October is Pastor Appreciation Month, and we set time aside to express our gratitude to the chaplains and ministry team serving our residents, families, staff, and the community. This month also marks the start of Bethesda’s year-long 125th-anniversary celebration of serving others in faith, community and life.
As Bethesda is celebrating both; Pastor Appreciation and the kickoff to their quasquicentennial (125th) anniversary, it affords a wonderful opportunity to sit down with Pastor Mary Hovland to discover the journey that led her to serve at Bethesda and what the ministry means to her. Earlier this week, we met in Carrie’s Chapel, and Pastor Mary shared the story that brought her to serve as Chaplain at Bethesda Willmar.
It all began as a child, as Pastor Hovland recalls how her mother would visit residents weekly at nursing homes. “My mother would take me with her because, in those days, there were no babysitters. I am so thankful to have been a part of these weekly visits at such a young age.”
As an adult, Pastor Hovland mentioned how “Throughout the years I visited residents from Bethel Church, Maynard Lutheran Church, and Vinje Lutheran church. My mother-in-law and brother were residents at Bethesda. I was on the Board of Directors for six years only to resign to accept the Chaplain position at Bethesda. As a board member, I enjoyed being a part of the initial planning of North Pointe, and now as a Chaplain, it is a privilege to be of service to residents, families, and staff.”
Pastor Mary shared “that inside the campuses of Bethesda, there is a loving presence and focus on God’s love for all His people.” Pastor Hovland mentioned that “the journey all older people go through includes: How does God prepare us for the next life? How to let go of the present life as a gift and to know God’s love?” Pastor Mary pointed out that “as chaplain, it is important to be there listening to the powerful stories residents share that often begin as a child at the supper table and attending Sunday School.” Pastor Hovland said that “for some residents, [that as an adult] this is their first opportunity to know of His love and faithfulness.” Pastor Hovland continued to share “that it is an honor to hold sacred these stories and to share the faith that is so deep and written on our hearts. Share the Good news, and the Holy Spirit takes it from there.”
Pastor Hovland mentioned that she and Pastor Bill Miller joined the Chaplaincy program at Bethesda together and “When Pastor Bill Miller and I began our service at Bethesda, we had a vision of how we would serve others. Pastor Bill was an integral part of the planning, and going forth now a team of three chaplains, [Pastor Mary Hovland, Pastor Dan Bowman, and Grant Hoekstra] each with a unique set of gifts.” Pastor Hovland and Pastor Bowman are both ordained, certified, and called to service as chaplains. Grant Hoekstra is currently enrolled in the seminary and serves as Bethesda’s ‘Spiritual Mentor.’
As Bethesda commemorates the past and celebrates the future, we are reminded that we are called to serve others as it is written in Psalm 105:3-4 Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength.
Benediction: May our hearts continue to reflect the loving service of all who seek strength in the Lord as we go forth to love and serve our Lord. Thanks be to God. Amen