Monday, October 25, 2010

Ministry Doesn't Have to Be Big to Be Important

I had an interesting and rare experience while waiting with the husband of one of my choir members during her surgery last Friday. As we were sitting in the neurosurgery waiting area, one of the hospital chaplains came up asking if one of us could serve as a witness for a patient signing a healthcare advance directive document. A healthcare advance directive specifies what actions the patient desires to be taken (or not taken) in the event that they become incapacitated or unable to make their wishes known. Since it would only take a few minutes and we were not due to hear from the surgeon for at least another half hour, I was happy to do so.

I followed the chaplain to the room and there saw an Asian woman, obviously seriously ill, along with her husband and their daughter. The couple was not beyond their mid 70s best I could tell. It was quite clear that she was having some major neurological issues (it was the neurosurgery floor of the hospital after all). Though she was obviously clear in her head, she was not even able to make her hands move well enough to put a signature on the document.  An advance directive is a good idea to have in routine healthcare situations, but the gravity of this woman's medical condition made it an imperative.  The tension in the room was palpable.

The family looked Korean to me, and their name sounded Korean as well, so after signing that I had witnessed her signature, I took a little risk and asked.  They were … from Seoul originally; but their English was quite good so it would be safe to assume that they had lived in the US for quite a number of years. I mentioned that I had been to Korea some 25 years ago and what a beautiful country I thought it was. I asked if it would be OK if I sang a song for them before I left. My trip to Korea was with the Samford University A Cappella Choir, and I remembered a folk song that we sang as a part of our concerts. I looked for it on YouTube, but it seems that the only Korean folk song on YouTube is Arirang.  I'm not sure how to write the title in Korean or in the Roman alphabet, so I won't try.  Even though it's not Arirang, every Korean I’ve ever met knows this song.  I was touched that they sang along with me.

I’m not sure if there’s a neat way to wrap up the account of my experience to make a profound point, but there are a couple of things that I know. I’ll probably never see that family again, but I will never forget how singing a simple folk song from their childhood seemed to help them deal with a stressful situation.  Listening to their pronunciation while we sang, mine was not as far off as I feared it would be … but my pronunciation really didn’t matter. What I did took very little effort, but was a very personal touch: singing with someone in their heart language.

My pastor's message is about ministry this week. I've been wondering what would happen if we looked at all of our encounters with other people this week as ministry opportunities.

That’s enough to think about for now. The peace of Christ to you.


Blogger David said...

I think we over-complicate ministry most of the time. This is a great example of what I call God-incidences!

The little things that come across our path each day that we don't have to plan for, pray for or have a program for! We just get to be Jesus to someone!

Awesome! Thanks for sharing!

6:42 PM  

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