The nurse who greeted us in the emergency room was pleasant and efficient. I could not help noticing, however, the colorful tattoo on her right forearm. Below the tattoo were two additional figures, which looked like Chinese characters.

Things were rather quiet and unhurried, so I chanced to ask about the tattoo, which by this time I had recognized as being an image of a butterfly.

She replied that it was her witnessing tool. “How so,” I asked? She declared that when people come to the emergency room and have some time to wait, they often inquire, as I had done, about her tattoo. She tells them the butterfly has long been recognized as a symbol of new birth. She quotes from II Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; Behold, all things have become new.”

If the questioner allows, she tells about her own conversion. On a few occasions the conversation has continued to the point that the listener has prayed to accept Christ.

The Chinese characters tattooed on her arm stand for the words “courage” and “loyalty.” So far I have not had the courage to get a tattoo on my arm, but I applaud the nurse’s unusual method of getting an opportunity to witness concerning the Christian faith. God has provided her with a location and position that allows her access to persons at a critical moment in life, a moment when their hearts may provide fertile soil for the planting of the gospel seed.

One Saturday I got a call from the nursing station at our small rural hospital. As the minister living closest to the hospital and a volunteer chaplain, such calls come from time to time. The nurse told me she had a patient who was struggling with a heavy load of guilt. The nurse had ministered well to both the patient’s spiritual and physical needs, but the patient still, apparently, wanted confirmation from an “ordained” person.

I had a good talk with the patient and assured her that God could and would forgive her for her sins. She was visibly relieved. Shortly, her son arrived from Florida to visit with her. She asked her son to go down to the cafeteria and have breakfast while she finished talking to the minister. In a few minutes we prayed. She was beaming as I left the room.

Along the paths of life we take, there are many, many people with deep spiritual problems. Christians need to be sensitive to that fact and find ways to be open for questions, to provide answers, to pray, to love, to minister to.

Some of us have positions that allow for us to do this. Others wisely find ways of making themselves available to hurting people by symbols and/or by appropriate behaviors. The ER nurse has both a position and a symbol which makes her available to talk with hurting people about spiritual matters.

Consider what you are doing and what you might do in our positions to give witness and minister.

Gary Farley is partner in the Center for Rural Church leadership, Carrollton, Ala.

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