It was 9:00 a.m. and I was sitting in my mother’s hospital room, trying to make sense of the last twelve hours. I received a panicked text message from my sister the night before that indicated something was wrong with someone I knew. I immediately called my sister and heard, “Mom has passed out.” I hung up the phone and called my dad.
“Dad, is mom ok?”
“I don’t know. I just called the ambulance.”
“I was helping her go to the bathroom and she collapsed.”
“Dad, I’m on my way home.”
Tara and I frantically packed a travel bag and I was on my way at 9:30 p.m. to the mountains of eastern Kentucky.
The three and a half hour late night drive left me weary the next morning which slowed my ability to process what I was seeing. In the bed was my sweet mother, doing ok, but suffering from a broken hip. (She broke her hip from the fall after losing consciousness due to vertigo.) I was immediately thankful that, except for the broken hip, she was ok. However, it still stunned me to see Mom laying there so helpless and in pain.
I sat down next to mom and held her hand. There was an irony in the moment for me as I thought, “If this were any other family but mine, I would walk into this hospital room at about this time, pray for, and pastor my family. But, who’s going to pastor my family?” That internal question was a moment of sincere longing for nurturing and support. Who was going to pastor the pastor’s family?
There have been moments in my life when I have been stunned by God’s immediate actions to hear my prayer and make his presence known in a situation. I was about to experience another one of those moments as I sat next to my mom’s bed.
I had no sooner finished praying my prayer of desperation when I heard a knock on Mom’s hospital door. I looked up and saw what I thought was another doctor or nurse walking into the room. However, the person quickly extended her hand and said, “Hi, my name is Alice (pronounced Ah-lee-cee) and I am a chaplain with the hospital.”
“Well,” I thought. “God wasted no time answering that one.”
But the moment grew even sweeter…
Alice had a slight foreign accent. I asked Alice about her home as a child. She indicated that she was from Brazil and moved to the states as a teenager. I asked Alice her last name. She told me her last name and I suddenly found myself in a God-sized sweet, holy, here-I-am-Paul moment that caused my soul to flood with both peace and tears.
Alice was not just a random hospital chaplain that walked into our room in that moment. Alice was the wife of one of Tara’s best friends from college. The holy irony of God sending a hospital chaplain originally from Brazil who ended up marrying one of Tara’s best and influential guy friends in college to a hospital room in the hills of eastern Kentucky was not lost on me. It was as if God heard my prayer and said, “Paul, dude, I’m all around you and your family. I’ve got this.”
Galatians 6.2 says that Christ-followers are to carry each other’s burdens. Alice helped carry my family’s burden in that moment. She also played a significant role helping Mom relax immediately before being wheeled into surgery through the words of a very poignant and powerful prayer. I am thankful for Alice and I am thankful for the way God used her to show my family that he was present. I am also thankful for a God who can take a girl from South America, introduce her to a rabid UK fan who she would later marry, and place that girl in a not-so-random hospital room in eastern Kentucky to minister to the family of her husband's college friend.
“Paul, dude, I’m all around you and your family. I’ve got this.”
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31.6
Paul is the husband to Tara, father to Natalie and Isaac, has an average jump shot, and enjoys running. His secret wish is to one day become a Jedi Knight. Paul holds a doctorate in marriage and family counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and currently serves as senior pastor of Hardinsburg Baptist Church. Paul desires to help young couples navigate the early crucibles of marriage, especially when one or both of the spouses are engaged in vocational ministry.