Visiting the Sick

counsel on visiting the sick.

Angeline Musvosvi is the Shepherdess Coordinator for the Eastern Africa Division; a nutritionist with the Ministry of Health in Zimbabwe; wife of Joel Musvosvi, the Division Ministerial Secretary; and mother of three children. She enjoys gardening, sewing and reading.

From time to time shepherdesses are called upon to visit the sick who could be family or church members, relatives or people in the community. Because of the shepherdess' position in the church, the sick often consider that her visit is special. Those that attend to the sick expect encouragement in a special way too.

Many shepherdesses are not confident in visiting the sick unless they go along with their spouses. By so choosing, they wish to leave much of the talking and praying to the pastor. While recognizing the need for teamwork, there are times when the shepherdess may need to go alone because the pastor may not always be available. Another reason is that some people may be more comfortable talking to the shep­herdess in the absence of another person. We need to make ourselves available and share our lives with the sick.

Most people will agree that visiting people when they are suffering and in pain is not easy. Among the most difficult cases are those that are terminally ill. Most of us do not have appropriate words to say on such situations. As a result people may visit the person to clear their consciences because they feel bad if they do not visit.

One of the very first questions to ask ourselves when thinking of visiting a sick person is why we visit the sick. We visit them because they belong to us. They Are part of God's family, and they need our time and love. When I go to visit, my interest should be in the person and not in the disease. I am not visiting in order to find out how bad the illness is. Neither does my visit pronounce healing. I am not even going there on the basis of a professional qualification, but as a shepherdess, I go there to reassure the person that God's presence is within the sick room. There may not he any special words to bring about comfort to the sick, but my presence and a listening ear could be all that the sick one needs that day.

When the sick are at home, we should consider appropriate times to visit. Avoid visiting in the very early or very late hours of the day. Where possible, consult with the attendants on the best times to visit. Frequent short visits are better than fewer long visits. For the sick in hospitals, we should observe the visiting hours. Ellen White suggests that there be less visits for those who are very ill, because this wearies the patient at the time when much rest is needed. To assure a person that he/she is remembered, messages of sympathy and small gifts will serve the purpose better than a personal visit.'

Invite the Holy Spirit to accompany you as you visit the sick so that you may be a source of comfort and blessing in the sick room. Upon entering the sick room, remain calm. Avoid any show of alarm, horror, or sorrow. There may be severe swelling, sores, and wasting away that may be beyond your imagination. Control is necessary because the natural response is to get alarmed by what we see. Give a look of encouragement as you move toward the person. In fact, as you enter the room, the sick will look at the facial expression to determine how bad you evaluate the condition, especially when it is a serious case. You will confirm it when you look disturbed and worried.

Show sympathy but avoid dwelling on it for too long. Whatever topic you touch, talking positive helps rebuild the person. After the initial greeting, we often fail to know what else to talk about. Find out how they are feeling and where the discomfort is. If the person is too sick to speak, find out information from the attendant.

Shepherdesses may not realize that they often are a source of infor­mation in many homes. There are a few common things to check for to be sure the person is well cared for. These include checking whether the room is clean, well ventilated, and has a comfortable temperature. Find out whether the person has sufficient bedding to keep warm. It is important to find out how well the person is eating and whether food is available at all. The diet should be adapted to the needs of the patient . in both quality and quantity. Where there is need, we should assist so that the person's needs are met. In some areas of the world, it is customary for people to bring something for the sick or the family. This must be encouraged because resources are often depleted when a family member is sick. Other topics to discuss briefly could include things near the person's space, friends, the positive past and future, hobbies, objects in the room including get-well cards, and pictures. Share positive news of things that have happened in the community or church family.

When communicating with the sick, the mind should be drawn to Christ, "the healer of the soul as well as the body... In many cases, the  realization that they have such a friend means more to the suffering ones in their recovery from sickness than the best treatment that can be givenn We should allow the Spirit to guide us as we share the love of Christ by the bedside. I may not have a wonderful story or miracle to share, but my path walked with God has many experiences that I can testify His closeness. Yes, even in times of pain, God's word, His presence, and love to His children are promised to all who love Him. God said that His grace is sufficient for us (2 Con 12:9), we need to be reminded of God's grace when faced with difficult times.

The sick need assurance of God's love that touches their lives in times of ill health. God's word has promises that remind us to surrender all to Christ, "Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will tact]" (Ps. 37:5); "Cast your cares on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous to fall" (Ps. 55:22). It is important to help the person realize that none of us is righteous enough to deserve God's mercies. Jesus paid it all and when we accept Christ, we are covered by His righteousness.

There are cases where the sick person may express a lot of fear because of the state in which they are. Psalms 56:3-4 tells us what we need to do when we are afraid, "I will trust in you.... In God I trust, I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?" Isaiah testified that we have perfect peace when the mind stays on the Word of God (Isa. 26:3). God's Word is special because it helps the mind focus on God rather than on the illness. The question of healing is God's decision; ours is to accept His will for us.

The sick may express feelings of guilt. Share how you deal with guilt in your own life. Remind the sick the assurance of God's forgiveness, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive us of our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). In seeking healing and peace of mind, it is important to make things right with God and our fellow beings. "Sin of a private character is to be confessed to Christ, the only mediator between God and man.... If by wrong practise they have led others into sin, these things should be confessed before God and before those who have been offended.".3 Do not try to fish out information the person is not offering.

It is often necessary to remind the sick what God says on the need to forgive one another. A free mind brings about physical healing (James 5:16). After confessing, the devil wants people to feel bad, and he keeps on reminding them of their past life. It takes faith to know that God accepts us after we confess our sins. Close with prayer. Thank God for His presence in the sick room.

Those that visit the sick need to observe the following:

  1. Never give the impression that you are too busy to listen to them.
  2. Never show that you are shocked or upset by what you see or by what they say.
  3. Control your voice so that you communicate confidence and kindness without being controlled by emotions such as crying.
  4. When overwhelmed emotion­ally, leave the room and cry away from the sick.
  5. Avoid whispering—it leaves the patient wondering and arouses their curiosity.
  6. Shut doors quietly.
  7. Talk positive about their past and choose words wisely.
  8. Do all you can to bring about quick recovery by observing health laws.

Each person who takes care of someone ill "should be cheerful, calm, and self-possessed. All hurry, excitement, or confusion should be avoided."' While we do the best for the patient, let us encourage them to trust in God who is acquainted with each sick person of his love for them is greater than ours can possibly be.

Angeline Musvosvi is the Shepherdess Coordinator for the Eastern Africa Division; a nutritionist with the Ministry of Health in Zimbabwe; wife of Joel Musvosvi, the Division Ministerial Secretary; and mother of three children. She enjoys gardening, sewing and reading.