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"I have a real interest in people and their stories": meet our lovely Chaplain at Bethanie Illawong.

Chat with a Chaplain

Today we chat with the wonderful Sandra Lewis, Chaplain at Bethanie Illawong.

Sandra, why have you selected this photo to share with the Bethanie community?

I know the photo I’ve chosen is not great quality, but the reason for choosing it is that it’s me with my Mum (deceased). To quote an Illawong resident, one thing that I like to keep in mind is, “she’s someone’s mum”. That is, that every one of my clients is linked to others. While each are valuable in their own right, they also matter to husbands, wives, sons, daughters, grandchildren, great grandchildren and friends - just as my mother mattered to me. I want to consider what I would have wanted for both my parents when they were in care.

Tell us a bit about yourself...

I was born overseas to Australian parents and raised here in Perth. I married a country lad from a farm just outside Corrigin. We lived in Queensland for 11 years, then spent 3 years in Africa and returned to Australia for 18 months before spending most of 2010 in Africa and the UK. We've now been back in Australia for 10 years. I have a real interest in people and their stories - everyone is so unique! I've been a Christian all my life and had my faith sorely tested many times but have found God to be faithful throughout - so I've stuck with him.

What inspired you to become a Chaplain at Bethanie Illawong?

It was actually my mothers’ friend who suggested the idea. Apart from those run by the Salvation Army, I didn’t realise there were chaplains in nursing homes. My first job at the age of 18 was in a nursing home, and in every job since that was working with elderly clients. I have always loved interacting with them.

I firmly believe that we are all spiritual beings. To experience well-being, we need to address the spiritual as well as the physical and emotional needs of each person. When the opportunity to train as a Chaplain intern at Bethanie was presented to me, I leapt at the chance to work with an organisation that recognised and valued the role of a Chaplain. At Bethanie, I really feel as though I am part of a team that endeavours to meet the needs of each client holistically.

What do you find the most rewarding about your role?

Those moments when you connect with a client on a deeper level and know they feel better within themselves as a result. They are more at peace and aware of their value and worth knowing they’ve been heard. As a result, they better equipped to face whatever is ahead.

What piece of advice do you give most often to your clients?

It’s not so much advice, as it is affirming that they are valuable and the things that bring meaning to their lives matter.

Is there a story or experience that has made you really see the impact of your work?

I once had a client who had found out that their precious grandson had suffered head injuries in an accident. There were fears that he was possibly going to have his life support turned off that evening, and she was just waiting for the phone-call from her son. I grieved with her. I found the thought of leaving her in this desperate and emotional state untenable, so I shared my concern with the Facility Manager and Admin Officer. On doing so I discovered that the Admin Officer had overheard an earlier conversation between my client and her son and was of the understanding that the news was not so dire. I sat with my client and phoned two of her children and finally had a conversation with her daughter-in -law. The news was that he was going to survive, it would be a long road ahead, but he had a good chance of making a substantial recovery.

It was such a joy to know I had been part of a process that brought this dear lady some peace. Her family are the most important thing in the world to her, and although she still ached for her grandson, she was relieved of the overwhelming fear of losing him that was tearing her apart inside.

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