I remember how anxious I was when I first started making hospital calls back in my seminary days. For eight-to-ten hours
a week, I would go from room to room as a chaplain intern calling on patients, visiting with them, trying to console them, and often having prayer with them. It may not sound daunting, but it unnerved me. At first, I would see a patient or two, then disappear to the waiting area where no one would pay attention to me, to give myself the opportunity to relax for a minute and to regain enough nerve to make the next call. I was so afraid that I would say something stupid or reveal that I did not know what I was doing.
I thought of that fear a while back, while in the county jail to teach a class for some of the people incarcerated there. As my partner and I walked down the long, forbidding corridors and as the sheriff’s deputy unlocked the heavy metal door to let us into the unit we were visiting, I could not help but notice the difference between the fear I once had in making a hospital call and the fearlessness I now had in addressing prisoners. Lots of years had come in between the two events. Successes and failures had occurred in the meantime. With experience I am now much more comfortable in the role of an ordained minister for Jesus Christ. It is also worth mentioning that I did not go into the county jail alone; I went with a colleague who shared the work with me.
In our Bible Lesson, Jesus appointed twelve apostles. In what was surely the first ministerial intern program, he sent them out two by two to begin the work of preaching the gospel.