While the work of the sanitarium chaplain differs widely from that of the evangelist in the field, the chaplain is nevertheless engaged in evangelism of the highest order. No class of gospel workers is confronted by greater opportunities for winning souls than are the sanitarium chaplains. The contact of the chaplain is largely with a class of persons who are very difficult to reach by ordinary methods of evangelism, due to the following reasons:
First, many who come to our health institutions are chronic invalids, and must often receive physical help before it is possible to convey spiritual truths to their understanding. Second, the strain of business life, or the whirl of social requirements involving men and women of wealth, has not tended toward an inclination to things of a spiritual nature. But when such people come to the point of absolute need, and are led to place themselves under the kindly influences of sanitarium life, it is then that spiritual truths, and the principles of Christian living, make a profound and lasting impression, and many times lead to entire transformation of life.
Our sanitariums are established primarily to save souls. The splendid system of treatments, administered by skilled physicians and nurses, serves as a means to the divinely appointed end,— the healing of soul and restoration of body. There must ever be kept before all those connected with the institution in any capacity, the fact that the routine of physical service, however efficiently administered, will fail to measure up to the divine standard, unless each act of service, whether as physician, nurse, business manager, matron, cook, chambermaid, laundryman, or bell boy, is the outgrowth of a living Christian experience.
In sanitarium evangelism, it is the life, more than the words, which counts; and yet there must ever be diligent watchfulness to scatter tangible seeds of truth. While we are plainly instructed in the book, " Ministry of Healing," page 120, " At the bedside of the sick no word of creed or controversy should be spoken," there is danger lest we become too reticent in this respect, and fail to do what we should in tactfully presenting the truth as occasion presents. We must never fail to heed the inspired injunction, " Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days." It is true that we are often disappointed in seeing our spiritual contact broken through departure of the patient before there has been time to see the full fruition of our hopes, but this should not discourage us. Wherever possible, the spiritual contact made should be strengthened by correspondence and literature.
As chaplains, we bear the responsibility of securing and maintaining the closest co-operation of every department in the institution for strengthening the spiritual life. A fundamental phase of this institutional cooperation consists in physicians and nurses pausing in the early part of the day's activities to assemble with the patients and guests in the parlor for morning worship. If the doctors do not co-operate in this respect, but instead engage in their regular morning calls during the worship hour, the result is that patients remain in their rooms who otherwise would attend morning worship, and the bed patients are interrupted while listening in over the radio to the devotional services. The activities of nurse and chambermaid at this hour may also deter from the morning devotions. The presence and personal testimony of physicians and nurses at the weekly prayer meeting also wields far-reaching spiritual influence.
Let us never rest, satisfied until the spiritual standard of the sanitarium is maintained on the high level on which it was divinely established. The chaplain of the institution, although he may be a faithful standard bearer, cannot bring the forces up to the standard without hearty co-operation on the part of doctors, nurses, and helpers. This cooperation is most readily obtained when it is possible to keep the multitude of professional and mechanical duties subservient to the design of God in establishing such institutions, which is clearly stated on page 205 of " Counsels on Health," in the following words:
"God designed that the institution which He should establish should shine forth as a beacon of light. . . . The Lord revealed that the prosperity of the sanitarium was not to be dependent alone upon the knowledge and skill of its physicians, but upon the favor of God. It was to be known as an institution where God was acknowledged as the Monarch of the universe, an institution that was under His special supervision. Its managers were to make God first and last and best in everything."
Chaplains are watchmen stationed on the walls of these beacon-light institutions, and in a very special sense are under the responsibility of giving constant heed to the solemn charge set forth by the prophet Ezekiel, as found in the thirty-third chapter of his prophecy.