Everyday Encounter with God

Pastor Sylvia's Encounters with God in the Midst of Everyday Life


To a Hurting World

Husband and I were in Washington D.C. Memorial Day weekend for our denomination’s chaplain conference and training. Most people don’t know the distinction between a pastor and a chaplain.

A pastor is a Christian minister or priest who usually leads a congregation. They are knowledgeable of scripture and are often called to give spiritual advice and administer baptism, communion, marriage, etc. They are also called to be evangelists who proclaim Jesus as Lord and encourage non-believers to believe likewise.

Chaplains are different. They are called to minister to people who need spiritual support whether they have shared beliefs or not. In Washington D.C. we were training with Christian chaplains who work for hospitals/hospice, the military, police/fire, disaster relief, prisons/jails, and a variety of industries.

Without pre-coordination our training held to one theme—the world is filled with hurting people. How can each one of us overcome the barriers of Christianity’s exclusive history and reach people with the inclusivity of God’s love?

For instance, we were challenged to extend God’s grace in our Muslim communities. Too much of our response to people from the Middle East has been fear-based. Yet, 1 John 4:18 states, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear… he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” Can we represent Christ while condemning people who look and believe different than us?

Our chaplains were extremely quiet when a speaker tackled another difficult topic-- the LGTBQ community. We went from quiet to absolute silence when our speaker (a chaplain’s wife and mother) talked about how the church has failed these individuals. What gives us the right to pass judgments that proclaim a lesbian, or a trans-sexual, or a gay man has sinned beyond God’s saving grace?

For just a moment I raised my head and looked around the room. Easily 30% of us (me included) were more than 30 lbs overweight. What would be the result if our churches preached on gluttony, and lying, and gossip with the same veracity we speak out against same-gender sexual sin? Is it possible that the Christian church doesn’t want salvation for people who are hurting if their sins are different than ours?

The last day of chaplain training was the first day of our denomination’s general convention. The hotel was full. The restaurants had waiting lines. The restrooms were fully occupied. And the eight elevators were crammed to maximum occupancy. We stepped on after two women in blue uniforms. Next came a young couple with several children and bulging backpacks. Just as the air was turning hot and moist, two very large men squeezed in despite the elevator alarm sounding.

Behind me I heard one of the women mutter, “Why is it the fat ones always think there’s enough room for them?” I turned toward her and realized that she and her friend were stewardesses, although their uniforms had no airline pins or patches.

“Who do you fly for?” I asked, hoping to re-route her mouth.

She took a long time to answer. “United,” she whispered without making eye contact.

Since United Airlines forcefully removed a passenger and the video went viral, how many times had these hardworking stewardesses been ridiculed and booed? I recently read an article that reported United’s staff had even been spit upon and tripped while walking through airports.

Our world is filled with hurting people. We may not be called to present the gospel to every one of them, but we always have time to love them.

“You can still be proud. The skies really are friendly,” is all I said.