How you can offer assistance to those in the hospital:
- Notify the church and pastor. They are not mind-readers. So often a person goes into the hospital and doesn't let the church know. Then, he or she and their family feel overlooked or unloved because the pastor didn't visit.
- Decide to visit. In too many churches this is a task of only the pastor. But it is a wonderful way to minister not only to the sick person, but also to family members and to others nearby. It is also one of the easiest places to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the lost.
- Prepare emotionally. Often the sight of machines and tubes can jar your repose. A look of shock on the face of a visitor will assure the patient that he or she is worse off than originally thought.
- Smile. Do your best to look confident and emanate the Lord's faith in the situation.
- Touch the patient. A gentle touch is a welcome balm. Scripture tells us to lay hands on the sick, and they will recover (Mark 16:18). Touch the person's hand or leg when you pray or talk to him or her. Be careful not to be over-exuberant - a big hug can hurt.
- Pray. If you read a scripture, write the reference on a card and leave it for the patient to meditate on later. Be sure that it is a comforting scripture. Be bold and ask to pray with them. Don't expect them to do more than listen.
- Be a listening ear. Patients need to be able to talk about what happened and how it has affected them. Don't probe.
- Be sensitive about the time. Don't stay long unless the patient has specifically requested you to do so. Between recovering from hospital procedures and the influence of drugs, a patient often won't remember all those who spoke to him or her, so leave a card or small gift with your name attached. If the patient is asleep, let him or her sleep - just leave a card indicating that you were there.
- Call on the phone. If you are unable to physically visit, a phone call is appropriate and better than ignoring the patient altogether. Remember that the person in the hospital is involved in therapy, nursing care, family visitors, as well as needing plenty of rest - so make your call brief, positive, and caring. Don't call every day unless you want to offer a scripture of that day's meditation or to extend a brief prayer.
From Woman You Are Called & Anointed by Glenda Malmin. Copyright (c) 1998 by City Bible Publishing, Portland, Ore., 1-800-777-6057. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Glenda Malmin, dean of women at Portland Bible College, is a frequent speaker at women's retreats and conferences worldwide, ministering to the changing needs of women today. The mother of two adult children, she and her husband, Ken, live in Portland, Ore.