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By Tobin Perry
In this related video, see how Tony Beazley shows the love of Jesus to military veterans.
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Bill Andrews* had spent his entire
life serving others—his family, friends and his country. Now the Korean War
veteran lies in a hospital bed waiting on death. The man who had so readily
helped others, now feels like a burden to friends, family and the hospital
staff surrounding him.
That’s where Southern Baptist chaplain Anthony Beazley (@chapbeaz)
comes into the picture. The chaplain has been a regular fixture by Andrews’ bed
at the West Palm Beach Veteran Affairs (VA) Medical Center in West Palm Beach,
Fla., in recent days.
“I consider him a friend,” Beazley said. “I listen to him at
the end of his life now. I listen to the pain—not the physical pain but the
pain of loss. Things about his life that he had never shared with me before.”
And, as he listens, he comforts the best way he knows
how—through God’s Word. Though Beazley must be able to help patients regardless
of their spiritual backgrounds, he never shies away from pointing people to the
Bible. He is one of more than 3,600 Southern
Baptist chaplains endorsed by the North American Mission Board, serving in a
variety of fields throughout North America. According to NAMB, 128 chaplains
currently serve in VA hospitals.
Beazley once served in the Air Force and had been both a
pastor and a hospital chaplain before his current position. He sees those to
whom he ministers today as true American heroes. According to the U.S.
Department of Veteran Affairs, more than 8.5 million American veterans were
enrolled in its healthcare system in 2011.
“I don’t even like to call them patients,” Beazley said.
“They’re truly heroes. They’ve been willing to sacrifice their lives for us.”
As a VA hospital chaplain Beazley, who serves as the chief
of chaplain services at the hospital, operates in many ways as if he were a
pastor of the patients in the hospital. Like a pastor, he cares for and
counsels patients throughout the hospital. A typical day has him visiting
patients, officiating funerals—and helping veterans with a variety of practical
tasks that at times can bog them down.
Beazley says chaplains in active service and in veterans
hospitals often get the reputation as the go-to-person when someone’s out of
options. Beazley frequently helps patients find what they need—like getting
their questions answered or acquiring help from another area of the Department
of Veterans Affairs—regardless of whether the need is spiritual or not.
Often, his most important ministry is simply listening.
“Many times they just need that ministry of presence,”
Beazley said. “They just want someone to hear them, to pray with them and to
share their struggle with them.”
Frequently, the conversation turns spiritual. The hospital
where Beazley serves has one of the oldest patient populations of any VA
hospital in the country. His patients typically turn to eternal questions.
“They want to know about what’s out there,” Beazley said.
“Many times questions come up—like ‘What’s next?’ or ‘What will God say to me?’
I’m able to share a bit of Scripture with them and help them see what’s in
store for them in eternity. I’m not there to proselytize, but I’ve been able to
talk to people at the end of life who wanted to hear the gospel.”
Beazley loves it. Although he’s often called upon to preach,
providing pastoral care is his true calling. As a former serviceman himself, he
feels at home with other veterans.
“Some days I want to walk away and say, ‘I’ve had it,’”
Beazley said. “But I know God has called me to this. If God has called me to do
this, He’s looking out for me. I know I’m in His will. And He will shower me
with His grace and give me the strength to come back the next day and do it all
Beazley recommends that others who feel that God might be
leading them into a chaplaincy hospital—for veterans or otherwise—to take the
time to get any possible training, both in academic and on-the-job settings.
Because of the important nature of the work, he suggests potential chaplains
don’t take shortcuts in training just to get it behind them. He also recommends
those interested serve with their church’s hospital ministry or shadow their
pastor as he makes hospital calls.
God uses Southern Baptists to provide much of the strength
Beazley needs. He appreciates the cards, letters and prayers that come from
being a North American Mission Board-endorsed chaplain. One man sends Beazley
an email of encouragement every year on his birthday—and promises his prayers
throughout the year.
“I couldn’t do what I do without the support of Southern
Baptists,” Beazley added. “Even at a big hospital, it’s often lonely as a
chaplain. We’re often listening to the needs of others, but people aren’t there
to listen to ours. So when Southern Baptists send a card or a letter, it’s very
encouraging to know we’re not alone.”
Tobin Perry writes for
the North American Mission Board.
*Name has been changed to protect the patient’s privacy.
Date Created: 2/25/2013 1:56:08 PM
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering®© Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC