When I was in high school, I loved two subjects: Art and Speech & Debate. I tried to balance the two worlds and do both. I also felt the voice of God within my life and would try to present that message within my work. I wrote speeches with biblical references and my wonderful debate coach would admonish me saying, “Now Regina, you are writing a speech not a sermon, stick to the point.” In art class, we were told to stay away from using religious imagery as it was considered controversial. In response, I choose to paint the hand of God as a tempera project studying the contrast of warm and cool colors. I was a good student so other than the occasional rebellious inclusion of God within my art I would keep them separated.
I would keep them separated for the next 20 years. I could speak, I could paint or I could talk about God’s work within my life, but I could never do that within the same venue. When I began to speak after Fred’s death, I would call it a mission and a calling. And many people accepted those words as secular terms. But others heard a deeper meaning. One such person was Tim Riley, Vice President of Hendrick Health System. He saw my presentation at the Premier Quest Event in Nashville. He heard me speak and he asked me to present at Hendrick in the fall. And then he shared the Hendrick Mission statement with me: “To deliver high quality healthcare emphasizing excellence and compassion consistent with the healing ministry of Jesus Christ.”
Ten years ago I was working as a retail manager in the college book industry. I would attend many educational sessions at national trade association meetings. Several of these meetings stressed the importance of creating a mission statement. It became quite the fad to spend days in internal meetings creating mission statements. I was saddened to see many organizations create them only to shelve them away in some cabinet drawer or just mention them in a new employee packet. I saw far too many mission statements within organizations that were at best a corporate check off the box and were at worst a glaring lie when compared at their business practices.
The term “Mission Statement” has a deeper meaning than that of a corporate fad. It is a term that has been used for generations within Christianity to explain the mission of Jesus Christ. Some hospitals today have mission statements that follow this older tradition. One such Hospital is Hendrick Medical Center in Abilene, Texas.
I had the honor of speaking and painting at Hendrick Medical Center on October 6-7th, 2011. Prior to speaking I toured the facility and saw their construction site as they are building several new floors within the hospital. Everywhere I turned I saw visual reminders of their mission on the walls and in the helpful smiles of those around me.
Inspired by the tour I painted “Mission Statement.”
In this painting, the physical structure of the hospital combines with and is embraced by Jesus Christ. As Jesus wraps his arms around the structure of Hendrick he looks lovingly within.
A large chasm of construction opens within the structure of Hendrick. The blue length of cloth descending from Christ’s body, spools within the frame and becomes data cables that terminate in a USB port. Beside the data cables, an open ladder stands steps rising to heaven. To the far left is a tree with apples upon it. This tree is painted in the style of the trees that are being built in the Pediatric Ward at Hendrick. If you look closely at this painting, it will seem un-finished. It is under construction, just at the Hendrick Medical Center is. It is in the process of a continual striving to live and work within its mission and it shall never be complete. The architectural blueprints will always handy for reference and the mission statement never locked within a drawer.
I was very happy to paint at Hendrick. It was the first time I have painted in the lobby of a hospital. I usually paint in front of a hospital, on public sidewalks where I cannot be told to cease and desist. But Hendrick Medical Center Staff invited me in and let me paint right beside the information desk. I could interact with any guest or patient that walked by my easel. I was once again inspired.
This painting is “How may I help you?”
I watched the helpful volunteer who greeted all who entered the door. I saw her as she is, was and always shall be. She stands behind the desk as an elderly woman greeting the visitor.
Below the desk, she is the young woman who looks straight into the soul of the viewer. She maintains direct eye contact, as though to say at this eternal moment there is nothing more important than paying attention to your needs. Her long golden locks of hair swirl behind her. When you combine her youthful form with her elderly stance, those silhouettes create the Alpha and Omega. Above the desk, floats an architectural detail. It is a ring that repeats the circular form of the desk. It is also a halo representing eternal life and a sense of the sacred. Whilst I was painting this, a staff person remarked that I had included a halo within the picture. I pointed out to him the architectural detail on the ceiling. He was amazed having never noticed it before. I responded that we don’t always see God’s presence within our life, but he is always there to help us.
I had a great conversation with a Doctor while at Hendrick. His name was Dr. Steven Faehnle. He had been a pediatrician for many years and was now the chief medical officer at Hendrick. We talked about the power of the patient story and the importance of narrative in medicine. He even mentioned that he had made a short film. I was enjoyed speaking with Dr. Faehnle and I thought I must paint him. I did just that in “The Story.”
He had kind yet piercing eyes and he asked great questions. After we spoke for a while, he said, “You are eloquent and well spoken why not just speak about medicine? Why do you paint too?” I paused, “Well, I began with the painting and speaking came later. I have found the message is more powerful if you can do both.”
I am thankful that God has given me many talents, and I shall use them all in the way that Hendrick does. I will help “deliver high quality healthcare emphasizing excellence and compassion consistent with the healing ministry of Jesus Christ.”
Thank you amazing people of Hendrick Health System. Thank you for living your mission. Thank you for inviting me to speak and paint and talk about God’s presence in our life. If were are going to treat the whole patient we must address the body mind and spirit, and we cannot do that by keeping them separated.