I dont know if its a heart attack or what it is, the middle-aged woman said
with a quiver in her voice to Kathy Respess, a registered nurse at the local
family practice medical office. I get these sharp pains on the right side of my
chest that really scare me. As Kathy asked a few questions to further assess
the medical situation, she became aware of an underlying problem: mental
anguish. The patients husband had divorced her a year ago, after their only
child died in a car accident. Now here she was, feeling all alone, aging and
betrayed even by her body. Tears trickled down her face.
People often react physically to the emotional wounds in their lives. This
patient was afraid about her health and felt she didnt have anyone who could
help her, Kathy said. I talked with her about what Christ did for us and how we
are never alone when we have Him in our heart. Within minutes of entering the
examining room, Kathy guided the patient as she prayed to accept Jesus Christ
as her Savior and Lord.
Many medical professionalsnurses, doctors, dentists, physical therapists,
psychiatrists and othersuse their profession as a bridge to share their faith.
Seen by their patients as authority figures, the words of medical professionals
often are heeded when the subject of faith comes up. Medical professionals are
able during repeat visits to follow up professions of faith or to continue
sowing seeds of faith in God.
The Christian-owned family practice where Dr. Patricia Barrington works
keeps boxes of marked Bibles in patient rooms and uses them in on mission conversations with patients. Its
wrong to use my position as a physician to cram something down their throats
that they dont want to hear, but its not wrong to tell them about Christ if
they are willing to hear, Dr. Barrington said. I dont proceed unless I sense
thats what they want. When youre on
mission with God, He does the work. I can treat them, but I cant make them
Dr. Barrington often asks patients if they would mind if she prays with
them. In five years, only two have said no. I pray that God would wrap His
loving arms around them and let them know Hes the great physician, she said. I
ask Him to take care of them. Thats when they usually start crying, because
they take their focus off their problems and see there is Someone who can help.
I end the prayer by asking for wisdom that I will treat them properly.
If they continue to cry and say Everything is going wrong in my life. I need
some help, then I say I know God really loves you. Would it be okay with you if
I shared how you could have more peace?
Many patients feel unloved, guilt-ridden and hopeless, in addition to their
physical ailmentssome of which may be manifestations of spiritual turmoil. Most
have heard that Jesus died on the cross but dont know what that means for them
on a personal level. Depending on the prompting of the Holy Spirit and how
crowded her waiting room is, Dr. Barrington might write a scripture verse on a
prescription pad and give it to the patient, go through the plan of salvation
using a marked Bible, or ask if the patient would be willing to talk with a
Dr. Barrington wasnt always so outspoken at her work about her faith. She
attended a Saline Solutions seminar hosted by the Christian Medical Society
five years ago. I became aware that God depends on us to help bring people
along the road of faith. As a physician I had a perfect opportunity to do this
and yet was only helping them physically. At the conference she learned
comfortable words and phrases to introduce faith into conversations with
patients, and she also learned to recognize their receptivity to the
Prior to that, if patients brought up spiritual concerns, I might refer them
to a pastor, but now I person-ally do it because I think its every Christians
responsibility, she said.
I always believed that but didnt feel I could do it. Now I feel so much
better about taking the opportunities that were always there. It also helped
that she transferred to a Christian-owned practice where she felt totally free
to share her faith.
On mission Christians
can help medical professionals:
Pray for them to be alert to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Direct family members, friends and coworkers to medical professionals who
share the gospel as part of their professional care.
Offer to be a resource person for the medical professional.
I have a small network of people I refer patients to, Dr. Barrington said.
If a woman comes in with breast cancer who is really troubled, Ill tell her I
know a lady like you. Shes a pastors wife whos gone through a lot of the same
things you have with breast cancer. Would it be all right if I gave her your
name and phone number? Support groups are good, but sometimes it helps just to
have another person whos gone through that and is a little further along. Dr.
Barrington always lets the patient know the person she would refer them to is a
Christian who will add the faith element to the healing process.
Dr. Larry Lundy is a podiatrist whose faith bubbles out of him like the
effervescent tablets he sometimes prescribes for his patients feet. I look for
opportunities to tell people about the difference Jesus has made in my life, he
said. I pray to God to show me where Im needed. He has patients dependent on
twice-a-day public transportation, which means they would sit in his office all
day if he didnt take them home in his minivan. And as he drives, he shares the
joy in his heart, which often starts with Psalm 39. I tell them, if you believe
and have faith, thats the key, Dr. Lundy said. I tell them, Please pray for me
and often well say a little prayer together. I dont force anything. It just
Dr. Albert Lee is a dentist who segues small talk into matters of greater
importance. It comes out when they ask what you did this weekend, he said. I
often ask my patients to come to church with me. Then, as we get to know each
other better, Im able to share my faith at a deeper level. Braces and teeth
bleaching, like SUVs and Caribbean cruises, mask his patients real need to have
a life of substance and not just things of substance.
Numerous studies in recent years have shown the link between faith and
health. Christian medical professionals not only know this, theyre doing
something about it.
One doctors dream
Dr. Ronald Coleman, a surgeon from Cleveland, Tennessee, has traveled to
Bangledesh and Honduras as a medical missionary. But he also knew that people
in his own hometown were slipping through the cracks of the health care system.
His burden for those people birthed a vision, and so the Good Samaritan Clinic
opened its doors in Cleveland.
Dr. Colemans goal was to provide a spiritual witness with free medical care.
The clinic, open one night a week, is staffed by volunteers, primarily
Christian professionals, who offer their skills on a rotating basis. Other
experts are available for referral. Some pharmacists also participate, giving
patients access to a voucher system for medicine.
One of their first patients was a man with melanoma. He had endured one
surgery, but did not have insurance for more treatment. His illness was
terminal, but he was able to receive a second surgery and treatment that
prolonged his life. This man ultimately came to know the Lord. The clinic
really made a difference in his life, said Dr. Coleman. He also remembers a
troubled teen who came for treatment. Her home life was filled with
difficulties and her greatest needs were emotional. The clinic was the only
means for someone to come into her life with some positive input.
Ephesians 4:l (KJV) calls us to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are
called. Those serving at Clevelands Good Samaritan Clinic certainly walk
worthy. And Dr. Colemans advice to others considering such a ministry? Go for
it! The need is there.
Lettie J. Kirkpatrick
Dr. William Choctaw, a general trauma surgeon and burn specialist who also
serves as chief of staff at his Los Angeles hospital, often prays with his
patients, such as a man facing leg amputation, a burn patient whose pain is
beyond comprehension, a cancer patient who will wear a colostomy bag the rest
of her life. Often Ill hold their hands and pray with them as they go under
[the anesthesia], Dr. Choctaw said. I encourage them to pray. I have seen for
myself that the patients who have faith appear to do better than those who
dont. I definitely see a difference when they have faith because then they have
hope and peace. They understand there is Someone else who is in control, so
they dont have to be.
More ways on mission Christians can help medical
Offer to provide transportation for patients, and use the one-on-one
opportunities for faith-based discussions.
Arrange relationship-building get-togethers for a medical professional to
invite selected patients.
Provide tracts and subscriptions of Christian publications such as On
Mission or Go! for medical offices and hospital waiting rooms.
Support worthy Christian medical causes.
Christian counselor Anthony Harper, Ph.D., has a vision for a free Christian
psychiatric hospital for children and teens who suffer from depression and
related issues. Plans have been drawn and money is being raised for a $10
million facility, which was incorporated in 1997 in Idaho as the Children of
Hope Family Hospital. A significant amount of researchand the holy Biblesay we
can only be healthy if were connected to God, Harper said. There is no other
healthy way. He has led at least 40 people to the Lord through his
donation-based counseling practice since 1997.
Dr. Constant Lu makes a point of bringing in his Christian faith during
consultations with his dental patients. He stays alert to opportunities the
Holy Spirit gives him to share his faith, such as when a businessman came in a
year ago with an emergency. In talking with him I found out he was going
through lots of spiritual turmoil. I had a brief conversation with him then
about the gospel. A bit later we talked on the phone. Recently he came in just
to let me know in the last couple of weeks he has given his life to the Lord
and part of that was due to his remembering what we had talked about.
Sometimes Dr. Lu takes out his prescription pad and prescribes an
appropriate scripture passage or Christian book. Sometimes he prays with
patients who tell him the turmoil theyre going through. Sometimes they just
open up, Dr. Lu said. Thats Gods timing. He opens the door to allow some
Dr. Lu starts each workday with staff prayer that even the two
non-Christians in his office participate in, though he tells them its not
mandatory. My silent prayer is that they will come to know God through this. I
believe I have a ministry to them as well as to my patients.
Nurse Kathy Respess agrees. Part of her ministry is to the staff. I think my
biggest testimony is to other employees, to make sure my work ethic matches
what I say I believe. Recently the husband of one of the precious young ladies
in the office left her. I have encouraged her, and its an ongoing, daily thing.
I tell her I dont have the answers, but God does.
Still more ways on
mission Christians can help medical professionals:
Pray for the salvation of non-Christians in the office.
Model Christian behavior with the staff.
Encourage the medical professional through stories of what God is doing in
your life right now.
Drs. Frank (left) and Daveta (right) Dozier examine daughter, Julie (center
front) under the watchful eye of nurse Laurelle Stoudemire (back). They are
doctorsand on mission24 hours a day.
Were doctors 24 hours a day, explains Dr. Daveta Dozier. Because she and her
husband, Dr. Frank Dozier, live in a small town, the lines between their social
and professional lives occasionally blur. As such they are role models and
authority figures in their community. Sometimes people need literally to be on
their backs to see up, to see the Lord at work in their lives. We welcome
knowing other on mission Christians wholike usrecognize health problems as
One more way on mission Christians can help medical
Help provide equipment, supplies or Bibles for medical professionals who do
medical missions outside the office.
Dr. Lu takes his staff to minister with him one Saturday a month at a
nursing home. He also goes annually to Mexico and occasionally to the
Philippines. Dr. Lundy goes every other month to inner-city Chicago. Dr.
Choctaw goes every month to Mexico. Dr. Barrington takes one international trip
a year; last year was to Jamaica with toiletry kits of toothbrush, toothpaste,
shampoo, comb, soap and washcloth. Kathy Respess took five footlockers of shoes
and socks to an orphanage in Romania last year.
Always it comes back to one-on-one on mission encounters.
Ive gone in several times with a Bible and gone through the plan of
salvation with a patient, Kathy said. I very clearly share the Lord and the
fact that Hes the hope I have, and that all of us could have.
I talk to people about the Lord all the time because thats a big part of me.
The Bible says to always be ready to share the hope you have.
I dont feel its anything I have to force. The Holy Spirit has to be drawing
them or its just me forcing a decision. If a person is ready to accept the Lord
its very obvious. If theyre not, I just give them something to think about.
Karen L. Willoughby is a freelance writer and photographer living in
To begin a health care ministry, see Ministry Action Plan 9 in His Heart, Our Hands. Available at
local Lifeway Christian Stores, www.lifewaystores.com, or 800-448-8032. Another resource: The
Baptist Medical/Dental Fellowship, 901-227-5971.
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC