Month: December 2022

Hospital visits in the post-COVID era

During the height of the COVID pandemic, pastoral hospital visits halted. Family members were unable to see ailing or passing loved ones. Neither were deacons or pastors.

Post-COVID, the opportunity to make hospital calls has returned and, in some ways, changed. Here are a handful of reminders and tips for hospital visits in the post-COVID era:

1. It may not always be apparent, but pastoral visits make a difference.

In a poll of local hospital staff, each person indicated a positive view of chaplains and pastors making hospital visits. The following are things hospital staff wished hospital chaplains and pastors knew about their visits:

  • When patients are visited, their mood is completely changed. This makes the hospital worker’s shift better because “happy patients make for a happy shift.”
  • Lots of times, patients have no family. Once the pastor visits the patient, the patients often tell staff how grateful they were to have someone who cared about them.
  • Hospital staff say they wish all pastors introduced themselves to the nurse when they go into the patient’s room so they know who is there. They appreciate when the patient’s pastor comes to visit because they think it is more meaningful to the patient.
  • Pastors are a great part of the team, but if staff has a patient who is critical, they need those pastors to give space for them to do their jobs.

2. It may not always be convenient, but hospital visits are an opportunity for pastoral impact.

If you are able to make time to visit your members when they are in the hospital, do it. They may not remember the home run of a sermon you preached a year ago, but they will remember that you carved out time to visit and pray with them when they were in the hospital.

3. It may not always be possible for you to go, but there are other ways to minister.

As your church grows numerically, you will find that you are no longer able to attend every surgery or make every call, especially when surgeries or hospital stays overlap in different locations. Sending out trained leaders to make visits becomes necessary.

Training the appropriate staff members and your deacons happens best in the field when they go with you on calls. If someone makes a visit in your stead, be sure to have them express your desire as pastor to be there. Knowing you are praying and expecting an update from the leader who is making the visit is also important. Your congregants know you are pulled in many directions, but knowing you are praying and in the loop is important to them—especially when you are not personally able to come. Even phone calls and text messages can go a long way. In our digital age, an in-person visit carries the most weight, but meaningful contact can still be made in the post-COVID era through modern forms of communication when necessary.

4. It may not always be clear, but some visits are more important.

As a pastor, you are supposed to equip others and train leaders for ministry. Should any of your church leaders be in need of a hospital call, you should personally prioritize making the visit yourself.

Not every surgery is the same. Prudently prioritize which surgeries will need a pastoral visit. It is worth considering the risk of the procedure, as an outpatient mole removal will not be the same as open-heart surgery. Oftentimes, your pre-operation presence will outright be requested. Other times, it would be a warmly welcomed surprise. Both can be powerful opportunities to minister. Whenever a church member doesn’t have a spouse or family to help them, consider having a deacon or church leader visit and be ready in the waiting room. These types of situations are all important for different reasons, but a good pastor will know when to go and when to entrust member care to other gifted individuals within the church body.

5. It may not always go as planned, but here are some tips.

Your visit does not need to be very long. Seven to 10 minutes. Patients who are in the hospital need their rest. There are exceptions, and you’ll know when that is the case. Don’t get in the way of any of the medical personnel who are trying to administer medicines, communicate with a patient, etc. You may need to excuse yourself into the hallway if sensitive information is being exchanged or if a patient is trying to transition their posture while in a hospital gown.

Get a brief summary on their status. Minister to any family present. Be mindful of hospital policies on numbers of visitors, mask requirements, and “quiet hours.” You will find that your presence is normally welcomed by all hospital staff and professionals, but don’t wear that welcome out. Don’t try to become their doctor, and don’t tell the staff how to do their job. Get a simple update from the patient of what they want to share so that, as their pastor, you can pray specifically.

Pray with your church member by name. You may even hold their hand while you pray. In most cases, you won’t need to sit down. But if you do, don’t ever sit on the hospital bed. It is unprofessional. If the patient is not conscious or should not be awakened, leave a card or another imprint so they will know their pastor came by to pray and check on them. At times, you may need to check in with the nurses in order to make sure it is a good time to enter the room. They are always helpful and will gladly let the family know you came by.

Offer reassurance and speak highly of the staff and facilities. You have an opportunity to be encouraging. They need a visit from their pastor, who trusts in God. No one needs a visit from Eeyore. Can you imagine the stress and difficulty that hospital staff endured amidst the pandemic? Offer to pray for the staff and medical teams when appropriate. God will often answer your prayers for healing through their ministry of medicine.

The harmony and humanity in our cooperation

As a tuba player, Berlioz was one of my favorite composers. He composed dissonance in the deepest ranges of the orchestral score and extend that tension until resolution was as anxiously welcomed as it was intricately composed.

An orchestra is not a machine; it is a very human organization—both complemented and challenged by its humanity. I remember very well how the humanity of partnership in performance can make a masterpiece unpredictable and beautiful at the same time. Someone might miss a note, and another might get distracted, lose count, or get frustrated and quit. Still, another will rise to the moment and interpret a line with breathtaking musicality. The humanity of the orchestra makes every performance unpredictable, but it also makes every performance uniquely beautiful.

Beautiful unpredictability is inherent to the most noteworthy of all human agencies.

In the New Testament, likeminded churches cooperated for Great Commission advance. The Philippian church set the standard of financial partnership with Paul’s missionary work in Thessalonica (Philippians 4:15-16). Together with them, likeminded Macedonian churches funded the work in Corinth (Acts 18:1-5, 2 Corinthians 11:8). Later, Paul expected the church in Rome would join in the same pattern of evangelistic, missional cooperation (Romans 15:22-24). The Scriptures present the expediency of Great Commission cooperation and build the theological framework for that cooperation. But they do not dictate a specific organizational plan for cooperation.

Instead, God has chosen to allow for human ingenuity in our cooperation. Baptist churches are autonomous, so cooperation is voluntary. A wonderful gift is ours in voluntary Great Commission cooperation, employing the most imaginative of human means to accomplish the most significant of spiritual ends.

E.Y. Mullins called this “the principle of voluntary co-operation.”It sometimes makes our partnership clunky, but no less magnificent. Voluntary cooperation is more of a developing art than an industrial science. In Mullins’ words, “It is the ideal of the orchestra and not that of the machine.” Cooperation is written into the Southern Baptist score. Our doctrines of local church autonomy (BFM2000 Article VI) and Great Commission responsibility (Article XI) are harmonized in our doctrine of cooperation (Article XIV). The churches are autonomous. Each is tasked with the fulfillment of a commission that none can accomplish alone. So, we voluntarily cooperate as a matter of “spiritual harmony.”

But what happens when cooperation feels more disjunctive than harmonic—more John Cage than Frédéric Chopin? Present talk of “liberal drift,” the hysteria of biased information sourcing, and the divisiveness of economic, social, and political agendas, fill the air in our Southern Baptist rehearsal rooms today. We are deaf if we cannot hear that dissonance coming across in our public performances. How do we recapture the harmony of our cooperation?

Mullins, writing 17 years before Southern Baptists owned a formal confession of faith or a unified giving plan, acknowledged the occasional dissonance inherent to voluntary cooperation. “Let Baptists be not weary in well-doing,” he encouraged his readers …

“Our inability to enlist all our people in all our work at all times is discouraging to a superficial view. If our ecclesiastical machinery could be so adjusted and oiled as to run without a jar it would doubtless save trouble and please the esthetic faculty. But there is a profound reason why such adjustment can only come slowly: we are dealing with persons and not with things—with human wills, not with wood and iron.”

Mullins chose to see the beauty in the humanity of it all and to embrace the dissonance that humanity affected. His solution was to keep cooperating while he kept working for solutions. And, by God’s design, resolution was only a few bars away.

The best orchestral music embraces both dissonance and consonance—tension and resolution. Southern Baptists have been making music together for a long time. Honestly, we got off to a precarious start, and we have made more than our fair share of performance errors through the decades. But there is a strange grace in the humanity of it all. The humanity of our cooperation is what makes the Southern Baptist partnership more of a movement than a machine. Human error is to be expected. Seasons of dissonance, even in the deepest ranges of the score, should animate us to keep playing our parts with excellence and to encourage others to do the same, while we work together toward resolution.

Admittedly, the Southern Baptist movement is, by design, beautifully unpredictable. So, “Let Baptists be not weary in well-doing.” Our organized production is one of human resource, not of wood and iron. We cooperate as people, not as machines. Look around and see the image of God reflected in your partners in the Gospel and appreciate them as co-laborers in Christ, even when disagreement abounds. Don’t pull away. Lean into a future resolution. Who knows? Perhaps our greatest season of harmonious Great Commission cooperation is only a few bars away.

What’s your story? Through the toughest challenges life can bring, Jesus is everything

It all began during the 2021 ice storm. During that time, Jim and I stayed away from people as much as possible because our daughter was going to have her third son. Jimmy was going to be the one to take care of the kids while I went to the hospital. So, we were trying to stay COVID-free. The storm hit, and Jimmy got COVID, and then I got COVID. But he decided that it wasn’t that bad; he didn’t need to go to the doctor, and he wasn’t going to get out in that ice to do it. Well, he got worse. And on the 19th of February, he went to get an IV treatment. 

Jimmy had a kidney transplant 45 years ago. Because of that, his immune system was almost non-existent. But anyway, the IV didn’t help and that night I had to put him in the hospital. It was about 10:00 that same night. I didn’t know that was going to be the last time I saw him. I had to drop him at the hospital and go home. None of the family was able to go be with him. He was in isolation.

And then of course I had COVID and was by myself at home. He lived four days. On the 24th of February, Jimmy went home to be with the Lord. The kids could not come be with me because they had not had COVID shots. The Lord provided three sisters in Christ who had either already had COVID, or had the shots, to stay with me and take care of me. At the time, doctors didn’t know what strain of COVID I had. I feel like these women put their lives on the line for me; they had families, too. 

They ended up taking me to the hospital four days later. It was February 28. My oxygen level was low and I was in the hospital. My children planned their father’s funeral without me. My daughter was in the hospital when her dad passed away because of the C-section that she’d had. We couldn’t be together through this time of grief.

Jeanette with Jimmy

The second day I was in the hospital, I was feeling hopeless and helpless, in a fog, shocked. I was talking to the Lord and said, “I’ve got to have you. I’ve got to have you.” And I remembered that some of the biggest blessings for me are hearing people’s testimonies and thought, “Well, what do I have to lose? I could be dying. I’m just going to ask people.” So, when the hospital staff came in, I just started saying, “I need to talk. Do you have a minute?” They’d say yes, of course. “Well, I just need to know if you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.”

Most of them said they did and most of them told me their testimonies. I did have some chances to witness. Some of my doctors were believers and would actually come and put their hands on me and pray over me. All of this because I said, “I need to hear from God.” So, I feel like He spoke to me through these people. On the seventh day, some sweet friends who had already had COVID were able to be in my room so that I would have someone with me during Jimmy’s funeral.

Before the funeral started, my friends were praying over me, and a nurse bebopped in and happily announced that I was COVID-free and was able to have others visit with me. Those same three friends who had already had COVID stayed with me around the clock. They took care of my physical needs. They prayed over me. And God healed me. 

I still am indebted to them. All through it, I had my church family, and people were reaching out to me right and left. But that was only the beginning of the struggle. Now, I had to go home alone and face grief without Jimmy. He was my soulmate for 41 years and fellow servant of Christ. My physical provider, best friend, and pastor.

The women who stayed close to Jeanette through her illness. PHOTOS SUBMITTED

I’m still dealing with grief a year and a half later. But another blessing is from one of my favorite verses, and it’s 3 John 4 that says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” Well, God gave us three kids, and man, they’re a wealth of wisdom like their dad. Anytime I reach out to them, they give me very much the same godly counsel that he would. One of them, in one of my days of going through grief, said, “Mom, go to what you know. Go to the foundation.”

I started thinking about the foundation of Christ and what He’s provided. So I went back to the very first, when I came to know Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior, and I thanked the Lord for that. I went back to his living Word. One of the blessings that God gave me is Jimmy’s sermons. I would go back and dig and find sermons that would minister to whatever I was going through at that time. I started asking God to provide for me because I didn’t know how to get out of this wave of grief.

A favorite verse is, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not into your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” My understanding was a mess, but I had to trust in the Lord and trust that He will direct my path. I also go back to thinking that His mercies are new every morning. And so I started just praising Him every morning for a good night’s sleep. A lot of widows do not have a good night’s sleep. I’ve not struggled with sleep. I asked the Lord to restore the joy of my salvation and He has. 

 So, I’m now back home at First Baptist Forney. My intention is to serve the Lord wherever He wants me. One of the last things Jimmy said to me through his struggle of breathing was, “I fought the good fight, and now I’m leaving it to the next generation.” Well, I have a new pastor, and Nathan and Nicole [Lino] have welcomed me with open arms. They pray for me, and they make me feel like I’m one of their own. I couldn’t ask for better. 

So, what’s my story? I would leave it with this very last thing. And it’s the way Jimmy signed everything. It’s what he said to people: “Jesus is everything.”

So, what’s my story? I would leave it with this very last thing. And it’s the way Jimmy signed everything. It’s what he said to people: “Jesus is everything.”

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Emphasis on the gospel—and one another—fuels deaf church in Amarillo


On Sunday mornings at Amarillo Deaf Church, the worship is loud with bass that deaf people can literally feel. Congregants watch lyrics on a screen and follow by the beat. They mimic the signs of the worship leaders signing the songs. Pastor Darrell Bonjour signs, rather than voicing, his sermons—using an interpreter to translate his messages into spoken words for those in attendance who can hear.

But these are mechanics. What worship at Amarillo Deaf Church looks more like is a group of believers who have broken barriers of language delay and isolation. They have grown in number, grown spiritually, and have morphed into a self-supporting community that does life together as they reach the deaf for Christ.

Growth has been part of the church’s story since its beginning. Formerly Paramount Baptist Deaf Church, Amarillo Deaf Church began as an interpreting service with three deaf persons on Easter Sunday in 1980. They expanded into a mobile building where they met on Sunday mornings for deaf church and then went into regular service Sunday nights to interpret. They outgrew the mobile unit and moved into Paramount’s chapel, where continued growth necessitated having two services. 

“We want people to become obedient followers of Jesus. The gospel is the same. At Amarillo Deaf Church, it’s just presented in a different way.”

In 1999, they moved into their current building under the mission support of Paramount, and since 2017 by God’s grace, Amarillo Deaf Church has been independent, taking care of everything, including property and facilities, salaries, and one another. 

They give as well. When they left Paramount, members and attendees gave $19,000 annually. Today, giving exceeds $100,000 annually. 

“We are actively taking care of ourselves,” Bonjour said. “We struggle, but we are making it here.” The church has approximately 300 members with an average Sunday attendance around 60.

The church produces the fruit of its labor, with congregants taking the lead. Those who were picked up by the church van as children now lead the van ministry or drive the van. They take care of the building and grounds. They visit. They teach. They fix things when things need fixing. Some of the men take care of the internet technology. A deaf team films, edits, and publishes web content.

They do all these things despite unique challenges. Deaf people can tend to isolate, hiding themselves as well as their children. Some, especially those raised prior to early hearing screenings, have faced language delay—a difficulty in understanding or responding to spoken language. Technological aids such as PowerPoint and the American Sign Language Video Bible, completed just last year, have helped with reading and advancing scriptural knowledge. Job opportunities have also been a challenge in the community. Ministry assistant Melanie Lyons compares the church to the early Christians described in the New Testament: community driven and focused on each other. The deaf are very effective at reaching one another because they share the same struggles. 

“As a hearing person, I get to be there and support and say, ‘How can I help you as you go out and reach out to other deaf people?’” Lyons said. “I want to be supportive and help in any way possible. If that means I clean the building so they can do that, great!”

October marks the 42nd anniversary of the church’s founding and of Bonjour’s leadership; he will retire at year’s end. They are celebrating with the theme of “See What God Has Done.” Scott Tankersley, who joined the church in 1982 after Bonjour visited his home, will lead as interim pastor, focusing on ministry, while Bonjour serves as an elder to support him. Again, the heart of the hearing people in the church is to help the deaf reach others who are deaf. 

“We love God, we love people, but we also love the Word,” Tankersley said. “These three things together are the core.” 

Scripture is the focus because that’s where the commonality is–within the gospel. The congregation is diverse: original members from Amarillo, folks from Mexico and other countries, those raised Assembly of God, Catholic, Charismatic—and all with varying levels of language experience.

“We want people to become obedient followers of Jesus,” Bonjour said. “The gospel is the same. At Amarillo Deaf Church, it’s just presented in a different way.”