Four years ago, I was working as a volunteer prison chaplain, and my wife Amanda was an A&E nurse. I was hearing from her first hand about the challenges facing the department. A&E departments are really a microcosm of society at large. You have the sick, the elderly, the poor, and many more – all in one place. Throw in the harshness of a cold winter and budget pressures and you have all the ingredients you need for a very difficult situation. We’ve all read news reports about increased waiting times and growing patient needs. The department was under all kinds of pressures.
It seemed so obvious to me. The church community is full of people willing to help. The NHS is in great need. There’s a proven link between Christian prayer and improved wellbeing. It was so simple. And that was really where ED Pastors started. We met the local hospital chaplain one day, got his support, and we began building from there.
ED Pastors are trained listeners who provide comfort, support and spiritual care to patients – and meet patients at their point of need, whoever they are and whatever their background. They’re there to serve, and to carry the peace and presence of Jesus wherever they go. Whatever the situation. From the mundane to the miraculous.
Today we have nearly 20 volunteers from over 6 churches. We’re active in one city with plans to expand into two others in 2019. And God is doing incredible things. We’ve had the privilege of praying with worried relatives, of getting water for a patient who hadn’t had anything to drink for 3 hours (he didn’t want to bother the nurses). We’ve had alcoholics say they feel sober after a moment of prayer. After a time of prayer with an ED Pastor one patient said they felt so much better that they wanted to be discharged (We always instruct them to follow the doctor’s advice). And we often have members of staff coming to us, asking for prayer with personal or work-related matters.
It’s true that the NHS is going through some tough times. But it’s amazing what happens when we seek to partner with the staff and just go in there to serve them in any way that genuinely solves a problem. The biggest thing I’ve learned is realising that no matter what you’re doing, you are changing the atmosphere. It doesn’t have to look a certain way. But if we partner with Jesus and partner with the people who need His help, He will always find ways to bring heaven to earth