It may be surprising to many to know that there are many opportunities for giving regular Bible studies in our sanitariums. These opportunities come to the Bible instructor through various ways.
A physician, in his contacts, may notice an interest and refer it to the Bible instructor. Or, as he sees a problem or condition which can be handled through the spiritual approach, he may consult with the chaplain or Bible instructor.
Similarly, while the nurse is giving a treatment or answers a patient's call, she makes an observation, and refers the interest to the chaplain or Bible instructor. The supervisor, the clerk at the desk, or the housekeeper—all contribute in bringing attention to interested ones. Every now and then the patients tell of others who seem receptive, will repeat a conversation, and suggest that something be done.
The Bible instructor herself has ways of finding openings. One of the best ways is to visit the patients, calling on each one. In the conversation she notices the interest or lack of it. Often a book or pamphlet will help to break the barrier. There are certain spiritual, nondoctrinal booklets that seem to be especially enjoyed, and the Bible instructor can make a wise choice in selecting these as various interests develop. In the conversation she can prepare the way for something she would like the patients to read. The Bible and the books Steps to Christ and Ministry of Healing are in each room, and these are often read and purchased by patients. The Bible instructor on occasion refers to certain chapters or texts that are appropriate for the patient to read.
After taking the admittance medical history of a new patient, an intern stopped by with the comment that this young woman needed help spiritually. She was a fashionable young woman whose marriage had thrown her into a social whirl. That, coupled with the standards so different from her own, had taxed her to the limit and brought on a nervous collapse.
At home she had already begun to study the Bible in an unguided way, reading wherever it happened to open. Seeing Steps to Christ in her room, she read it through the first day, and later purchased a copy for her personal library. The Bible studies fascinated her, and each day she brought up questions for which she wanted Bible answers. Before leaving, she asked for books on various subjects, and planned to continue her study through the Bible correspondence course. The studies crystallized her convictions on a better life.
One of the desk clerks became acquainted with another patient who had a diagnosis of inoperable cancer. And although the woman showed no interest, I was asked whether would not try to find an opportunity to study with her. It took at least two months to discover any interest. During those early studies she was cordial but so noncommittal that it hardly seemed worthwhile. Then one day, after we had to omit a study because of an interruption, she remarked to the housekeeper, "I don't know why that had to happen just as we were about to have a Bible study."
A new patient commented, "This is such a lovely place, and you seem to be such lovely people. I've never known any Seventh-day Adventists, nor why you keep Saturday. I believe though, people used to keep it in Old Testament times."
I agreed with her that people had kept Saturday, the Bible Sabbath, in Old Testament times, and that we studied the Bible diligently, and if she wished, I would study with her.
During a Bible study last week a patient asked, "Do you think that if one prays to the Lord and asks Him the reason for his affliction He will reveal it?" I replied that He does not always show us the reason for some things, but someday we will know.
Her reply was, "Well, I think that He shows us partly at least; for instance, with me, how would I ever have known this truth if I had not been directed here?" This woman, the mother of five children, was afflicted with poliomyelitis five years ago. Her local hospital did not use the Kenny treatment, and the Polio Foundation sent her here for treatment. She is now ready to be baptized.
These are just a few ways in which opportunities for Bible studies develop. Actually there are a great many opportunities for the sanitarium Bible instructor. The amount of work she can do depends upon the time she can devote to it, her physical limitations, her consecration, and her initiative.
Student Nurses as Assistants
The Bible instructor in sanitarium work participates in the nursing school teaching program for student nurses and in the supervision of their practical experience in giving Bible studies. The student nurses study Ministry of Healing, which stresses the example of Christ's correlation of spiritual ministry with the physical, and there are two courses in Bible doctrines taught by the chaplain. In these the key texts on each subject are stressed so that the nurses will be able to quote from memory if there is an opening for a brief Bible study in the course of a conversation. In the senior year the Bible course of study is "The Life of Jesus," from the book The Desire of Ages.
Each student is required to audit four Bible studies and to give four Bible studies. Two of these are of the conversational type, and the other two are organized, planned studies.
It seems more satisfactory, in assigning the planned studies, to have the student give studies to patients who have already had several studies. Then the student is well received, and the patient is receptive. The students thus have better experiences and better impressions, which we hope may inspire them into an interest in the spiritual purpose of Seventh-day Adventist nursing.
How Graduate and Student Nurses Can Help
The nurse, both student and graduate, can co-operate with the Bible instructor and chaplain in the following ways in creating interest.
1. By the example of her own life.
2. By prayer, both with the patient and when away from the patient.
3. By guiding the reading of the patient.
4. By making a special effort to acquaint the patient with our religious services, inviting him to vespers, to the church services, the prayer meeting, and young people's meeting.
5. By reminding the patient about our radio programs, both local and the Voice of Prophecy, and also those in the sanitarium.
6. By referring interested ones, or those who have any particular need, to the chaplain or Bible instructor.
7. By the singing band. The singing band meets and goes through the building singing. In one sanitarium it may be in the morning, in another at sunset Friday and Sabbath, or on Sabbath afternoon.
8. By a health correspondence course.
9. By a Bible correspondence course. Nurses can guide patients into that. to. By giving Bible studies.
The Washington Sanitarium co-operates with the Bible instructor department of near-by Washington Missionary College in arranging for a practice field in giving Bible studies. The students have won a place in the hearts of the patients with whom they are studying. The sanitarium Bible instructor selects the patient, paves the way with the beginning studies, and keeps in touch with the patient's spiritual interest and progress.
One of the prevalent problems to consider is the fact that many of the patients leave before a complete series of studies can be given. However, each one is told about the Bible correspondence course, and many begin the course while they are still at the sanitarium. Where the reader is agreeable and has a definite interest, the local conference is contacted for further personal work.
Only eternity will reveal the true fruitage of sanitarium Bible work. But at least the seed is sown with those who stay only a short time. Even though they may learn no more than God's true purpose in creating us and this world, His plans for our future, an understanding that He brings us all our blessings, and that the author of sorrows is His adversary, a beginning has been made. We have thus opened the way for future contacts with the truth.
May we fulfill God's plan and "heal the sin-sick souls by giving them the message of salvation," "knowing that the souls whom God brings in touch with truth and righteousness are worth saving."—Counsels on Health, pp. 430, 250. "When the future test comes, when enlightenment comes to them, not a few of these will take their stand with God's remnant people."—Ibid., p. 208.