So I just spent the last two weeks in San Antonio, at the Brookes Army Medical Center (or BAMC, pronounced "bam-see") which is to be renamed San Antonio Military Medical Center - North (or, you guessed it, SAMMC - or "sam-see"). In a rare cooperative effort between the medical corps and chaplain corps, they run a course for chaplains and their assistants to train us to provide ministry and pastoral care to severely injured patients as well as to their family members.
Much of the time was spent in the classroom, learning about trauma, crisis, grief, resiliency, and a host of other things. There were 31 of us in attendance - 18 chaplains and 13 assistants, with a fair mix of genders and ethnicities. Active duty, Reserve and National Guard. Some (like myself) who have yet to pin on the cross, others who were only recently commissioned, and still others who have served for many years and completed several deployments "downrange" in Iraq or Afghanistan.
I would love to share some highlights, but am unsure as to what would be appropriate, given both the medical/chaplain confidentiality. Suffice to say that I dealt with patients who had cancer, were burn survivors, were involved in horrific vehicle accidents, or who were dealing with thoughts of death - some by their own hand, other by the ravages of time.
It is a precious thing to be with someone in their moment of crisis - to hold their hand as their eyes widen in fear and confusion, to ask if you can pray with them as they eagerly nod, tears forming in their eyes. To finally leave, entrusting their care to the medical staff yet knowing that their life is in the hands of the Almighty. Feeling frustrated that you could not do more, yet knowing that you did your best.
I'm not sure that I would choose to be a hospital chaplain - such assignments can have a way of taking their toll on the caregiver - but this course confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt that the chaplaincy is where I am called to serve.