By Jane Farnworth
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)
“Others in this city need to know My comfort.” This is what I heard, not an audible voice, but words that spoke to my heart. I had just made it through another night of intense physical pain, and thanked the Lord for His comfort that got me through. April through August of 2007, God allowed me to go through a time of debilitating physical pain, that humbled me. Through this, God made me more sensitive to people who are hurting. He also showed me that my ministry is wherever I go: daily errands, doctors’ appointments, church, school, work, and anywhere.
God was calling me to start a caring ministry, called Stephen Ministry, in my church, Fellowship of the Rockies in Pueblo, CO. Stephen Ministry trains lay ministers to walk alongside others who are going through a difficult time to encourage them in the Lord. I was so excited to serve in this kind of ministry that God had broken my heart for. But then, He told me to lead it. Lead? I’m not a leader. I’ve never been a leader. All of the tests I took in high school and such plug me into other categories, but never a leader. I talked to my Senior Pastor, Charlie Jones, about all of this and he said he would help me. I had to depend on God in the same way in this season that I did when I had the physical pain. Fear can be just as debilitating as physical pain. I decided I had to trust God, as He made me able. Where else would I go? “For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13 (NIV)
I had a deep passion for God’s Word and desire to study it more in depth. When I heard others preach and teach God’s Word, using the context of Scripture, the culture of the original audience, and the meaning of the Greek and Hebrew words, it was helpful and instructive for application. I wanted to study more. I started to hear commercials for Bible colleges on the radio and I remember saying to God, too bad it’s too late for me to go to school to study your Word. Ha! Apparently, it’s never too late and we are never too old in God’s timeline. He used a speaker at a conference and some other pivotal events to call me to seminary, and very specifically, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, now Gateway Seminary. God has been using Gateway Seminary to shape me into a biblical leader, one class at a time.
I have been able to serve and lead in Stephen Ministry, which later became Soul Care Ministry, for 10 years at my church. Through this ministry, the church has been able to minister to many people in our Pueblo community, who have walked through difficult times in their lives. I have been in seminary this entire time, taking one class a semester. Each class I have taken has been right on time for the growth I need in life and ministry. I plan to graduate Spring 2020 with my MDIV degree. The journey has been amazing. God has recently moved me out of Soul Care Ministry in preparation for what’s next.
During the same time, God has used Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) to grow me in my Pastoral Care, which has led me to work as a Hospice Chaplain. As a Hospice Chaplain, I get to provide spiritual and emotional support to patients and their families. This is a hard time for them, and a sacred time for them, as well. I find that joy can accompany suffering and laughter can accompany tears. I get a front row seat to God’s activity. There are many special ministry opportunities in hospice care: from being a comforting presence; to helping people reflect on their life; helping them find answers to some of their questions about God, His love, and His purpose; and helping them to be okay with not having all the answers to their questions, but trusting God and knowing and experiencing His love for them.
One time, I was called for a chaplain visit to someone who was extremely agitated, and was not allowing any of her care givers to approach her. On my drive over, I asked God to help her, knowing that He knew best what her heart needed. I also asked that I would be an instrument of His peace and comfort. When I arrived, I could see she was greatly distressed. She said she could see people who were screaming in a terrifying place, and that she was scared. I asked “Do you see a light?” She said “Yes, but I can’t get to it.” I told her “I know the way.” I proceeded to tell her the Gospel message: that our sins separate us from God, but that Jesus has made a way for us through His death on the cross. I said “If we confess our need for Him, He will forgive us from our sin and give us eternal live with Him in Heaven.” She answered with these words, which became her prayer: “I need Jesus. I need Jesus. I need Jesus.” She received Him and I prayed for her and she was at peace. She was able to allow her care givers to care for her and had a peaceful three days before she went home to be with the Lord. Jesus is the light of the world. As believers, we are called and chosen to declare the praises of Him Who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light (1Peter 2:9).
Even older patients who experience memory loss, will remember songs and hymns from their childhood. Sometimes faith, theology, hope, and worship are accomplished in the simplest of activities, such as in singing old hymns, or children’s songs together.
It has been a blessing and privilege to watch God walk intimately with patients and their families. One 6 year old patient talked often of her conversations with God, the glimpses of Heaven He took her to see, and the things He wanted her family to know. During one of my last visits with this sweet child, I held her little hand in mine, as we prayed. When I opened my eyes I saw she had her other hand raised. She had a smile on her face as she told me God was holding her hand. “For I am the LORD your God Who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13 (NIV)