HARLINGEN—In the Rio Grande Valley, hospital chaplain resident Mario Samaniego seeks to be the light of Christ in the darkest of situations. He wants to equip other ministers to spread the same light.
Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen and become a certified pastoral education supervisor to train pastors in hospital visits.In the next few weeks, he will finish his residency at
“A lot of pastors don’t know how to make a proper hospital visit and how to properly pastor their flock in the hospital,” Samaniego said. “They’re just scared of them.”
Samaniego is trained in counseling, bedside manner and how to help the patient and family deal with grief. When pastors learn these skills, they become better equipped to care for their congregations.
“I want to be the wounded healer,” Samaniego said of his own experiences.
After running from God most of his young adult life, he returned to a place where his past pain no longer hurt him but could be used as a tool to bring peace to others who are hurting.
Raised the son of a drug dealer father and a working mother, Samaniego accepted Christ as Lord and Savior at age 18. But he subsequently ran away from God during a period of rebellion fueled in part by his mother’s death.
In his early 30s, Samaniego dabbled in witchcraft before returning to the commitment he made to Christ.
Jesus turned his life around, and Samaniego enrolled in the Baptist University of the Américas. After he graduated, he jumped headlong into ministry.
“I use my testimony and past pain and mother’s death and self awareness to help the family and patient,” he said. Samaniego seeks to teach pastors to use their own experiences to show God’s faithfulness.
Mary Hill Davis Offering for Texas Missions provides funds for ongoing training of Baptist General Convention of Texas-endorsed chaplains like Samaniego.The
Another chaplain-in-training, seminary student Kara Miller, wants to serve in the U.S. Air Force. After growing up in a military family, Miller said, she studied medicine at Oklahoma State University with no intention of going into the military. However, she realized she not only had a heart for ministry, but also for military families.
“I didn’t even know what a chaplain was, but I was browsing the Air Force website and saw a tab for it,” Miller said. “I started learning more about it, and God put a lot of connections in my life to talk to people about it. After finding more about it and really feeling a draw towards ministry, I felt it was a really good fit.”
Miller liked the family feel of the Air Force, and noted the higher number of women than in other military branches. She views this as another opportunity for ministry.
She attends Denver Seminary, which offers a concentration in chaplaincy, and also is taking classes with Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary.
“You’re serving the military person, so you have to meet them where they are before you’re able to talk about the spiritual side,” Miller said. “People aren’t ready to listen yet if they’re in crisis. It’s about being a servant and waiting for the invitation to open to bring the spirituality in.”