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04 December 2010

No turning back ...

Alejandro, one of my patients with AIDS, had died.  This happened twenty-five years ago, when I was a rebellious pastor's kid turned hospital chaplain. I had come to Brooklyn with lots of "baggage" about ministry and church and pastors and such.  So here I found myself at a Sunset Park funeral home. I wanted to pay my respects, no more, and so I sat on the last chair, right by the door -- acting like the died-in-the-wool Lutheran I am. I didn't feel like talking.

I didn't feel like talking, not at all.  But then a Puerto Rican man walked back to my seat. I recognized him; he was the oldest brother of the man whose death we were mourning.  He said simply, "We need you, man." "Need me?" I asked. "Yes, you", he said, "because you can bring us God's Word." As I stared at him, he continued, "We saw you with the Book, when you prayed with Alejandro in Intensive Care. You are a man of God. Come and pray with us. We need you."  So, in a somewhat dazed step, I walked up to the casket of Alejandro, pulled out my English/Spanish Bible and began to read Alejandro's favorite psalm.

"Porque él librará al necesitado cuando clame, también al afligido y al que no tiene quien le auxilie". -- The Lord delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper ...

And as I read and provided help to "the needy when they called", I realized that the Lord had slipped into the shoes of a Puerto Rican man and called this rebel into his service.  This was a turning point in my life -- my call into the ministry of healing; I have never turned back since.

Psalm 72

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