History will be sure to recognize the many, many people that stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in large part already has. Those people have been rightfully labeled as heroes for their work as doctors, nurses, first responders, among many others.
However, behind nearly every hero is someone who helped them along the way. These “unsung heroes” deserve the same credit as everyone else who put themselves out there to help in whatever way they could during the pandemic.
At Lake Norman Regional Medical Center, there’s a group that a majority of the staff believes should be recognized for the work they did to get everyone through the tough times of the last year: the Pastoral Advisory Committee (PAC).
The PAC is a group of volunteers that sees to the spiritual needs of both staff and patients at LNRMC, offering their assistance to those in need of encouragement or prayer before procedures, during tough times, and even at the end of life, to those that aren’t affiliated with a local church.
Dr. Robert Jackson, a retired pastor who presided over masses at Peninsula Baptist Church for 35 years, heads up the committee as the chairman while still actively volunteering as a chaplain in the hospital. However, the job has been made tougher by coronavirus.
“Pastoral ministry is up close and personal. You’re with people in a time of crisis,” Jackson said. “The COVID situation has limited that personal touch.”
Given the need for social distancing, and needing to give the medical staff space to work, the PAC had to adapt. The volunteers often participated in Zoom calls with patients or even recorded messages to be delivered to them.
Last May, the PAC also conducted a “Blessing of the Hospital” where each chaplain read a passage from the Bible and a note of encouragement where any staff that was able was invited outside to join in the prayer.
“The staff carries the weight of responsibility of providing health care on a 24/7 basis,” Jackson said. “Much of helping a person is knowing somebody is there — that they’re not alone.”
“I’ve missed being able to minister to staff,” Vickie Stowe said. “They are the ones that have seen the brunt of this pandemic.”
Stowe is one of the volunteer chaplains for the hospital who, even as a lay person, offers up her time every week to speak with those that need spiritual support within the hospital. She also was a participant in the “Blessing of the Hospital” last year.
Prior to the pandemic, she would come every Thursday and go through the entire hospital speaking with and praying for anyone that wanted it. From the clinic to the OB/GYN and the critical care unit, Stowe would go door-to-door offering up spiritual assistance. That was halted when the pandemic began.
She has still been able to come when requested by a patient or staff member, but she misses the interaction of her weekly rounds.
“I would have come during the pandemic if they would have let me,” she said with a laugh.
She was brought into the volunteer chaplain’s life by a former chaplain at the hospital who thought she was well-suited for the job.
“I actually put him off for two years,” Stowe said. “I finally came with him one day and it was like bait on the hook. I’ve never regretted (volunteering).”
Those that work with the PAC are patiently waiting for the day they are given the all-clear to return to their normal duties, but their contributions during the pandemic won’t be forgotten by those they’ve had a positive impact on over the last year.
“That’s why I signed up for Pastoral Ministry 40 years ago,” Jackson said. “I want to help people come to know God.”
“All of us that are a part of the Pastoral Advisory Council do it because we love God and we love people,” Stowe said. “And we want to share his love.”