The Baylor Health Care System (BHCS) in the Dallas-Fort Worth area has ventured into friendly but uncharted territory to address one facet of our century-old calling as a healing institution.
The new office of Faith in Action Initiatives builds on Baylor’s tradition of sharing our human and physical resources with the local and global community. Thankfully, other faith-based hospitals are likewise taking steps to address their stewardship responsibilities in similar, intentional ways.
Commitment to the Christian healing ministry has guided Baylor’s multi-hospital system since its founding.
George Truett, former pastor of First Baptist of Dallas, offered a quintessentially Baptist perspective in 1903 when he stated, “is it not now time to build a great humanitarian hospital, one to which men of all creeds and those of none may come with equal confidence?”
Now, we’re carrying that perspective to locations as close as south Dallas and as far away as Ukraine and Kenya.
Baylor’s Faith in Action Initiatives is designed to equip staff members as they volunteer in all kinds of local and international mission contexts. With nearly 20,000 employees, BHCS has impressive numbers of doctors and nurses who volunteer annually in medical missions. Faith in Action Initiatives enhances what they do by providing resources to empower employees, champion their cause and celebrate their efforts with the whole Baylor family.
The new office also coordinates the recycling of decommissioned medical equipment, which we call “Second Life Resources.” Such medical instrumentation can maintain productive usage in many international contexts. For example, we recently sent $60,000 worth of medical equipment to a hospital in Jamaica. We will work closely with partners to verify that any donated equipment can be efficiently utilized and well maintained into the foreseeable future.
Our Second Life Resources vary from the predictable medical equipment to a food freezer and even a 35-year-old Baldwin organ. The high quality organ was rarely used in our auditorium, so we found a new home for the instrument. The proud new owner is a prodigy who has already performed on piano in Carnegie Hall at age 13. Now, this 16-year-old “seasoned young man” directs an adult church choir in Richardson, Texas, and is mastering the intricacies of the organ.
Faith-based hospitals must doggedly analyze their stewardship of both human and material assets. The larger the hospital, the easier the resources can be underused or even disregarded.
To meet that challenge, Faith in Action Initiatives works in harmony with our pastoral care chaplains as part of the Office of Mission and Ministry. The chaplains serve as an informal network to encourage medical staff to volunteer in community missions and around the world.
Faith in Action Initiatives does not create missions projects. We simply use our assets to help equip others as they carry out their mission. We partner with Texas Baptists, Buckner International, Baptist Medical Dental Fellowship, the Baptist World Alliance and others to provide medical assistance in the name of Christ.
As to Haiti relief, more than 25 Baylor doctors and nurses have already traveled to work alongside medical colleagues there. We have sent more than 850 boxes of Baylor supplies to the beleaguered country. And Baylor trustees worked through Faith in Action Initiatives to send $50,000 for Haitian relief efforts.
Faith in Action Initiatives also oversees ministries directed to our staff. Our Sacred Vocation Program provides six weeks of training to guide employees to grasp the core spiritual dimensions built inside all “routine” hospital actions, from mopping floors to checking drip lines and dealing with patients. Also, a new parish nursing initiative is in the works as well as a formative spiritual leadership institute.
We trust Faith in Action Initiatives is inching forward with at least a noble start. Despite looming financial questions in America’s health-care industry, we heartily encourage other faith-based hospitals to create robust programs that call for the best stewardship of all their healing resources. Such a joyful journey will have a definite cost, but it will be transforming and redemptive.
Sounds biblical, don’t you think?
Donald E. Sewell is director of Faith in Action Initiatives at Baylor Health Care System in Dallas.