Posted by: calloftheandes | May 9, 2018

Ecuadorian Hospital and University Unite to Offer Certified Training for Chaplains

Members of the first class of a chaplaincy specialization program are photographed and interviewed before their graduation ceremony in February 2018.

When a need arises for medical attention requiring a hospital stay, there are ways to make the time pass more pleasantly and even to one’s benefit. In Ecuador’s capital city of Quito, participants in a new chaplaincy program hope to optimize a patient’s experience.

Twenty-five adult education students are learning how a chaplain’s involvement may contribute toward a patient’s wellbeing and recovery. The start of their training in March represents a second group of chaplaincy aspirants, following the February graduation of the inaugural class of students.

Two entities, Hospital Vozandes Quito (HVQ) and Seminario Sudamericano (South American Seminary or SEMISUD) collaborated on designing and implementing the course. HVQ chaplains assist adjunct instructors in the teaching.

The chaplaincy program designed for pastors and lay leaders who want to better integrate spiritual with a patient’s medical care. Additionally, the concerns and needs of a patient’s family are also considered. Hospitalization represents an opportunity for people to hear and respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The only such curriculum in Ecuador, it is a for-credit, specialized program that costs participants $1,000. The course includes 10 three-day modules and covers such topics as “Intervention during a Crisis,” “Ministry during a Terminal Illness,” and “Caring for the Caregiver.”

L-R: Chaplains Alexis Astudillo, Galo Carrión and Jorge Rea with Gary Gardeen at their devotional time.

Alexis Astudillo, a pastor and clinical family counselor, is heading up the chaplaincy learning initiative, according to Reach Beyond missionary Gary Gardeen. (Reach Beyond is the parent organization to HVQ, which first began tending to patient needs in October 1955.) Gardeen and his wife, Mary, returned to Ecuador and HVQ upon Gary’s retirement as executive director of a continuing care retirement community in their home state of Minnesota. Prior to that work in the United States, they had served as missionaries in Quito, where Gary was the hospital’s administrator.

As word spreads about the HVQ/SEMISUD chaplaincy specialization program, those enrolled in the second training class include people from Brazil, Cuba, Switzerland and Honduras, along with Ecuadorians, according to Gardeen, adding that there is a waiting list to take the course.

Maria Angela Navarrete

At the February graduation ceremony of the training initiative’s first class, Maria Angela Navarrete said that she had found classes to be “very good; they were very academic.” Formerly a volunteer at HVQ, she considers the teaching staff to be excellent, using good methodology. The collaborative efforts with fellow students also to be excellent, she said.
At 75 years old—the oldest of the 20 graduates in February— she drove to Quito each month for 10 months from the town of Baños in a neighboring province.

A classmate, Maria del Carmen Aldaz, 63, characterized her graduation as a dream that became reality “because the Lord put into my heart many years ago this calling to serve.”

“This event fills me with so much joy,” Aldaz said. Awarded with a Hospital Chaplaincy diploma, the graduates are certified to minister not only in hospitals, but also in clinics, orphanages and funeral homes.

Cecilia Hidalgo, 70, ministers at a large Quito health care system, Hospital Carlos Andrade Marin, working with patients in in the oncology and hematology departments. She is one of two volunteer chaplains in the 700-bed facility.

Cecilia Hidalgo and family members pose for photographs at the February graduation of a chaplaincy specialization program in Ecuador.

Hidalgo found topics such as suicide and euthanasia to be troubling, but is thankful for the opportunity to study chaplaincy. As part of the program’s required practical application, she researched ways to help the tiny chaplaincy program grow at the large Social Security hospital.

Another graduate, Milton Cortéz, 60, is pastoring in Quito at churches affiliated with Verbo (Word), which sprang from the 1970s Jesus movement in the U.S. When he read about the course, he determined it to be something he had wanted for 30 years to complement his pastoral training. He viewed the graduation as “the culmination of a program that I believe that—for all those who participated—has changed us, has transformed our lives.” He—along with Aldaz and Hidalgo are doing volunteer chaplaincy at HVQ.

Milton Cortéz and family members celebrate a joyous occasion after Pastor Cortéz received his diploma in hospital chaplaincy at a ceremony in Quito, Ecuador.

“Just as the hospital is forming medical professionals,” said HVQ Coordinator of Chaplains Galo Carrion, “so too we are shaping chaplaincy professionals. Hospital Vozandes’ contribution to the community is to strengthen health care in a way that integrates spiritual and physical care.”

With the second group meeting each month for classes in Quito, Gardeen sees not just different countries represented, but also “a multitude of views out of an evangelical perspective.” From one group to the next, age demographic has shifted too. “I’m excited that the second group is 20 years younger,” Gardeen said, “with an average age of maybe 35 years.”

Hospital Vozandes Quito is a tertiary care facility boasting 76 beds and a residency-training program for doctors, with several Ecuadorian medical schools. Chaplaincy has grown up with HVQ during its 62-year history in Ecuador. The year 2017 however, marked the first time that the mission hospital opened up its chaplaincy-training program to the public.

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