Visiting patients offers insights into strength of faith among everyday Americans

If you believe the mainstream media and Hollywood celebrities, you’d think Americans with faith in God are fools, stooges or nutcases. But nothing can be further from the truth.

Until recently, progressives kept their disrespect for religious faith under wrap, but today they openly ridicule people who offer prayers for the victims of tragedies. They have no qualms about belittling individual believers like Vice President Mike Pence, whose faith in Christ was attacked by the cast of “The View” a few days ago.

Fortunately, I come in contact with a radically different America every week.

For nearly three years, I have been a patient visitor for the Spiritual Care Center at a local hospital. I’ve visited nearly 3,500 patients and countless loved ones while making my weekly rounds. In all that time, only 12 people have spurned me after I identified myself as a faith-based visitor. The rest have welcomed me with warmth and gratitude.

That’s certainly not what I expected when I started. When I report to the center, I’m given a list of patients, their room numbers and their church affiliation. From the first day, the church affiliation for at least half the patients was “None.”

But that information proved to be misleading. I found out many were uncomfortable about telling the hospital about their church, and the others professed a strong faith in God even if they weren’t currently active church-goers.

A good number of patients were surprised the hospital provided spiritual services. Almost invariably, they said they hesitated to talk to strangers about their faith because newspapers, internet sites, television and movies implied they were yokels, misguided or psychologically defective. Some said I gave them a chance to talk about God for the first time in ages. Many also expressed relief that they weren’t alone in cherishing their faith secretly.

While I’m not a proselytizer by any means, some have told me my visit has inspired them to rejoin a church.

The overwhelming majority of patients I’ve encountered are Christians, but I’ve also visited Jews, Hindus and Muslims. Only atheists, it seems, are averse to hearing that I will pray that God relieves their pain and grants them a speedy recovery.

I’ve visited a variety of patients, from recovering stroke victims and dementia sufferers to people who have had shoulder, knee or hip replacements. Sometimes, when a person with dementia is agitated, he or she will calm down and join me when I recite the Lord’s Prayer. That’s when I see the power of prayer in action.

The patients are as likely to inspire me even more than I do them

One whom I’ll never forget was a woman in her mid-50s who was being visited by two of her sons when I stopped by. She was bursting with laughter while the men sat grim-faced in chairs at her bedside.

She continued laughing as she greeted me. Rarely had I seen a patient in such high spirits, but her story was anything but funny. She had been diagnosed with cervical cancer a few months earlier and had been told earlier that day that the cancer had spread to several vital organs. Before I walked in, she had been arguing with her sons about her future treatments.

Her sons were trying to persuade her to forgo the agony of surgery and chemotherapy, but she would have none of that.

“My mother had the same kind of cancer, so I’m thinking it’s probably genetic,” she told me. “If I go through all these treatments, they might find one that works. I owe it to my kids and grandkis to help find a cure if this really something that I’ve passed on to them.”

I found myself a new hero that day.

Yes, visiting the afflicted is a two-way street. And I can’t think of a better way of learning how everyday folks are bolstered by their faith in God even when the mainstream media offers them nothing but mockery and disrespect.