The reason I am still in the ministry is because of the night I decided to leave the ministry. It was my day off. The phone rang, and it was the chaplain at a nearby hospital. Usually we would exchange pleasantries, but all she said was, “Come to the hospital—now.” I trusted the urgency in her voice and arrived in about ten minutes.
I found her with a young couple from our church I knew and loved. I sensed shrieks and sobs lingering in the room, which was eerily silent; the wife and then the husband fell onto my shoulders. I could hardly bear their weight as they gasped for words. Their child Caroline, whom I had baptized a couple of weeks earlier, had just been diagnosed with a malignant tumor intertwined with her spinal cord at the base of the brain. I couldn’t parse the news. Then a man in a white coat said, “We must go to Duke Medical Center—now.”
James C. Howell is senior minister of Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and author of What Does the Lord Require? Doing Justice, Loving Kindness, Walking Humbly (Westminster John Knox).