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Chaplains/Volunteers Encourage Thousands at Mission Hospital in Ecuador

June 26, 2017

The primary objective of the chaplaincy is to provide a personal visit for every patient admitted to Hospital Vozandes-Quito.  

(June 26, 2017 - by Mary Gardeen with Harold Goerzen)  When a 1-year-old child in Quito, Ecuador, spiked a dangerously high fever, his alarmed parents rushed him to the hospital. The staff in the emergency room at Reach Beyond’s Hospital Vozandes-Quito (HVQ) immediately admitted the child and began treatment.

German Rhon prays for a patient at Hospital Vozandes-Quito.Like most of the hospital’s patients, the child, along with his parents were assigned to one of five chaplains and seven volunteers in the facility’s pastoral care/chaplaincy department. In this case, the boy was designated to the head chaplain, Pastor Galo Carrión, who also trains new volunteers.

Before long he, along with volunteer Mary Gardeen, was at the child’s bedside, ready to give encouragement, advice and spiritual guidance. However, by the time they made their scheduled visit, the boy was doing much better, responding to treatment and sleeping peacefully. The pair, together with the parents, stood around the child’s bed and prayed for his recovery.

The young mother’s words were heartfelt: “When our son became so sick, we knew the only place for us to go was Hospital Vozandes.”

“Miracles happen every day here,” declared Carrión, who also provides training for new volunteers.

The visit was one of thousands made by the chaplaincy staff every year at HVQ. In 2016 alone, the chaplains and volunteers made some 5,200 personal visits with inpatients, sharing Scripture and praying for those dealing with illnesses and other medical challenges—some facing life-threatening crises. The chaplains provide a listening ear to patients and their families as they share their stories and concerns.

Throughout the 61-year history of the hospital—a 76-bed facility with approximately 500 full- and part-time staff members—thousands of patients and their family members have heard the gospel for the first time, many praying to give their lives to Christ. Research by staff members indicates that new believers often continue in their faith and join local churches.

Alexis Astudillo teaching hospital chaplaincy course.In January 2017 HVQ opened up its chaplaincy training program to the community for the first time. The teaching is designed for pastors and lay church leaders who want to be better prepared when it comes to integrating pastoral care of patients and their families during times of illness, crisis and grief.

The course includes 10 three-day modules that are offered throughout the year. In addition to attending training sessions, participants must complete 10 hours of practical experience carried out at HVQ under the chaplains’ supervision. A nearby evangelical seminary is affiliated with the program, offering college credit and certificates of completion for the graduates.

Seminar topics include such things as “Competencies of a Chaplain,” “Intervention During a Crisis,” “Ministry During a Terminal Illness,” “Christian Counseling” and “Caring for the Caregiver.” The program has been well received with 24 enrollees coming from approximately 17 local churches.

Here are some of the responses that the HVQ chaplains gave when asked what they liked best about their job:

• “The privilege of accompanying people going through [difficult] times.”
• “Reaching into patients’ hearts.”
• “Sharing God’s Word.”
• “Holding Bible studies with the staff.”
• “Caring for families.”
• “Teaching and training others.”

The chaplaincy staff also plans special programs during special holidays such as Christmas and Easter. And they make it a point to attend the wake or funeral when the relative of a staff member dies.

While hospital rooms, patients, doctors, nurses and lab workers may be the most conspicuous aspects at HVQ, not so for the chaplaincy office which is nestled in a quiet, faraway corner tucked away from the constant activity of the central corridor. Yet it plays a key role at the facility.

L-R: Chaplains Alexis Astudillo, Galo Carrión and Jorge Rea with Gary Gardeen at their devotional time.The welcoming small but well-lit office has five desks with a smattering of computers, Bibles and daily census sheets. Calendars adorn the walls. This is the office where each patient has a chaplain assigned to them for the day’s visits and where weekly devotional times are designated (currently in 31 departments) and chapel services are planned.

HVQ’s mission statement, displayed on the wall, states: “We are the hands of Jesus, expressing His love through integrated healthcare to the community and the formation of medical professionals, without distinction, toward the goal of abundant life through personal caring for the glory of God and the service of Ecuador.”

Each day in the chaplaincy office, work begins with a devotional and prayer time. The area also includes a storage case that is well stocked with Bibles and Christian literature to give to patients and visitors as well as a coffee area and space for families to grieve.

By mid-morning, the office is nearly empty as chaplains and volunteers circulate throughout the hospital. Besides visiting patients, they offer booklets and leaflets to folks in the waiting rooms, hand out New Testaments and Bibles, and provide counseling in a separate office just off the cafeteria patio.

Chaplain Jorge Rea emphasized that the primary objective of the chaplaincy is to provide a personal visit for every patient admitted to HVQ. “This goal is accomplished about 90 percent of the time,” he said.

*Mary Gardeen serves as a missionary volunteer in the pastoral care/chaplaincy department. She and her husband, Gary, recently rejoined the staff at Hospital Vozandes-Quito after being away from Reach Beyond for 16 years. Gary formerly served as the hospital’s administrator.

Source: Reach Beyond




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