Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces a fabulous minister, and today we are so pleased to introduce Sarah Miller.
Sarah, tell us about your current ministry role?
I am a hospice chaplain for SouthernCare Hospice in Waco, Texas. My office is in Waco, but my patients are anywhere within sixty miles of my office. I see patients in nursing homes, assisted living centers, and private homes.
What have been some of the challenges you have faced in your ministry journey?
I decided to really pursue this ministry five years ago. I didn’t have a seminary degree or enough CPE units to become a chaplain, so I had to start from scratch. I began another unit of CPE and enrolled in seminary. I got pregnant during my second CPE unit and was pregnant when I completed my first semester of seminary. My son, Caleb, was born during the middle of my second semester at Truett. Having a newborn and taking graduate level classes was tough!
When I think about challenges, I would have to say that my major ones have been with balancing motherhood and call. I absolutely know that I have been called to be a chaplain. Doing CPE units and going to seminary were necessary for me to live into this call. I also know that I am called to be Caleb’s mommy. It can be a struggle to do both well. I started a CPE residency ten days after graduation from Truett but dropped out five months later. I loved the learning component of CPE but HATED being away from Caleb so much. I prayed long and hard about whether I should stick it out or quit.
I am so thankful God provided this hospice position so that I could leave the residency. In my new role, I am able to set my own hours and have plenty of time with Caleb. I have breakfast with Seth (my sweet husband) and Caleb seven mornings a week. I pick Caleb up from school each day. I also take Caleb to visit patients if I have calls on the weekends. (My patients LOVE him!) This situation is a much better fit for this season of my life. Caleb is only going to be little for a short time!
I think the other challenge of ministry currently is that I’m a spunky, short female. I have a naturally bubbly personality, and I’m a high energy person. I work in lots of rural areas with patients who have never seen a woman minister. I have had to be very intentional how I relate to a few patients. I have one patient right now who will let me pray for him just so long as I don’t pray out loud. (I can pray in my head I guess!) I have a few others who have requested to be visited by the older, male chaplain. They don’t think it is right for a woman to be in this role. I never argue or try to prove my worth, but sometimes internally I want to scream.
Another challenge is that I look younger than I am. I get loads of comments about how I must be a Baylor intern (I’m 35 for the record). I also have patients who assume that I’m the social worker, even after I say to them several times that I’m Chaplain Sarah. I think ten years ago I would have been frustrated by these challenges, but now I just smile and move on to the next patient.
What do you love best about your ministry position?
OH this is SUCH a hard question!!! I LOVE so much about this position. I absolutely love that I get to walk with people at the end of life. I love that families allow me into their sacred space at a time when most people want to leave. I love that the ministry of presence is often the most needed thing. I feel grateful that I am able to hold hands with those who are dying and then hold hands with their loved ones after the loss. I do all of the bereavement care for this office so I spend lots of time in the days and weeks after a death with the family. I enjoy helping them navigate their ‘new normal’. I also love working on a hospice team with people who are so committed to giving each patient the most beautiful death possible. I also love that I can minister to people from all faiths and those who choose without it too.
What is the best ministry advice you have ever received?
I think of the words given to me by older women regarding ministry. One said “Sarah, your family is important, and Caleb is only going to be a kid for a window of time so prioritize your family and your ministry will be okay.” Her words give me a sense of peace, because often I feel like I have to minister all the time to every patient, and the truth is that my family needs me too! I get stuck in thinking that I can be all things to all people. Her advice made my soul feel free.
The second piece of advice was this: “You can do this. God created you for such a time as this. God has given you all of the gifts you need so GO DO IT!” I can compare myself to others and feel like someone else would be better. Ministry is a beautiful thing, but it sometimes feels like only spiritual giants were really cut out for this gig. This idea that God created Sarah Miller and gave her the gifts for such a time as this has been incredible for me. My professors often reminded us that God is already at work, and we just need to join in that work. This advice gives me room to sit down and breathe. Things are going to be okay, even if I’m not there to handle every detail.