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FIRST-PERSON: Evangelism in the workplace

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SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. (BP) – According to good Southern Baptist verbiage, I was “called into ministry” at the age of 16 while attending a WMU camp. I originally saw myself serving as a missionary nurse in a hut someone hidden away in Africa. To my surprise, however, I boarded a plane to Poland to serve as a Journeyman missionary shortly after graduating from nursing school. Upon my return back home, I attended seminary in Louisville, Ky., where I met and married my husband. Thus, the Lord grounded me in America as a pastor’s wife.

Over the past 20-something years, I have worked in various emergency room departments and recently added on a memory care unit for residents with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Though my job is technically labeled as secular, the Lord has shown me time after time that any work surrounded to His glory is holy.

As a nurse, I have the opportunity to meet people of all backgrounds. It has become a habit of mine to pray that the Lord will “let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in His sight” (Psalm 19:14) as I walk through the door of my employment. Allowing Him to prepare my heart to encounter individuals with the attitude of sharing His love and truth with them has opened the door for some amazing interactions.

One evening, I entered an ER room to discover a very elderly lady with a thick, European accent. As I tended to her physical needs, I began to ask where she was born. She began to share that she was Polish and as a small child, had been captured during the Holocaust. Her amazing story of rescue included being carried out of a camp kitchen in a large soup pot by some brave nuns who wanted to save whomever they could.

As her story continued, tears began to form in her eyes and she repeated over and over how “cruel humans can become towards one another.” I reached for her hand and allowed her to finish her story. We discussed a little more of Poland and she was surprised to hear that I had lived there for a short time. This unique connection opened the door for me to share with her briefly about the hope I have in Christ. She did not profess any faith in that little room, but she was definitely introduced to the only One who can heal a world where humans can be “so cruel towards one another.”

On another occasion, I met a precious patient with early stages of dementia. Her diagnosis has led to her living alone and separate from her family. She is still lucid enough to enjoy very normal conversations and desires the company of friends. One evening, I brought my 9-year-old daughter with me to work for a little while. The Lord made my child and this resident into instant friends. As I watched my daughter and her new friend walk around the facility, holding hands and smiling, I was reminded of how ministry comes in many forms.

In that moment, my little girl was a minister. She reminded the patient with both actions and words that she is worthy of love and precious to the Lord. As a result, I now have the privilege of being asked by the resident on occasion to pray with her about something or simply listen once again to her testimony of how she “met Jesus as a small child.”

I never ended up in that African hut. I probably never will. Instead, the Lord has placed my feet in some worn-out nursing shoes. As long as I wear them, I will continue to pray Psalm 19:14 and wait and watch for whoever He places in my path.

Lorie Keene is a nurse and a pastor’s wife in Shelbyville, Tenn.

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