Things in life change, but one thing will always remain the same — G.W. West has a passion for others and a love for his community and the people in it.
West, a native of Sampson County, has been volunteering at Sampson Regional Medical Center for 35 years. He serves as a hospital chaplain.
“By God’s grace, I hope to serve there as long as I am able,” West said in a recent interview. “It is an honor to be a hospital chaplain.”
West is one of the 19 adult volunteers currently serving the hospital. These 19 volunteers have logged in 3,600 hours in the first eight months of 2014.
According to Judy Naylor, director of Volunteer Services, the hospital is currently reorganizing the Chaplaincy Program to include some unique opportunities.
Within Sampson Regional, there are three similar roles involving a chaplain, clergy and spiritual care member. Each role, Naylor said, has been designed to provide support and meet the needs of the patients.
“Chaplain and clergy members will be distinguished through our application process. The expectations of our chaplains are different than that of clergy members. Chaplains are trained for their encounters to meet with the patient based on his or her need. Our goal is to have a chaplain available on call 24/7. This a great commitment. By recruiting a large group of chaplains, we can spread the load with a monthly call schedule,” Naylor said.
If someone is a member of the clergy, they must obtain a badge from the Pastoral Care Department, and Naylor said, they are limited to visiting friends, family members or a member of their congregation.
Naylor said the hospital recognizes that there are many volunteers who may not meet the requirements of a chaplain or clergy member, but still have wonderful gifts of caring and compassion that they want to share.
“Our spiritual care team is also a very important part of a patient’s healing, because spiritual care is not necessarily faith oriented for all people;e are respectful of our patients’ and visitors’ needs,” Naylor said.
Naylor said the spiritual care team is a very important part of the patient’s healing, because spiritual care is not necessarily faith-oriented for all people. “Many times visiting with a patient makes their day brighter, or finding out what needs they may have for a chaplain of clergy member,” she added.
Over the summer, Naylor said there were 28 junior volunteers who served in various positions. These students logged in a little over 1, 200 hours in just six weeks. Applications for next summer will begin being accepted Jan. 1. Deadline for those applications will be March 15.
West is one of the many who meets the requirements of being a chaplain; he also shares his wonderful gift of being caring and compassionate.
West’s journey to today hasn’t been an easy one. At the age of 27, and close to death at the time, West says his journey began following an industrial accident where he was crushed by glass. He spent nearly two years in UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, and it was there, at the hospital, his love of spreading cheer to others began. While in the hospital, West says he spent many painful, lonely nights there, drawing.
“One such night, a nurse came in and saw me sketching a smiling bee on a napkin,” West said. She asked him if he needed some paper and that is how he started making cards and painting and drawing pieces of art.
While in the hospital West underwent 13 major surgeries.
Before he left UNC Hospitals, he said he was walking the halls and handing out his cards, some of which he says were not so good, but a simple truth. “God is love and he loves you.”
When West left the hospital, he was weak and believed he had little future. “To show you God was going before me, the day before I was crushed, I bought a small Bible. It was between the glass and me.”
Through the years, West feels his paintings and drawings have improved. Now, he spends many days drawing and painting, while listening to gospel music and praying.
“I never know who or where they may end up,” West said.
One of those painting has found its way to Sampson Regional Medical Center, because of its service to the community. That painting sits on display in the hospital’s lobby.
“It took me around 40 or so hours to paint it,” West said. “I try to keep it accurate to scale. A lot of it was done with a tool that uses a drop of paint.”
In all his art, West hides a special symbol — a fish.
“Psalm 119:11 says, ‘I have hidden your word Christ in My heart!’ This is why I hide fish in my art. I love to see the pre-scholars and others try to find them.”
Being one of the oldest symbols for the church, West has used the fish to name his art, calling it “The Hidden Fish.”
“My prayer is that as they look, they may one day find Jesus the Christ,” he attested.
West says it still amazes him how God can use such a small thing like a card, smile or simple touch and prayer to bless the sick.
“As I make my rounds, I see the same people year after year. Their family and friends, and yes, we are all connected,” West said.
He adds that he has a new project, which is to donate paintings to feed hungry children. Once the paintings are sold, he wants the money to be donated for the purpose of feeding these children.
West is a member of Grace United Methodist Church and serves as a lay minister. He has a Duke Divinity Certificate of Study and preaches where he is called. He likes to paint the churches he serves and sends the churches the paintings as a way of saying for them to keep up the good work.