Jesus: the Wonderful Counselor
I come from a family that was economically well off, but we weren’t all that happy; as a teenager, I could tell that my parents were not very fulfilled in their lives. Since I wanted to figure out how to make people happy, I studied psychology and philosophy in the 1970s. Unfortunately, there was a lot of ignorance back then and professionals just trying to make a name for themselves with ideas that were off-center and strange.
I began to see through it all and quit the university to start working daytime hours with children who were partly under my care at the Georgia Regional Hospital. I was in a ward with emotionally disturbed children, ages 9 to 12. The people who made the most sense to me, and who could best handle the children, were the nurses, who used their common sense. The higher up the ladder the doctors went, the more removed they seemed to be from reality. I requested, and was granted, daytime hours at the facility.
The poor kids were emotionally unstable because their parents were messed up. They came from broken homes, or homes whose parents had problems with violence or drugs or alcohol or some other irregular behavior. The doctors seemed fairly clueless about what to do.
My daytime job had its downside. When a child became extremely wild or violent, it was my job as the male nurse on duty to hold him still while another nurse injected him with a sedative. Then I would drag him to a padded “time-out room,” where he would scream, kick and pound the door until he was exhausted. Then he’d calm down or lay down to rest.
This was not what I had signed up for, I knew there had to be a better way. It was at this time that I read John 2:24-25,
If this were true, I thought, He had to be the best psychoanalyst of all time. I decided to do a clinical experiment, because I wanted to know if Jesus might be the true way. (I had looked into Eastern religions before this).
“OK, Jesus,” I told Him, “I need to know if you can really help people, these kids, and me, when everyone else has failed. I’m going to do a clinical experiment with You, these twelve kids, and your Word.”
The next time two of the boys got in a fight, I stopped them and said, “Look, you guys, Jesus said we’re supposed to love each other, not fight with each other. So, we are going to bow our heads and ask Him to forgive us and pray that He will help us be nice to each other.” We did this on various occasions and started to thank the Lord for the food together.
During some of our free times, I would read or recite to them simple stories of what Jesus did: how He fed the multitudes, healed the sick, forgave the sinners, walked on water, the parable of the lost sheep, etc.
Some of the kids started opening up to me. “Mr. Paul, what should I do when I feel down and sad?” I taught them some basic Sunday school songs to help them feel better and give them hope. The results didn’t go unnoticed.
One afternoon the director of the entire hospital facility called me in to her office. “Mr. Hilgendorf,” she said enthusiastically, “what have you been doing with your group!? In the two weeks that you have been spending time with them during the day, we have seen a complete change in their attitude! They are getting along so much better with each other now and seem much more content.”
You can imagine my excitement as I began to tell her how I had been praying with them, sharing Bible stories with them, and teaching them to trust the Lord to help them and to love each other…. But the look on her face went from surprise and concern to shock and scorn. A storm was brewing…
“I’m sorry, but we can’t have that here. This is not a religious institution.”
“Why not? It’s the only thing that has helped them. I’ve been here six months and nothing else has worked.”
“You don’t understand. There is a priest who comes here on Sunday mornings, and our patients can attend his meetings if they want to.”
“But he’s only here an hour or two a week, for about 2,000 patients. I’m with the kids every day for eight hours.”
“We are a professional medical facility, not a religious organization. These means are not acceptable.”
“Why not, if this is what helps the children?”
“You don’t understand. Now when the kids visit their parents on the weekend, they will be talking about God and the devil, angels and other phenomena, and their parents will think they are crazier now than when they came here.”
Then I understood her fear. She didn’t care as much about the kids’ progress as she did about people’s opinions of her and her job security. They might think she was unprofessional or a quack, and what of her reputation? Rather than beat around the bush, I went to the heart of the matter:
“Do you believe in Christ?”
She pounded her fist on the table between us. “I am a Catholic,” she shouted. “I go to church every Sunday!”
It didn’t matter to me whether she had said Catholic, Presbyterian, Baptist, Buddhist, Methodist, Jewish, or whatever. I got the idea of what she was, in my mind: someone who thought she was good because she went to church but didn’t really love Jesus or care about the kids.
She continued, “Either you quit talking to those kids about Jesus, or you leave here.”
“Well, since that’s the only thing that has helped them, it doesn’t make any sense for me to stay. You have my two-week resignation.”
I felt bad for a couple of the tough kids who confessed to me, “Aww, Mr. Paul, are you really leaving? You’re the only one who told us about Jesus.”
That made an impression on me. They understood it was Jesus who cared about them and helped them. I had seen the Lord work in their lives, and I needed to apply this with others.
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A brief introduction:
I was a good church kid in the 1950s, turned hippie and agnostic in the 1960s, became a Jesus fanatic in the 1970s, a missionary in the 1980s, then mellowed out to make a living and raise a family. Through it all, God was there and intervened many times for my wife, my family, and me to guide us through all the changes and to prepare us for the future.
My wife is from Uruguay, but we spent most of our time in Argentina. We have eight children; four are in Argentina and four are in the United States now.
I joined ACCCN back in 2012 and became a Sunday school teacher. I have worked with the grade school kids and teenagers regularly from then to now. Many of them are familiar with some of these stories I share from my life that is part of a book which Amazon will soon publish called “Transformation Happens.” What you will read is part of one of the chapters.
Prayers are appreciated that this book may reach the hands of those who need it.
God bless you,
Leaving Uruguay in 1986, we had five children then, 4 years old and under.
At my eldest son’s wedding in 2019, with the bride, our eight grown children, and four grandchildren.
Author: Paul Hilgendorf