Patients have spiritual needs to address

By ALLYSON HELVIE Hospice ChaplainPublished: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 4:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 22, 2009 at 6:42 p.m.

When a person is diagnosed with breast cancer, there are many facets to what happens in his/her life. We are surrounded by a medical model of health care, and one has test after test to determine the exact type of cancer.

By the time one receives a final diagnosis, she has encountered several doctors, nurses, technicians, and many other medical personnel. She has met with non-medical professionals to address her financial and emotional concerns.

With her medical plan in place, her physical needs are being met, and she has excellent support from the team of medical caregivers. There is another important aspect of her life, as well. Human beings are “whole” persons, and there is a spiritual aspect that should not be looked over when caring for those who are undergoing cancer treatment.

Many feelings may arise in times such as this: guilt, loneliness, fear and anger. People may begin to question God and ask, “Where is God in all of this?”

There may be other questions, such as “How could God allow this to happen to me? Why me? How do I cope?”

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I find this article extremely helpful.  I have have experienced a greater awareness among our congregations about cancer and pastors are swamped with people outside of their congregation on a spiritual journey trying to understand how God is involved in their cancer.

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Sheila Fowler is 43. She has short brown hair, a soft, girlish voice and three grandchildren. What she does not have is teeth, or a way to pay for dentures. But Fowler is stoic; she jokes that she’s got tough gums, adding that she can even eat pretzels if she sucks on them for a bit.

Fowler has made the hourlong journey from her home in Cleveland, Va., to the small town of Wise to take advantage of a huge annual medical and dental expedition set up by Remote Area Medical, a nonprofit organization that provides basic medical and dental care to people in the world’s most inaccessible regions. This year, more than 1,800 volunteer doctors, dentists, nurses and assistants descended on the small town near the Kentucky border, setting up enormous field-hospital-style tents in which they saw roughly 2,500 patients over the course of two and a half days in late July. The Wise operation is coordinated locally by a team of nurses with the Health Wagon, a tiny health-care outreach program.

By the end of the weekend, the medical team, had extracted 3,857 painfully decayed teeth, administered 156 mammograms, screened hundreds of people for diabetes and heart disease, and given out 1,003 pairs of eyeglasses. About 30 people, chosen by lottery, were fitted for free dentures. Hundreds of people were turned away by volunteers who headed off cars at the main intersection when the clinic reached capacity.

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I really like this once a year free clinic but I am sure that as disciples of Christ we can do better.  We spend hundreds of dollars and lots of time on mission trips overseas and in South America.  I am not suggesting that we stop these trips but I would like to challenge the church to spend some quality time here at home. Jesus introduced himeself to many of the first century communities through healing someone. What an awesome way to introduce Christ to the marginalized and poor in every state of the Union. In every state there is at least one community where a free clinic is needed. In every state there are at least 50 churches that can collaboratively provide a free clinic. The poorest of the poor, those limited by transportation and cultural isolated populations can experience a benefit. 

We are called to follow the lead of Jesus

18“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me
      to preach good news to the poor.
   He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
      and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed,
    19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Universal healthcare would be nice but with or without universal healthcare the church can do better at meeting the healthcare needs of the poor here in the United States.  As disciples we have a responsibility to find a way to bring healing to all of God’s people.

Sounding Alarm About Disease
In Charles County, Where Men Are Dying From Prostate Cancer At Startling Rates, a Campaign Aims to Educate Those At Risk

By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 27, 2008; C01

The preacher’s words took flight in a small Pentecostal sanctuary in Southern Maryland, where men are dying needlessly of a treatable disease.

“Your body is special to God!” Bishop James M. Briscoe declaimed to 45 Sunday worshipers in the pews above the weathered linoleum floor of Free Gospel Church of Bryans Road. “God has not designed this thing for you to die prematurely! Some of you would rather not go to doctors. They would rather be in the darkness about their health. But the scripture doesn’t say that.”

So began a public health campaign to educate, examine and treat the men of Charles County as prostate cancer becomes a disease that is striking and killing them at an alarming rate.

Men, black and white, in Southern Maryland’s largest county have the highest prostate cancer diagnosis and death rates in the state, and significantly above the national average. Local rates are climbing even as cases level off nationwide.

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Is Worship Healthy?
Rev. Michelle Holmes Chaney

Why yes it is? If worship, showing the worth of God in Jesus Christ, is not what we manage to squeeze into an hour or so on Sundays and special occasions, but instead every thought word and deed we claim to think, say or do in response to our understanding of what it means to be a disciple. And yes, if healthy refers not to our medical/physical state but instead to the ability to find and maintain balance in our lives that requires God be first, and God actually is.

There have even been medical studies which can confirm this connection between worship attendance and health. A 1998 Study conducted by the Yale School of Medicine found that, “For the elderly, religion may do more than ease the soul. In fact, attendance at religious services may actually improve physical health and psychological well-being.” I don’t think you could convince your doctor that attending a one hour worship service five days a week would be a good substitute for the 20 minutes a day your doctor wants you to walk. But I do think that reflecting on the connection between our bodies, our health, and worship is worth the exploration.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1

Notice the connection between our bodies and worship in this text. All throughout the Old Testament we hear God repeatedly asking for sacrifices that are pure, unblemished, the first and the best. Why do we think we are somehow exempt? Let’s be honest if some of us were Abraham’s son, in our current state of health, I could hear God saying, “You know what…never mind!” I am all for giving God all our worries about our blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and bad feet. But let’s not try to give God high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and bad feet. During this month let’s try to find ways to make our worship healthy. And let me know what you come up with. I need all the help I can get!