Ministry of Presence

Sunrise

One of the most intimate and beautiful aspects of being a nurse is what I like to call the “ministry of presence.” It’s the ability to heal just by being present. You may have heard this in a palliative context where someone will say “just knowing he/she was there helped me get through it” or in comforting a friend, “you don’t have to say anything – just be there for me.” In the clinical context, this is most frequently phrased “nurses spend the most time at the bedside” or “nurses are always there when you need them.” In a way, the phrase is about availability, but in a more broad and interpersonal sense, it’s about being in community.

I spoke about this ministry of presence in my personal statement for medical school, where I reflected on a nursing colleague and I having a conversation about finding one’s direction in life. I had challenged her with the question “how does one know one’s calling in life?” to which she responded “ask yourself ‘how did God create your heart to love.'” This was a profound response for me as I had never had such an answer hit me so directly between the eyes. It was a convicting answer. I knew that I had to be able to say that my occupation allowed me to heal. I found the answer to this question in healthcare because I found that just by being a tangible, hopeful presence in the lives of my patients, I was able to heal them.

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Suicide – The Awkward Elephant in the Room

A topic very near to my heart. My middle brother, Jack, was lost to suicide in January of 2014. According to the CDC, 113 suicides occurred each day in the U.S. in 2013 – that’s one death every 13 minutes. I would venture to say you don’t need to go as far as 6 degrees of separation before identifying someone you know who has died by suicide or knows someone who does. In an age of ceaseless social media posting, it is hard not to be acquainted with suicide, especially since suicide itself and mental illness are still so severely stigmatized.

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“Never speak a word again
I will crawl away for good
I will move away from here
You won’t be afraid of fear”

~ Kurt Cobain, You Know You’re Right

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Back from Africa

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world”
~ James 1:27

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As of 30 hours ago, we are finally back in the States safe and sound!

I am still incredibly jet lagged and in the process of unpacking but wanted to post an update saying we all had a truly life-changing experience while overseas.

This post could not wait.

The LORD blessed us with minimal troubles while traveling and there were only minor bouts of illness throughout the 3 weeks we spent in Africa.

As we traveled from London to Kenya, we discussed our expectations for the trip and were unable to really define what was the “mission” component of our mission trip.

However, we knew that at the very least we needed to share Christ’s unconditional, everlasting, and satisfying, love for the children since the compound had already introduced them to the Gospel.

James 1:27 states this very candidly: “religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

We took this Scripture to Africa and made it a point to be intentional with the kids by coming to their compound, learning their language (very well I might add!), playing their sports, dancing to their music and with their dance moves, and learning more about their lives.

In doing so, we would bring them the hope of the Gospel and the promise of Christ’s redemptive salvation mind body and soul, as well as demonstrate Christ’s love for them and embody what Christ-like fellowship looks like.

Some of the projects we completed while at the compound:

  • painting 110 fence posts
  • placing these fence posts around the banana field
  • designing and building a 3-part desk for the clinic doctor
  • designing and building 48 bed cubbies, with shelves so the kids each had their own space
  • administering 2 IM injections at the clinic
  • making cement for the fence posts and new dining hall
  • leading 3 worship services and giving a sermon for one
  • realigning the wiring for the clothes line for the compound cook (my future wife)
  • leading numerous devotionals with the staff & other visitors…

….among other smaller projects.

We played countless games of soccer (“football”) with the kids and participated in a few dance parties.

It was amazing to see how athletic and skilled the kids were during these matches. Often, they would come after a morning and afternoon of hard work building cement or placing fence posts and the kids somehow still had energy!

They were also very gifted dancers. They would alternate small boys or girls-only dance groups that performed in front of the whole group without fear.

I’ll post a video or two of these later.

While working in the compound, we had the opportunity to speak with the workers who were employed by the City of Hope and minister to them.

All of them were fascinated by our interest in learning Swahili and took the initiative to teach us when appropriate.

One of the workers, named Joseph, would ask us for pieces of paper so he could take them home to his wife.

She would write down words in both English and Swahili so we could learn new words each day by category (i.e. anatomical terms, seasons, months of the year, etc.).

He was probably the main reason we were so successful in learning Swahili.

I will post again later & upload pictures, videos, information and more when my body is used to this time zone again.

A heart-felt thank you to everyone who was able to support me or who prayed for us during our trip.

The LORD heard those prayers and blessed us with His abundance.

I look forward to sharing how He has worked in my life, the lives of my team, and most importantly in the lives of the kids and City of Hope!

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~ Justin

Deuces America – Hujambo Tanzania!

We are finally leaving for Tanzania! The flight is on time and we are en route to Dulles.

I want to thank everyone again for expressing interest in keeping up with our trip.

It seems like every day we are learning about some exciting new project that we will be doing overseas and I wish I could update all of you with what is happening real-time.

Internet access will be scant, but we will do our best to post about what we are doing as we are able.

The flight tonight is at 8:30 out of Dulles International Airport. We fly to London, Heathrow, tonight then have an hour turn-around before our second flight to Nairobi, Kenya.

We will be staying the night at a safe house in Nairobi before taking a bus to Ntagatcha the following morning.

Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we travel and ask that we remain healthy.

No one wants to come back home with nasty parasites – ain’t nobody got time for that!

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I also want to ask that we remain bold & courageous throughout this trip.

There will be nights (& days) that will be hard, and it is my hope that we can continue to be positive and strong.

Thank you again for supporting us. Your thoughts & prayers are infinitely important and appreciated.

Deuces America – Hujambo Tanzania!