A Literary Hospital Mission Field

A month ago my mother was taken to the hospital with a serious infection and blood poisoning. The former threatened a sobering 80% mortality rate; the latter could have killed her in 24 hours. 

To the astonishment of all, especially the hospital staff, God heard the prayers of hundreds of people around the world on her behalf and overwhelmed us with His goodness. She left without a colon, but gained a mission field. 

I was there after the immediate crisis, during her week of accelerating gains in the hospital, witnessing her testimony. She demonstrated love for the nurses and cafeteria workers alike by asking questions about their families, their personal stories, and making connections. She longed to return their kindness with delicious baked goods, but it will take a while to regain her strength. Instead, she asked Dad and me to bring a box of books to offer to any staff members who were interested in taking one home. The two books were Jesus Skeptic by John Dickerson and The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones. 

Although she went home before the coronavirus, she planted many seeds and intends to continue. Lord willing, those books will eventually be followed by her famous cinnamon rolls, spreading the aroma (and sweetness!) of her love for Christ and the souls He came to save. Putting such books into the hands of hospital staff just before a community-wide health crisis was perfect, sovereign timing. Isn’t God good?

I interviewed my mother about her experience in the hospital, her book choices, and her current reading life.

Mom, why did you choose those two books?

I chose these two books because several of the nurses have families at home or grandchildren.  Four are pregnant even! I was very impressed with the young gals (and a couple of guys) who are nurses.  I thought that the Jesus Storybook Bible (Sally Lloyd Jones) might be an asset to their family atmosphere. I like giving it to young children who can’t read yet, because that means that the parents have to be involved and read the stories to their children. It’s a trick (a divine one?) to get parents to read Truth, too.  So far, we have put out about 18 – 20 books, and to my knowledge they’re all gone. The lady who takes meal orders from the dining room took one, and we are hoping to put some in the pediatric ward down the hall from where I was. One lady at the desk told Megan that they sometimes have people ask for something to read while sitting and waiting in the hospital.   Golden opportunity!!!   

The second book, Jesus Skeptic by John Dickerson, is fairly new, and the publisher can’t keep them in stock.  We have to wait until April 1 to get ones we just ordered in mid-March. John grew up in a Christian home (not sure what kind), but became a skeptic.   He was an investigative reporter for the New York Times, and uncovered facts about corruption in Arizona jails. He researches using primary sources, not opinions or heresay.  He wanted to find out if Jesus really lived, and if He was who He said He was, so John explored that topic. One nurse who cared for me is going to school to get her BA, and I asked her what kind of classes she was taking.  “Oh, history and math,” she replied. I asked her if the history class was about the founding of America and World War II, and she answered, “Yes. I wish it was about nursing and the medical field. I’m more interested in that.”  That is one topic that is covered in Mr. Dickerson’s book. Why do we have hospitals? Who founded them? Christians did–to care for the widows and orphans who couldn’t afford to get a doctor’s help when they were sick. Have you ever thought much about the names of most hospitals having a reference to a religious or church affiliation?  The nurse’s interest in the field of medical history taken care of… Other chapters research the founding fathers of science, education, the end of slavery, and other influences in Western culture that are lacking in other parts of the world without the Christian influence. The nurse gladly accepted my gift of the JS book, and a total of 8 other copies have been taken by other staff.  

We have an open door and a mission field to folks right in our own town!  May God get the glory!!       

How did it feel to wake up and realize the crisis you had survived?

I was under anesthesia for 48 hours, so I was clueless as to what was going on.  The stories I heard after I was “back to earth” amazed me: how close I came to leaving this life, how many bodily functions were not working as God had designed them to work to keep me alive,  that my friends and family were praying, reading Scripture to me, singing hymns, that all my children (but one who came the next week to help out) from far away states came to encourage each other, pray and sing together, that I was visibly unhappy and my heart rate went up if they were going to leave me, and calmed down when they stayed…  

When I woke up and heard that I could have died, my first reaction, since I felt so horrible with a ventilator, no water to drink, and not able to move any parts of my body was that Heaven did sound like a wonderful alternative. When I heard the bits and pieces of what had transpired during the last four days, and how much my family appreciated my influence in their lives and prayed for God’s mercy on me, I was grateful for His watch care.  

“His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He cares for me” has reminded me that I am just a little, seemingly valueless sparrow, yet as His child, I have extreme value to Him who died to redeem and protect me. Many in the hospital heard about our family’s experience. May He touch many of their lives with His personal care for them, too.  

What are you currently reading?

Since I’ve been sick, I haven’t read much because I had little energy.  One book I have delved into is similar to Jesus Skeptic, and is titled Unimaginable–What our World would be like Without Christianity, by Jeremiah J. Johnson.   Mr. Johnson also tracks history through the secular, usually atheistic vein, as well as the Christian one, and compares the results of both mind sets on society. On the one hand, there is Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Margaret Mead, Hitler, and other dictators in Europe, as well as the new atheists in today’s world.  In contrast, there is Jesus, whose influence through His followers and His Word has brought much that is good to our civilization.

Another wonderful read, a thought-provoking one is 40 Favorite Hymns on the Christian Life–a Closer Look at their Spiritual and Poetic Meaning, by Leland Ryken.  It’s made me think more in depth about songs I’ve sung for years. I need to ponder more the words as I sing them.

Thanks for your testimony, Mom, and for being such a blessing to me and so many others!

(The words on the poster signed by Mom’s Sunday School children are from the song “God Can Do Anything” by Judy Rogers, copyright 2001.)
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