Last year, Linda Humston retired from a 48-year career in the healthcare industry that took her from roles as a registered cardiovascular tech, to pediatric cardiology and director of cardiology in such places as the University of Michigan Health System.
All those years of helping care for the human heart has actually prepared her spiritual heart to do what she loves most—serving God and people through chaplaincy.
In January, Linda was appointed the Disaster Relief Chaplain Coordinator for the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio. But she’s not new to chaplaincy ministry.
“I’ve always had the heart of a chaplain,” Linda said. “When I was interviewing for my CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) program, I remember being told, ‘You didn’t come to chaplaincy. Chaplaincy came to you.’”
Even during her medical career, Linda was frequently called upon to help patients and their families navigate the difficulties of their hospital stay.
“I recall a time when a 21-year-old shot himself in an attempted suicide, and he was brought into the emergency department where I worked,” she said. “They paged me to work with that family and the ER staff. It’s just one example of how I’ve always seemed to be doing the work of a chaplain even before having the title.”
She first felt God’s tug on her heart for chaplaincy back in 2002 while praying with a minister friend in Tennessee.
“I just felt such a calling into chaplaincy,” she said. “I just knew that’s what I needed to do.”
Before being endorsed as an SBC chaplain, she served in the Stephen Ministries Program to help people manage their grief. She’s also been a GriefShare counselor in church. In 2005, Linda served as interim chaplain at Bridgeway Pointe, an assisted living facility in Cincinnati, Ohio.
She currently resides in Columbus, Ohio, after various stops in parts of Ohio, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Michigan over the years. But it was in 2012 in North Carolina when her heart got pricked for Southern Baptist disaster relief work. She deployed several times in North Carolina and then after moving to Ohio to be the director of pulmonary research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the first thing she did was connect with her position’s predecessor, Nick Freeman.
“The thing I absolutely love about disaster relief is the fact that people will allow you into their space when they’re hurting,” she said. “I think that’s truly amazing, and it’s such holy ground when we can sit and talk with someone and pray with someone and just let them be what they need to be in that moment.”
So, when Nick called Linda, “out of the clear, blue sky,” as she puts it, to inform her that he would soon be stepping down from his position and that he wanted to recommend her to take his place, though she was slightly shocked, she was also very ready and prepared.
Now, getting firmly entrenched in the role, she’s beginning to envision ways to increase the number of chaplains willing to work in disaster relief.
“Although my primary role will be managing deployment, I really want to encourage more young people to come into the chaplaincy,” she said. “Ohio currently struggles with not having a lot of people who are deploying, and if you look at the ages on the Ohio teams, I’m going to be 67 soon, and I’m the youngest one. Most of these guys on our teams are between 70 and 85 years old.”
Linda’s convinced that if more people knew of the richness of disaster relief chaplaincy, more people would connect to it.
“I just don’t think a lot of folks know what we do and what can be done here,” she said. “I’d absolutely love it if I could be able to go around to various churches and let people know of the need and opportunities.”
She wants to invite more people along to embody her life verse, Galatians 6:2: “Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
“It’s a verse given to me while growing in a group called the Missionettes, but it’s so appropriate for what we do. When you get into that holy ground and talk with folks willing to open up, sometimes you can feel their burdens. And when that happens, I think we’re most like Christ.”
Published February 25, 2021