The Rev. Angela Lowe has a tough job.
She has to listen to people Ã¢ÂÂ:quot; really listen to them Ã¢ÂÂ:quot; while they try to cope with some of the most difficult times in their lives.
Like finding out a tumor is malignant. Or that thereÃ¢ÂÂs nothing more the doctors can do to treat an illness. Or that a loved one has died.
Sometimes thereÃ¢ÂÂs nothing she can say to ease the pain.
Ã¢ÂÂI guess IÃ¢ÂÂve learned that itÃ¢ÂÂs not so much what you say as just being present with them, empathizing with their struggles or where they are spiritually. A human touch or a hug. Holding their hands. At those times, IÃ¢ÂÂm the visible face of God to them,Ã¢ÂÂ Lowe said.
An enormous responsibility, to say the least. But itÃ¢ÂÂs a role sheÃ¢ÂÂs honored to be able to play.
Ã¢ÂÂItÃ¢ÂÂs such a privilege to be with someone when they are pouring their heart out to you. ItÃ¢ÂÂs like being on sacred ground.Ã¢ÂÂ
ThatÃ¢ÂÂs an experience Lowe has a lot these days.
In August, she became full-time chaplain at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. She succeeds the Rev. John Polk, who served in that position for about a year. He has since moved to St. LukeÃ¢ÂÂs Hospital of Kansas City in Kansas City, Mo., where he is staff chaplain.
Ã¢ÂÂItÃ¢ÂÂs like being pastor to the whole hospital,Ã¢ÂÂ Lowe said, describing her job at LMH.
SheÃ¢ÂÂs available to help people with their spiritual needs. That means offering support while theyÃ¢ÂÂre in a variety of circumstances, such as preparing for surgery; waiting for a loved one; dealing with illness, loss or grief; wanting some prayer time; celebrating good news; or just in need of a listening ear.
Lowe is there not only for patients but for their families and the hospital staff, too.
Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂm here to listen to peopleÃ¢ÂÂs concerns and struggles, but IÃ¢ÂÂm not trained as a counselor or psychologist. I listen to where they are spiritually. I donÃ¢ÂÂt impose my beliefs or traditions on another person. I want my ministry to be one where everyone is accepted, a ministry of grace and not judgment,Ã¢ÂÂ she said.
Ã¢ÂÂ'Deep call from GodÃ¢ÂÂ
Lowe, 46, has spent several years training for her position as a full-time chaplain.
She comes to LMH from the VA Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo., where she did her clinical pastoral education from 1999 to 2001 and served as a chaplain resident.
Lowe attended Central Baptist Seminary in Kansas City, Kan., from 1998 to 1999, earning her masterÃ¢ÂÂs in divinity. Ordained in 1999 at Calvary Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., she is ecclesiastically endorsed by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Lowe lived in Little Rock from 1985 to 1998, where she worked for the Arkansas Baptist Convention, which encompassed more than 1,500 congregations.
Within that state-level organization, she worked for the WomanÃ¢ÂÂs Missionary Union, serving as a consultant and coordinating events for about 1,000 teen-age girls from across Arkansas.
During that time, Lowe took groups of nine to 10 girls on mission trips to Guatemala, Germany and Atlanta during the 1996 Olympics.
She earned a masterÃ¢ÂÂs degree in religious education in May 1985 from the Midwestern Baptist Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.
Lowe explained why she ultimately decided to leave her job in Little Rock and enroll in seminary to become a minister and chaplain.
Ã¢ÂÂIt was a deep call from God. I wanted to do hands-on work with people instead of administrative details in the office. I wanted to be out ministering to people and encouraging them to know God at a deeper level,Ã¢ÂÂ she said.
Ã¢ÂÂIt was a tough decision, because I basically resigned my job and moved to Kansas City, knowing I wouldnÃ¢ÂÂt have any income for a year. I was going to become a full-time student at Central Baptist Seminary.Ã¢ÂÂ
Praying for guidance
LoweÃ¢ÂÂs days are busy. She sees patients throughout the hospital, checking her voicemail everyday for referrals from doctors, nurses and social workers. She also attends meetings of LMHÃ¢ÂÂs Interdisciplinary Care Team, which is another source of referrals of those who might benefit from her support.
LoweÃ¢ÂÂs job as chaplain is probably hardest when sheÃ¢ÂÂs there to help at a personÃ¢ÂÂs death.
Ã¢ÂÂIf itÃ¢ÂÂs a time when youÃ¢ÂÂve gotten to know them, you grieve that loss and you miss them. But also, if IÃ¢ÂÂve been able to talk with a patient, and theyÃ¢ÂÂve been able to prepare for their death, itÃ¢ÂÂs like a homecoming for them Ã¢ÂÂ:quot; at last theyÃ¢ÂÂre not in pain anymore. TheyÃ¢ÂÂre whole again, and their spirit isnÃ¢ÂÂt confined to this body thatÃ¢ÂÂs aching and not what it used to be,Ã¢ÂÂ Lowe said.
She finds her strength in letting people know that she, too, is only human. That means being vulnerable and honest when sheÃ¢ÂÂs asked difficult questions about life and faith.
Ã¢ÂÂSometimes you say, Ã¢ÂÂ'I donÃ¢ÂÂt know,Ã¢ÂÂ because you donÃ¢ÂÂt know,Ã¢ÂÂ she said. Ã¢ÂÂI pray for GodÃ¢ÂÂs spirit to guide me because I canÃ¢ÂÂt do it by myself. I donÃ¢ÂÂt have all the answers.Ã¢ÂÂ