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Providing words of faith, reassurance to man hitting bottom through hospital visitor program

Craig Butler has served as a hospital chaplain and volunteers as a visitor through the Good Friend Pastoral Care program at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in Lakeway.

I pulled into a hospital parking space here in Lakeway and felt the brilliant sun beaming down on my face. Yes, it was another beautiful day in Lakeway, and I was getting to visit patients again at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center — Lakeway as one of the Good Friend Pastoral Care program volunteers.

I had just recently joined the team after moving to the area a few months earlier. I had worked before as a hospital chaplain, so I was rather familiar with the needs of patients and the staff in the hospital setting.

When a position opened up here close to my house, I jumped on the opportunity to serve as a volunteer. I checked to make sure I had all of the volunteer necessities — my blue vest and my name badge.

I greeted the volunteers at the welcome desk and picked up the census for the floors and headed to the chapel that our Good Friends Pastoral Care team had assembled at the hospital for patients and staff.

It is my practice to start my day with a moment of meditation and prayer so that I can focus my attention on the patients I visit and be available to hear their concerns and offer help wherever possible. I need this time before I start my visits each time I come. 

Before I start going room to room, I stop by the desk on each of the units and try to  ask the nurses if there might be someone on that particular unit who might have a need that I might be able to address as one of the Good Friend Pastoral Care volunteers.

The nurse on one of the units said, “Yes, there is a young man in the back who might greatly benefit from a visit from you. If he’s awake, why don’t you try to stop by to see him?"  I thanked the nurse and headed to Troy's room. 

As is my practice, I knocked on the door, and waited on the patient to respond. When he did, I stuck my head in, introduced myself, told him I was one of the Good Friend Pastoral Care volunteers and asked if I might stop in to visit with him. Troy responded immediately and welcomed me into the room. 

The room was dimly lighted. The patient was alone. I could see he was a young man possibly in his mid-20 who was getting an IV. He looked like he might have been in a fight recently. His face looked a little bruised with some cuts. He appeared interested in talking.

 “What brought you to our hospital today?” I asked.

He told me his name and that he had come from a half-way house type facility where he had been high on several things he had consumed before he got there.  He told me he was here to get everything back together.

"Right now, my life is a mess," he said. 

He said he was glad I came by and maybe I could give him some ideas about what might be helpful for him now inside the hospital and for later when he leaves. The hospital had taken his phone when he got there. "That might be a good thing," he said. "I won’t know how anyone can reach me after I leave at this point.”

Troy then told me a little about his life and where he had lived. He mentioned some of the work he had  done and what brought him to Austin. He enjoys the outdoors and wasn’t afraid to try about anything he could. He hadn’t been able to save a lot of money and sometimes found himself homeless here.  

He said that someone from the last place he had been had told him “he was almost too far gone for a prayer." He asked if I could help with a prayer.   

 “Troy, that is where I might be able to help," I told him. "Tell me, do you pray regularly?” 

"Not really," he told me.

"I don’t know everything about prayer, but I do know something I can share with you that has worked with me," I told him. I shared some simple things about prayer and how he could speak to a loving, caring God on a regular basis without having to get permission from anyone else to do so.

I shared a portion of the Christian Bible that the Gideons leave at different hospitals and hotels that I had brought with me to give to patients if they were open to accept it. I  showed him some verses to read about prayer and verses about the person of Jesus. 

He wanted to know more about this Jesus. He was eager to learn. I told him a little more about the format of the New Testament I gave him and encouraged him to read it regularly. That sounded helpful to him. 

I asked him what would happen when he left the hospital. He wasn’t quite sure, but he had some limited options.

I told him about a particular verse I wanted to leave with him, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path” (Proverbs 3:5-6 ). 

I told him this verse would be a good verse to read over and over in the days ahead as he tried to make the best decisions for himself.  I shared how it had helped me make some critical decisions in my own life through the years.

As I was about to leave, he grabbed my hand and thanked me again for coming by to visit with him today. 

I left Troy’s room and visited with some other patients before I left the hospital for the day. 

I appreciated Troy’s openness as his told me his story, and even shared some of his strong fears with me. That day, I said another prayer of thanks for the opportunity to share some “good news” today with someone who desperately wanted to hear it. 

Craig Butler is part of the Good Friend Pastoral Care volunteers.at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center — Lakeway. The program is on hold during the pandemic.