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Things are difficult in Jefferson City hospitals right now, said Tammy Kanatzar, chaplain at Capital Region Medical Center.
"It's emotionally and spiritually hard for all of us," Kanatzar said. "We lovingly serve our community day after day — day in and day out to the best of our abilities."
However, the increasing numbers of COVID-19 patients arriving in the hospital exponentially increase the difficulties health care workers face.
Those who arrive at the hospital are the sickest of the sick, Kanatzar said.
Serving and praying for the patients takes an emotional toll, she continued.
"We work as a community and family together — physicians and nurses and patient care techs," she said. "The whole Cap Region family works to help these patients know they matter."
And too many die.
"When they die, it's really hard for all of us," Kanatzar said. "We work side by side. We have each other and we always know that God is here with us."
Hospital workers remain aware of the community support, those tangible things the workers can see — the fire trucks, the posters, the signs.
"Now, with the COVID numbers rising, those kinds of outreach efforts mean so much," Kanatzar said.
Pastors want to let health care workers know there is a vast community outside their bubbles praying for them.
They want to show the workers they are not forgotten.
Nine months ago, early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, it wasn't unusual for community members to stand outside health care workplaces to support staff members or bring food for them, said Herb Kuhn, president of the Missouri Hospital Association.
"A lot of people have moved on," Kuhn said.
Recently, while speaking with some of the hospitals in Kansas City, he learned of a program called "Weekly Word of Hope," in which a group of local pastors recorded themselves discussing Bible verses that offer comfort. They then share the recordings with health care workers.
"It came together because what they see is that it's another way for the community to engage with employees. It's a way to let them know they aren't forgotten," Kuhn said. "Remind everyone who's been on the front lines for nine months not to give up hope."
He shared what he learned with folks at the church he attends in Jefferson City — First Christian Church.
Wouldn't it be cool, he asked, if the churches of Jefferson City could come together and do something similar?
The Rev. Beau Underwood, of First Christian Church, said the church was too small to take on that task alone, but the churches in Jefferson City work really well together and this could be a worthwhile project for them to pitch in on.
Besides First Christian Church, St. Peter Catholic Church, Second Baptist, First Presbyterian, First Baptist and First Methodist churches are already on board.
"We all have our ministries. It's hard to know how to be a church right now," Underwood said. "This is something churches can do collectively."
The collaborators are calling the recordings "Words of Hope."
And they are something the churches hope the entire community can get behind, he continued.
St. Mary's Hospital and Capital Region Medical Center will welcome the recordings, which will probably begin being distributed this weekend, Underwood said.
The churches have already recorded and edited about 15 of the messages and will probably begin sharing one a week with the hospitals this weekend, First United Methodist Church Pastor Trevor Dancer said.
St. Mary's Hospital is looking forward to sharing the messages with staff, said Jessica Royston, SSM Health regional manager of marketing and communications.
"SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital welcomes this initiative by local clergy to lift the spirits of our staff who have been working tirelessly over the last nine months to combat this virus. We look forward to sharing these messages of gratitude with our staff," Royston said.
The hospital plans to email the videos to staff as they arrive.
The Rev. Angela Madden, of First Presbyterian Church of Jefferson City, recorded two of the messages, she said, although she hasn't seen any of the finished products yet.
Madden said the messages are opportunities to give faith, hope, laughter and love within the community.
Personally, she offered two different segments. One discusses the spiritual practice of laughter.
"Find joy and share laughter," Madden said.
For example, she said, one might ask the difference between a chicken and a turkey. The chicken celebrates Thanksgiving.
She said to find things that make you laugh at yourself.
Madden said she also talked about the discipline of being able to count our blessings.
Dancer's message, he said, looks at a verse in the Book of Romans that focuses on how God intervenes.
Health care workers, like teachers, have had a "heck of a year," Dancer said.
"There have to be moments when they feel overwhelmed — scared — and the moments all run together," Dancer said. "It's OK not to know what to say right now. God hears your groans and your sighs."
Dancer said he was present when pastors recorded their messages and enjoyed seeing how other pastors contextualized scriptures within the modern day.
And it was encouraging.
A link to one of the Kansas City recordings may be found at vimeo.com/473992958/9e5550b015.
"It's a different way for churches to reach out that would be meaningful to a lot of people's lives," Kuhn said. "It's a wonderful gesture by these pastors — remembering these heroes on the front lines. It's good news."
Kanatzar said hospital staff are looking forward to hearing the messages.
"God has seen our tears, and he knows our hearts," Kanatzar said. "These messages are a beautiful shining light to remind us there is hope. We are very grateful."