I feel like I’ve been given a great gift in the opportunity to write a reflection on this scripture passage from John 10. First, it is one of my favorite passages of scripture. More importantly, when Avera started supporting parish nursing 16 years ago we chose John 10:10 as the scripture verse to undergird our work.
At that time we considered several scripture passages to help us illustrate what parish nursing ministry is really about and what a congregation or an individual is offered through this ministry? We asked, “How can we be an extension of the mission of Avera and give voice and action to God’s command to preach, teach and heal?” In the end, the question that brought us to John 10:10 was, “What does it mean to offer someone abundant life in Christ’s name and in service to the Body of Christ?”
Parish nursing is a relatively new nursing specialty that involves raising the consciousness of a congregation to a new level regarding wholistic health. There is strong scriptural support for the church’s role in healing and health ministry, but for decades we, as church, have relegated that to hospitals, clinics, long-term-care facilities and other agencies in the community. As a faith-based organization, Avera is the exception to many health care providers in that we live out our caring ministry at Avera facilities based on the Gospel values. People who come to us for care know that God’s presence is real and alive in our midst.
Parish nursing extends this ministry into communities and into churches where we can minister to those facing difficult life transitions, those facing a long journey with a new diagnosis, those who are just discharged from the hospital and in need assistance understanding discharge instructions and new medications, and those at end of life. We walk with people through grief and loss. We partner with our inpatient facility colleagues to keep people independent and prevent readmissions for chronic illness. And parish nurses are an extension of Avera’s efforts to promote health and preventive care.
Together we, as Avera and as church, are called to support people so they experience abundant life. To live abundantly is to be aware that God knows us personally like a shepherd knows his sheep. It means we have the confidence that we are cared for. It also means we are tuned in to God’s will for our lives, like the sheep who listen to the familiar voice of the shepherd. We have to live our lives as though we are dependent on God and we follow. When we do this we are living in abundance and helping others do so, as well.