Each week Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week we are thrilled to introduce Lauren Deer.
Lauren, tell us about your ministry journey, your sense of calling, and the places and ways you have served.
From birth, I was raised in the Baptist church and very active in the many activities our church had for children. I was very involved in the GA (Girls in Action) program as well as Acteens as a youth. There I learned a lot about missions and ministry. While I didn’t have any desire to be a missionary in a foreign country or preach in church, I did love to help with mission projects locally and nationally. The summer I was fifteen-years-old, I was asked by a youth leader to help with a local sports camp. I enjoyed playing sports very much, so I jumped on the opportunity. Most of the week went well, except for getting my front tooth knocked out by a plastic bat and having to be rushed to the dentist. I was able to return the next day and for the next year of my life struggled with God’s call into ministry. It was through this experience that I realized ministry wasn’t just going away to a foreign country to tell people about Jesus, or standing up to preach every Sunday. Ministry is using the specific gifts and abilities God has given me to serve the people that I interact with and share God’s love with them.
Throughout my high school career, I continued serving in local missions and in college I helped lead youth retreats through music and discipleship. While I was in seminary at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, I had the chance to do an internship as a fire chaplain intern with the City of Richmond fire department, which was of great interest to me since I had been able to do some volunteer firefighting in college. My first ministerial position while in seminary was the youth minister at Biltmore Baptist Church. After graduating from seminary, I was called as the youth and children’s minister at First Baptist Church Wallace, North Carolina. As I served in Wallace, I was able to join the local volunteer fire department as the first and only female firefighter in the department. As I served on the department for five years, I felt like my ministry went well beyond the four walls of the church, and into the community. I was often in the elementary schools volunteering and doing presentations, spending time with fellow firefighters, and interacting with the community during some of their worst days (house fires, accidents, injuries, deaths). In 2012-2014, I followed my call to do ministry outside the church and pursued chaplaincy through CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education). I was able to do a year-long CPE residency at New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, North Carolina near where I lived, and they offered me the chance to be the chaplain to the paramedics. It was during this year that my passion for emergency services chaplaincy ignited. I was able to form relationships with the paramedics and live life with them. During this time, I also worked to get my EMT so that I could work to offer medical care on the EMS because most chaplain positions in emergency services are volunteer within the organization.
After completing my residency in 2014, I took a job working with the Wallace police department as dispatcher and chaplain to the police officers. Through ridealongs and sharing meals together, I was able to build relationships with them, and minister to them as they faced stressful and tragic times, including the death of an officer’s teenage son in an accident.
Tell us about your new ministry position.
In June 2016, I was fortunate to begin working as a Preservation Coordinator with Carolina Donor Services, an organ procurement organization serving 7.2 million people in seventy-seven counties of North Carolina and Danville, Virginia. Carolina Donor Services facilitates the recovery of life-saving organs and tissues that help thousands of people. We also provide public and professional education about the critical need for donation and the importance of registering to be an organ, eye and tissue donor. I am blessed to work with an organization whose mission is to “maximize the passing of the heroic gift of life from one human-being to another through organ and tissue donation.”
As a Preservation Coordinator, I’m responsible for all areas of the surgical recovery and preservation of organs for transplantation and research as well as other duties to ensure that organs are well-maintained until they are transplanted.
In addition to taking care of these precious gifts, I also serve as a resource to our hospital partners by answering questions and offering support to them as we work together during the donation process. Before the recovery of the donor’s gift of life, we pause so that I may lead a special ceremony in which we honor the heroic donor, his or her loved ones and the recipient who will receive the gift. These moments are poignant and remind us all of the power of donation.
I would like to connect members of the faith community to our Communications Department to build upon Carolina Donor Services’ existing faith-based outreach. I hope faith leaders will encourage their congregants to register as a donor as well as remind them to share their end-of-life wishes with loved ones. A brief conversation now can provide so much comfort to a grieving family as they support their loved one’s generous decision to give life to another person in need.
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
My greatest joys have come as I have had the chance to perform sacred ordinances outside the church. Sharing in such sacred moments as I held a newborn child in my arms in the hospital to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for a healthy birth, imposed ashes on the heads of paramedics who too often see the mortality of the human race, officiated Christian weddings of firefighters whom I serve alongside, and honored the life of young man with a grieving family who didn’t have a church family support them through such tragedy.
What have been your greatest sources of challenge in ministry?
My greatest challenge for ministry is the fact that first-responder chaplaincy is not highly recognized by fire, EMS, and Police departments, and often times the quick fix is to bring in a religious person to make them talk about their feelings. Emergency personnel are a very tight knit group that don’t welcome outsiders very much, so in order for chaplaincy to be effective, relationships have to first be developed before trust of more sacred things can happen. There seems to be a lack of first-responder chaplains to network with and glean information from, but through Campbell Divinity’s Doctoral program, I have found a group of ministers and professors that allow me to share my story and gain feedback as I seek to find ways to best minister to fire, EMS, and police. My hope is that first-responder chaplaincy will be something all departments seek to have in order to provide the best care for their staff.