By Sr. Barbara Collins | Sr. Barbara retired from Augustana in Minneapolis. She is moving to Indianapolis with her husband Malcolm.
Malcolm and I stepped into a new phase in our life. I officially retired from Augustana Care amidst many tears and well wishes from many. As I reflect on the last few years at Augustana and the last 15 years in Minneapolis, I realize there has been so much growth. The word “retire” is being used, but my residents say, “We know you, you will downsize to a less exhausting ministry.”
During my time in Minneapolis, I have worked as a refugee resettlement worker, substitute teacher, adult ed teacher of remedial math, Director of Spiritual Formation and Outreach, ESL teacher and Chaplain. So many job changes and identity changes that have impacted my family and myself. Working as a chaplain in an elder care community has deeply impacted my thinking in profound ways. Below are some of these ways.
I have come to realize is that the Bible is not written just for active 35-year-olds, nor is it solely targeting any particular culture. While inspired in a historical context, the truth of the message still holds truth for those residents in wheel chairs, in various stages of loss and grief—many with little verbal ability to respond. As I push the wafer in their mouths and say, “Christ’s body broken for YOU!” and I see their whole face beam with blessing that cannot be put into words, I can’t help but cry.
As I listen to their stories of loss and challenge and we bow together in prayer, acknowledging God’s presence in suffering, anger, and loss, and bowing before a God we do not control, cannot predict, but can always trust, I am deeply moved. I often say, “You are on God’s radar screen! You are not forgotten! You are his child and important!” I believe it with my whole being; and if it is true for them, it must be true for me.
I hugged a lady in a wheel chair as we shared tears at my parting. We remembered together how she was able to share with me the pain of raising her children with developmental challenges in a less than friendly culture. How much our time together meant.
A Somali elder asked for prayer with tears in his eyes, sharing insights from the Q’uran and the similarities in the Bible. A European lady whose military general father had been killed in World War II, cried at my departure. The stories of their lives have touched the stories of my life because we stepped into the change together.
The Bishop of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod is already making connections with me, and I have already received an invitation to connect with an international community started by a Tanzanian we know from Minneapolis. The community has people from Kenya, TZ, Congo, Libya, and Zimbabwe and has an ESL program. WOW.
Although this transition feels—and indeed, is—life-changing in ways that are different than transitions I’ve been through in the past, these last few years as a chaplain at Augustana Care Center have reminded me of truths that are sustaining: the message of the Gospel is for me in this phase of life as much as it was for me in any previous phase of life; as we share our stories with one another—across ages, across cultures, even across faith traditions—our lives are richer; and the God who has been with me through all those transitions in the past continues to be with me in this one, and is already preparing the way for this next chapter.
So, yes, Malcolm and I may be ‘downsizing,’ but what a joy it is to celebrate the way my years in Minneapolis have impacted my life and faith. And through all of it, God has been faithful, and I am humbled.