My Story: Hospitals, Healing and the Kingdom of God

25 June 2024

My Story: Hospitals, Healing and the Kingdom of God Image

By Rev Jenny Busch

On June 30, the Uniting Church will cease to provide paid ministry placements to our State hospitals in Queensland. This marks a key moment in the life and ministry of the Uniting Church and the affected hospitals.

As one of our State hospital chaplains, I wanted to share with you a story of how God has been at work in and through our presence in these places.

I have been a UCA State hospital chaplain for the past eight years, mostly based at the Queensland Children’s Hospital but I have also served in the Mater Hospitals in South Brisbane, and the Princess Alexandra and Prince Charles Hospitals to cover absences.

As a hospital chaplain, I am invited to pray with so many people. I love it.

I love telling people about the Kingdom of God. I love prayer. I love resting into the finished work of the cross. I love celebrating with all people about what Jesus has already done on the cross for them and inviting them to receive it. I love declaring that the outpouring of the cross is for all people regardless of church affiliation, age, education, money or past or present circumstances.

I love celebrating that it is free and already given, and that it was offered long before we were born so it does not matter what we think of God – God has declared love for us.

I love going into a room with a patient or family, knowing that it does not matter what is wrong with them physically or emotionally – Christ overcame it on the cross. I love knowing that it is not about me trying to convince God to heal the person or family, it is about opening with them the healing which God has done on the cross so they can receive it, in whatever way it is offered.

So, what story do I share with you?

Maybe the one about the very sick baby who cried whenever he was awake – until I told him that, despite hearing other people saying he was going to die, Jesus came to bring him life, and death was nothing to fear because Jesus had already been there and life was offered there too. The child stopped his chronic crying, and his mum was able to hold him for the first time. When he eventually died, a nurse was reading to him the story of Easter.

Or is it the story of the family whose 10-year-old girl was in a coma? I explained to them that Christ has overcome death and offers life to their daughter, so they can rest into his completed work. Against many medical odds, she awoke and slowly began to talk. Her life story and witness will speak louder than anything I could say.

Or maybe it’s the story of the dad of a 12-year-old girl who has been a long-term palliative care patient. He says he regards my gentle proclaiming of the kingdom of God over his daughter as important as a doctor’s visit, because it sustains both him and his daughter.

Then there was the dad who heard God say, “Let the children come to me, and do not stop them,” and received that as assurance to stop fighting the imminent death of his child and instead to release the child into God’s care.

Or maybe the grandma in the Mater Hospital who was told she did not have long to live and so we celebrated Communion with her and her extended family, and she blessed each member personally.

Perhaps it’s the time I became a photographer to an emergency bedside wedding, held just before the mother of the bride died.

Or the countless stories of the families whose love for their children endures beyond the child’s death, or the love and compassion of staff who, in all their roles, companion with these families offering life and care.

But in this space, I wanted to share a big story – one that I hope will be a real encouragement.

It’s about this lady who didn’t grow up in the church, but became a Christian at the age of 19 after hearing about Jesus’ unconditional love for her. That Kingdom truth was where her inner healing began.

For years she worked, studied and served God as best she could. Although in many ways her faith never wavered, she grew tired and weary – always feeling judged, never living up to her own or others’ expectations.

The thought of going to hospital frightened her a little. She was not sure what would happen and how she would cope.

But then someone proclaimed the Kingdom of God to her, taking her right back to God’s unconditional love for her. More than that, she heard in a new way about the completed work of Christ on the cross that offers life to all who would receive it. She discovered the outpouring of God’s renewing grace offered on the cross and discovered in an empty tomb.

She realised the Bible is not about where we go when we die, but about the God who has come to be present with us now and always.

Now this lady sits in God’s grace, in God’s healing love. Now she can know peace beyond her own understanding.

Maybe you guessed, but this healing journey is mine. Perhaps it is the only story I can truly tell. Some of the healing was instant and seems permanent, but there is another level of healing that is slow, and needs time, space and practice to integrate.

So what are some of the fruits of my continuing journey of healing?

  1. Thanking God for the completed work of the cross means I do not carry any stress going into any medical situation. Jesus has already met it. I don’t have to ask or plead or beg. I just receive the peace and offer others to do the same.
  2. I am learning to engage with all that life brings without needing to know in advance what will happen or where it will take me.
  3. I am learning to discern when people unnecessarily carry burdens out of a misplaced belief that God puts loads on us to carry. I have learned that we are invited to rest into the carrying that Jesus has already done for us.
  4. I am learning to look, not at the problem (illness or injury) but at the solution (the cross and the Kingdom).

My current exploration, though, and where deep healing is occurring, is that the presence of the Kingdom of God changes everything, not just the physical body. Physical healing, like all healing, is a sign that points to a greater truth.

I am ‘proclaiming the kingdom’ over issues and systems that divide people and that divide me. I am learning to go into meetings trusting in Kingdom truths and seeing what comes. These Kingdom truths include that God loves and hears all, and Christ died that all might know life. Speaking the truth in love is sharing Kingdom truths, often without religious words, which convey God’s embracing love for all. I am learning to use and see time differently, seeking God’s perspective, not mine.

In the same way that, when I visit a patient, the Kingdom view keeps the focus on God and not on me or the illness, so I am also learning to adopt that Kingdom view in other aspects of life. I am more joyful and hopeful as a result.

I am learning to listen for the blocks in life (mine and others’) and proclaim a Kingdom truth to it. I am learning to listen deeply in situations, rather than speak. I am learning how this paradigm of the completed work of the cross, and the reality of God’s Kingdom offering life to all, is a key lens through which I can understand and convey truths about God.

The healing work of Christ in my life is a lifelong one, so maybe the most important thing I am learning is where to go for the healing I need.

Over these eight years, I have shared the journey of many patients and families who have left hospital either because they are well, or because their treatment can be done at home or elsewhere, or their loved one has died. Some have left joyfully; others with sorrow; others thoughtfully and with some fear about the way ahead.

Now it is my time to leave, and I have a range of emotions. I’m thankful for the healing I have received in this place which has held me in the midst of my own brokenness and pain, and the amazing people who have helped me through that. I am mindful of the risk of relapses, and have developed plans and strategies to mitigate this.

I have the courage and faith I need to leave, because I know the God whom I got to know much better here remains with those I leave. God continues to go with me too and has even more for me to learn and know.

And I can accept the sad reality that the church needed to change its way of doing hospital ministry, because I know that God remains there even when we don’t.

- Rev. Jenny Busch

If you feel called to explore hospital chaplaincy as a volunteer in your local State hospital, talk to your local minister or Presbytery Minister. Training can be available.


Uniting Church Australia Logo


Discipleship & Mission

Children, Youth, Young Adults and Families


Latest stories

Browse the latest stories of the Church