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Lifestyle Counselors' Part in Spiritual Ministry to Patients

Agatha M. Thrash, M.D.
Preventive Medicine

Lifestyle Counselors are those closest to the patient on a day-to-day basis and therefore need to have a thorough knowledge of the simple steps required to lead a soul to Christ.

These key gospel texts are well known to most of us, but how and, more importantly, when to apply them is something we must learn.

How to invite a patient to take Bible Studies on her or his own time is also a necessary skill, and the L.C. will be delighted when a positive response is often the result of the right approach.

Lifestyle Counselors will often be pressed to discuss a doctrinal subject with a patient, and this must always be avoided. How to avoid this and how to divert the interest to a positive pursuit will depend on how the question was handled at the first instance.

HOW TO TAKE THE SPIRITUAL TEMPERATURE OF THE PATIENT AND DIAGNOSE THEIR SPIRITUAL NEED AND RECOMMEND THE DIVINE PHYSICIAN AND HIS HEALING METHODS IS THE AIM OF THIS SHORT ARTICLE.

Suggestions for Spiritual Dialogue with Patients at the Lifestyle Center

As the patient will have been acquainted with our spiritual values through our regularly scheduled morning and evening devotionals and our prayers before treatments he or she may feel somewhat trapped and under pressure during his or her stay here. They will undoubtedly expect us to press our other distinctive doctrines upon them also.

For this reason, it would be wise to use caution in addressing any subject relating to our doctrine. Sr. White counsels that doctrine should not be introduced to patients who are in our care for healing. But we may present to them "the matchless charms of Jesus."

Here are some helpful hints on conducting a one-to-one spiritual dialogue:

1. Be a good listener… there are many things the patient might like to talk about before you can get to the spiritual level of his needs. As you listen, seek points in his own words, which you can use as a "handle" to bring him around to spiritual topics. Also as the patient talks of him or herself you are getting better acquainted with his or her "real" problem and will be better able to petition the Lord on his or her behalf. The "handle" referred to above might derive from the following comment on the patient's part: "I was so stressed that I could not eat or sleep, my world just seemed to fall apart, I had no one to turn to, and then I became ill."

L.C. or counselor: "Yes, that often happens when we have extreme trauma in our lives, our bodies sympathize with the turmoil in our minds, and illness is often the result. But I am so glad you came here, for we want people to know that there always is SOMEONE to turn to. He is the One who said, "Come unto me and I will give you rest." That is the comfort you could have done with in the midst of your crisis, isn't it, Mary (or John)!"

Now for this occasion, the above may be quite enough for one session as far as spiritual input. Do not feel that you have to get an instant response and conviction every time you talk with the patient.

To end this interview, suggest that you have a prayer to Him who invites us to place our burdens on Him. Mention the patient's stressful experience in your prayer and his special need to come to know his Friend more. Keep the prayer personal and short, and your patient will look forward to more chats with you.

2. Before embarking on further spiritual conversations, the patient's present spiritual condition or his loyalties to his own church should be ascertained. This is done by being interested in him and discussing with him as a friend regarding his life, his beliefs, his work. Always find something positive to say about his church.

Now that you know what his beliefs are, you will know also the particular areas where his doctrines differ from ours. While we shall not discuss doctrines, we will accentuate the areas where we agree. Talk of God's providence in bringing him or her to Uchee Pines to get acquainted with the God-given natural remedies. Give instances of God's healing results in patients and generally show how God's presence is in this place.

3. The patient expresses no interest in anything spiritual, then in as friendly a way as possible explain to him that he has found himself in a place where the majority do believe in the Lord and that though he may not be personally interested in that aspect of things, he may find it instructional and interesting for the short time he is with us to join in and enjoy it as a new experience. This is a good time to give your own personal testimony in a five-minute capsule. Personal testimonies are of special interest to nonbelievers and to believers from other denominations who are eager to see the power of God working in other denominations besides their own.

4. The patient has no idea what you are talking about when you say "I gave my heart to the Lord" or "I was converted" or "I met the Lord." Then you must recognize that the patient might be really interested in the plan of salvation. Ask if they would like you to explain the steps in the plan of salvation. If they agree, then with a secret prayer for wisdom and power, you begin to explain the texts which lead a soul to Christ.

5. The patient may know a good deal about the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and has a fairly positive attitude towards the Adventist Church in general. Try interesting him or her in taking the Bible studies in his or her own time, either in the privacy of their own room or with you on a day-to-day basis. One thing you must point out at this time is that there will be no pressure from you or anyone else to study. It is an exercise they may enjoy for their own information and even as a pastime, while they are here. If they agree, then give them the first two and suggest you can come by the same time the next day for the completed ones to be corrected and to leave them the next two.

Always be prepared for the patient to say he has not started them yet or that he fears it will be too much for him. Always assure him that there is NO HURRY and that the next day will be fine with you. Encourage them to continue without making it seem like a chore. Let them not do it just to please you. It is important that they expect benefits for themselves by doing these studies.

If a time is set for you to come by to help or to correct the study, always be punctual, as otherwise the patient may think that it is not too important and he may discontinue the studies.

When you correct each question in the study, it is important that you KNOW THE ANSWER TO EACH QUESTION YOURSELF and that YOU can comment briefly on each question, while going over the topics. This means that you have a duplicate set of studies and be one study ahead of your student each time you meet.

This is an excellent time for prayer for deeper understanding for the patient on the vital subjects being studied.

The first eight studies are deliberately light in content and comment. The instructor also must remain light in approach, until the Holy Spirit brings positive response and conviction to the student of the Bible. At the end of each study, mark "excellent" or "very good," as the student wants to feel assured that he is achieving something, and he will continue more positively to search the word of God.

It is good to set a goal for the student—such as completing at least 12 lessons before he leaves (or 20); but the idea is to get them accustomed to studying the Bible daily, and to continue this practice at home, so you will remain their teacher by correspondence after they have returned home. While you are corresponding with them always include short, encouraging notes telling them how much you appreciate their positive responses to all the questions.

Sometimes as the student of the Bible comes to the study of doctrines that are new to them, there is conflict in their minds. Tact and patience is very important at this time. Instead of debating the doctrine, be it the Sabbath or tithes or the state of the dead, always remark only that you pray that God will give them power to DO HIS WILL, and if possible give them (or send) additional leaflets dealing with that particular subject.

When a patient is already accepting our spiritual programs and is likely to get a complete gospel presentation in the three weeks that he is with us, do not press additional instruction upon him before the Holy Spirit shows you his response to this dimension of his stay at Uchee Pines. There is a danger that overzealous LCs may apply "overkill" techniques and make the patient shy away from all spiritual instruction.

This problem is more serious when you consider that the patient has nowhere to run from us. We are with him from morning to night; he looks to us for treatments, for friendship, and for hope of healing from his maladies. If we are over-zealous in our presentation of the Gospel, without consideration for his need of privacy at times, we may be working against the Spirit.

"If we were kind, courteous, tenderhearted and pitiful there would be one hundred conversions where there is now one." 9T 189.

AS THE END DRAWS NEAR

"As the end draws near the work of God is to increase in full strength and purity and holiness. The workers are to be filled with love for God and for one another. In every soul will be kindled the fire of holy zeal. Company after company will leave the dark standard of the foe to come up to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the Mighty....

"When God's servants with consecrated zeal co-operate with divine instrumentalities, the state of things that now exists in this world will be changed, and soon the earth will with joy receive her King. Then they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever." CM 154, 155.

Contact Us For More Information

Uchee Pines Lifestyle Center
30 Uchee Pines Road #75
Seale, Alabama 36875