1. Hinton, Sharon T.

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I never expected to go to Liberia! Honestly, the adventures God has placed before me have rarely been my idea. Some people wish they could see into the future; I don't. If I had known I'd be going to Liberia as part of my doctoral requirements, I am not sure I would have applied to seminary! Looking back, traveling to Liberia was one of the greatest blessings of my life. So many lessons and events provided glimpses of God at work in my life and the life of my classmates, I could write a book. However, for this column, I will focus on one event that impacted my spiritual journey.

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My doctorate of ministry tract focused on global health and wholeness, with class members from the U.S., Liberia, Congo, Uganda, and the Sudan. The U.S. hosted the first semester classes. The second semester, we were to go either to Liberia or the Democratic Republic of Congo. I chose Liberia.


Our Liberian classmates were wonderful hosts, proudly sharing about their country, their ministries, challenges, and blessings. One morning, we gathered on the steps of our meeting place, and our Liberian friends presented us with T-shirts. On the back of the shirt was a map of Liberia; the front confused me. Each T-shirt rendered the image of a large, long-eared rabbit head, with the words of Revelation 3:22. I wondered what a rabbit had to do with the theology of global health.


While we sat on the steps, one classmate told how traditional village chiefs follow the example of rabbits. All rabbits have long ears and a small mouth. Rabbits listen attentively and consider what they hear. Is there danger? Opportunity? What is the best course of action? Our storyteller explained that wise chiefs listen carefully to everyone about an issue before speaking or making decisions. Like faith community nurses caring for congregations, chiefs are involved in the wholistic care of an entire village. When the story was finished, another classmate read Revelation 3:22 (NIV), "Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches."


Understanding dawned on me-the rabbit on my T-shirt made perfect sense!


Faith community nurses can follow the example of a rabbit-listen attentively and contemplate before speaking or acting. What is the best course of action to serve the person or congregation well? What needs to be said, or left unsaid, based on the information received? How is the Spirit influencing your decisions? Sometimes our nursing background causes us to focus only on the physical aspects of a person or situation. Sometimes we jump into a situation to fix things, when our specialty practice demands that we slow down and find God in the experience so we can be with others instead of doing to or for others.


Consider your current ministry. What might you learn from the Liberian rabbit? Listen to the varying perspectives. Contemplate the situation. What are your options? Do you need to speak or remain silent? Do you need to listen or gather more information? What is your role, if any, other than listening? Most importantly, where is God in the situation, and what is the Holy Spirit saying to you?


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Resource Toolbox


* Lindahl, K. (2012). The sacred art of listening: Forty reflections for cultivating a spiritual practice. Woodstock, VT: Skylight Paths


* Miller, J. E., & Cutshall, S. C. (2001). The art of being a healing presence: A guide for those in caring relationships. Fort Wayne, IN: Willowgreen Publishing


* Wicks, R. J. (2015). Availability: The challenge and the gift of being present. Notre Dame, IN: Sorin Books