I remind him of God’s love and covenant faithfulness. I remind him of God’s promise to remain faithful to all those who believe.
I pray in Jesus’ name. I linger for a moment after I pray. As I walk out of the door I think to myself… “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28)
I walk down the hall and check in with the head Chaplain. I want to make sure that we have volunteers to sit with this dying man while he is near the end. The head Chaplain has made sure that we do.
Now it is time for me to chart the morning’s activities. I have updated my patient lists, rounded with the nurses on the third floor, and visited a bunch of patients.
As I sat down to work on the computer, a man walked into the Chaplain’s office. He was having a tough time with his wife, and is at the end of his rope. We talked and prayed. He needed strength to continue fighting for his relationship. I thought to myself, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Romans 8:35)
As soon as he left I had to help a woman find her way upstairs. Once upstairs, I met a volunteer who had just arrived to sit with the dying patient. As I was telling her the situation, a nurse informed us that he had just died not a minute prior. We immediately walked into his room. His remains were there, motionless in the bed. Everyone was gone. It was just the volunteer and myself. Later, the man’s wife and son arrived. They were tearful but also relieved. The volunteer and myself entered into the grief…
As I reflect daily on my encounters as a Chaplain, I often feel weary. These emotional bench presses are exhausting. But something keeps me going… the thought that this is all very normal. “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:17) With Christ we are heirs of God’s glory indeed. But we should not think it strange that we should also experience sufferings—especially as we bear each other’s burdens.
Aaron Gordon is a 34 year old graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (www.pts.edu). He is married to Jenny Gordon (32 years old) and has two energetic sons; Josiah (4 years old), and Ezekiel (3 years old). Aaron worked in the Engineering and Construction fields and volunteered in missions and youth ministry until God called Aaron and Jenny as full time missionaries to show the love of Jesus to those affected by hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. During this time God revealed that Aaron had gifts of teaching and pastoral care which led him to Seminary. Aaron graduated seminary in May, 2014 and is currently serving in a one year call as a Resident Chaplain at the VA Healthcare System in Pittsburgh (www.Pittsburgh.VA.gov). Aaron is interested in helping others to engage their faith in Jesus by meeting the needs of others and sharing the good news about Jesus Christ.
Aaron will be ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 4:00 p.m. at Centreville Presbyterian Church. For directions visit: www.CentrevillePres.com.