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Unplugged: ‘Ministry of presence’
By Scott Wudel on March 17, 2016
Guerrero uses his ‘gift’ to help hospital patients, others in need
No one wants to be in the hospital. Rarely are the words “hospital” and “happy” used in the same sentence. Even visiting a friend at the hospital can be an uncomfortable experience. But not for Rudy Guerrero.
Rudy, a program lead in Corporate Responsibility, makes trips to local hospitals all the time. He’s probably made hundreds of trips over the last seven years. No, he’s not sick. And he doesn’t moonlight as a physician. Instead, Rudy’s a guy with an open mind and a good ear.
Since 2009, Rudy has spent many of his evenings and weekends serving as a volunteer chaplain at two local hospitals. He’s not there to make new believers out of patients or to offer last rites to the gravely ill. Rudy simply, “meets them where they are.” He offers a consoling ear to those who may have broken an arm, who recently had an organ transplant, or who may be receiving treatment for a disease. He spent his first six years as a chaplain at University Hospital in the Medical Center before moving to CHRISTUS Santa Rosa earlier this year.
“Sickness doesn’t have any filters,” Rudy says. “Being one of the two major trauma centers in town, it (University Hospital) has everyone from the indigent to multi-millionaires.”
Hospitals can be hectic places and most patients are not there by choice. Often, just hours earlier, they may have been driving home from work or having dinner with a friend. Suddenly, they find themselves in an emergency room. Rudy is one of a handful of volunteers who step in, after hours, to listen and share a few hopeful words.
“No one really takes the time to see how the patients and their family members are doing,” he says. “I like to go in and ask them how they are. Sometimes they’re surprised and say, ‘So you’re actually going to talk to me?’ That gives them a chance to share how they are really feeling.”
Making house calls
Looking for even more ways to serve, he now goes beyond the hospital to local homes, offering encouragement for hospice patients and grief support for those who have recently lost loved ones. All of this is in addition to delivering hot meals and conversation to homebound seniors each week through Meals on Wheels.
“My heart goes out to the seniors. I try to provide them with someone who is unbiased,” says Guerrero. “Maybe they can tell me things they wouldn’t tell their own families. That’s been really meaningful.”
“All (hospital, hospice, grief support) are equally challenging. The ‘ministry of presence’– just being there – and being someone they can talk to, is rewarding. I have come to believe in divine appointments – that no encounter is by accident. I have a bunch of a-ha moments – everything happens for a reason. Being open to that and how you can make the most of each situation is important.”
Years ago, Rudy entertained the idea of becoming a full-time minister. But after serving as a volunteer, he now realizes he is already ministering to other people’s needs.
“Pastoral care – that is what I’m really in tune with,” he says. “Listening is a gift and right now I think I’m using that as much as I can and hope to use it even more in the future.”