How the Lamb of God Blessed My Hospital Chaplaincy
As a hospital chaplain in Lancaster, PA, just west of Philadelphia, I often see people facing difficult medical situations, those who are angry or depressed, or stricken with fear beyond belief. Even with family members and loved ones around, these visits are often a challenge for all involved. I do my best to assure them of God's presence in spite of their immediate reality. Yet time and again what I often find is even more challenging: an individual facing something very traumatic all alone. Bringing the presence of the Lord into the lives of these people in a tangible way was what led me to begin Heart of the Shepard ministry.
I felt led by the Lord to do something that would help sustain such individuals, provide them with the pastoral care they so desperately needed in between my visits. What I felt the Lord wanted most was for them to feel and sense His presence during their times of loneliness. This provided the framework for my ministry, a ministry that would be signified by a personal reminder of the love of the Lord.
I chose to provide each person I visited with a plush, tactile stuffed animal lamb,.. the well-recognized "Lamb Chop" Shari Lewis made famous 50 years ago. The plush lambs, I soon realized, offered a personal touch in a hospital setting, one that is inherently cold and impersonal. The lambs offered the person a companion, someone to talk to-and a visual reminder of the Lamb of God. In giving each lamb, I would remind people that God was and is with them always, they need only seek Him.
To make certain this thought stay with them, I made a tag for the collar of each lamb with the inscription: "Dear Friend, you are loved. We pray that this little lamb will comfort you during your time of illness or despair. May this love gift be a constant reminder of God's love for you. Call on His name. He will hear you and comfort you in your hour of need. Remember, 'the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.' (Psalm 23:1.) God bless you!" More often than not, the lamb was received with an outpouring of gratitude and emotion.
Soon after I begun the ministry, word got around my church and other churches and organizations. Volunteers came from everywhere, and the numbers of those involved in Heart of the Shepard has grown beyond what I could ever have imagined. We now have a network spread across the world and are funded by individual donations and several sponsors.
To date our little group has distributed more than 23,000 Lamb Chops. In the U.S., we have distributed lambs to victims of Hurricane Sandy, to tornado victims in the Midwest, and to families of victims of the Newtown Square, CT shootings. Lambs have also been distributed worldwide to China, Europe, Guatemala via Kairos Ministries, Russia, Scandinavia and the Middle East (to service men and women in Afghanistan and Iraq), and an orphange in India are just a few places where we know the lambs have spread their word of comfort. Lambs are distributed daily to give people comfort. The Lord directs their footsteps!
It is a blessing to see this ministry continue to grow and to see the Lord at work. His Lambs open the doors. My volunteers and I simply walk through them.