Like so many labels the word ‘missional’ has different meanings to different folk. However, from my viewpoint as a hospice chaplain, all of life is missional. We all have an ‘errand to run’ in life. For some that comes very early. A five-year-old boy may say he wants to be a firefighter when he grows up and that does become his passion and vocation. Another person may engage in several missions in life before settling in on their passion years later.
Although, originally given to the disciples, Matthew 10 is a missional chapter for me. Jesus summoned and sent twelve men among the Israelite nation on a mission that changed the world. It is no different for us today. Whether intentional or almost by accident God’s mission is being fulfilled by ordinary folk like you and me. Whether it is being a master teacher or simply giving a cup of cold water in God’s name, His mission is being fulfilled. Many would shy away from the former role, but many can fulfill the latter.
After being in various ministry roles over my lifetime, I would have never envisioned myself in the role of a hospice chaplain nor considered it missional. However, a couple of friends suggested that I look into a position that was open with hospice. I did and was intrigued. In fact from the very first day on the job I was hooked because I was assigned to attend the funerals of two of our patients.
At one o’clock, the service was for a man who had been a nuclear physicist who helped develop the H-bomb in the early forties. At four o’clock the memorial was for a Jewish lady who was a holocaust survivor. Their lives and their stories were so diverse and riveting. It was between those two ‘bookends’ of life and story that gripped me. Those two memorials underscored the importance of “HIS STORY” and our lives … that is missional!
As the church seeks to be relevant today I would encourage the few, because it is not for everyone, who has the passion and the sense of mission to volunteer in walking alongside terminal patients and their families. Many of the patients are believers and so presence and support is important. But, beyond the patient there is family and friends, some of whom are not believers or who have become skeptical of “churchanity.” This is an excellent time to share our “cup of cold water in His name”. Or if the patient is an unbeliever or estranged from God it can be so important to help them navigate the choppy waters of their unfinished business.
A terminal diagnoses strips away all of the superfluous things in life. God, mate, family, and community all take on a new sense of meaning as well as urgency. And because the mortality rate for human beings constantly hovers at 100%, conversations can become extremely missional. We were created so that dying is the last threshold of living.
Please dialogue with me about your experiences or interests in being missional in the last chapter of life.
Bill Walker, Hospice Chaplain