This year at CBOQ, at Assembly 2013 and beyond, we’re exploring the theme of SoulStrength — how Jesus build us up from the inside out. As an example of SoulStrength, we recently talked with one of our new hospital chaplains, Danielle Slump, about her work as a prayerful presence on the general internal medicine ward of Toronto Western Hospital.
What gives you life in your work as a chaplain?
I love hearing people’s stories. They’re a very sacred thing to me. People don’t want to be in the hospital. But I have the privilege to come alongside and listen to them during one of the biggest crises they may ever go through in life.
Do you find a unique transparency among the people you meet?
When you’re in the hospital you’re in turmoil. And you need to debrief that. In a lot of ways I’m a safe person. I’m not a doctor looking for a diagnosis. I’m not a family member who might be distressed by questions about death. I have no agenda, just time to talk.
What have you learned about yourself as a chaplain?
I grew up in a family that loves really well and that cares deeply for others. I was never yelled at as a child. But now I’m in a role where there are a lot of intense emotions. If patients receive upsetting news and I step in to discuss it, anger can be directed at me. So it’s been a really big learning curve to not take it personally.
Are there any parts of Scripture that speak to you in this work?
During my training, we were encouraged to look at a pastoral vision of ourselves. My image is that of Ruth with Naomi: how Ruth journeys with Naomi to her homeland. I now have the opportunity to do that with many people from various life circumstances. And when I think of this image, I wonder, could Naomi have completed this journey by herself?
What helps you persevere?
Sometimes it’s really hard. I hear such sad stories with so much suffering. But I believe that this is a calling. I believe that God gives me strength. And the thing about this job is you never know if you’re successful or not. Success is very self-defined. So I hold on to the belief that no amount of kindness is too small, and every moment I have the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus. There’s freedom in that.
How can we be praying for you and other chaplains in our midst?
Pray for wisdom. We encounter difficult situations every day for which we need wisdom outside of ourselves. And pray that we can experience God’s continuing presence. It’s easy to become jaded to the suffering and the pain. But there is hope in the gospels and we need to keep seeing it and extending it to those who have lost hope.
Originally published in the Canadian Baptist, Summer 2013.