January 10, 2023 | Ama Akoto-Boateng, AdventHealth and Southern Tidings
I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”
These words in John 10:10 (NIV) depict Christ’s desire for everyone to enjoy a life of whole health — in body, mind, and spirit. This foundation, advanced through AdventHealth’s mission, inspired a group of 25 team members 20 years ago to start the organization’s Spiritual Ambassadors ministry.
Connie Hamilton, a ministry pioneer and former chief nursing officer for the AdventHealth Central Florida Division — South Region, said, “It seemed team members needed a pathway to serve more spiritually.” Today, more than 4,000 AdventHealth team members serve as spiritual ambassadors.
A Source of Inspiration
The ministry’s guiding principle is to inspire everyone with a heart of love, a contagious joy, and a restoring peace. It’s what Sergio Torres, senior manager of the Spiritual Ambassadors ministry and corporate campus pastor, calls “breathing a life of inspiration into others.”
“Our ministry takes inspiration from Genesis 2:7, when God breathed life into man,” Torres said. “By being spiritual, we’re being inspirational.”
Torres recalled a unique moment of inspiration a few years ago after he prayed for a patient and was heading out of an AdventHealth facility.
“Are you OK?” The front desk receptionist asked Torres. “Take one of these,” she added. It was a wooden heart-shaped piece with a psalm embossed on one side and an inscription of “Everything is going to be OK” on the other side.Torres said that simple act of kindness lifted his spirits after he had just learned that the patient’s health condition was similar to that of his sister-in-law. “I hadn’t realized that the patient encounter affected me,” Torres said. “The receptionist checked in with me — just like our spiritual ambassadors do with others.”
The wooden hearts ministry was started a few years ago by Jim Stella, a retired team member who served as a spiritual ambassador while working as a supervisor of guest services at AdventHealth Orlando for 10 years. Stella said his ministry has so far reached more than 176,000 people both locally and globally, including team members and patients at several AdventHealth locations. “I’m humbled my ministry inspires others,” Stella said. “I always say, ‘Do something for the Lord and He will do more for you.’ ”
An Emphasis on Spiritual Care
Damita Wright, a senior analyst on the organizational readiness team at AdventHealth’s corporate campus in Altamonte Springs, Florida, United States, who also serves as a spiritual ambassador, describes her calling as being a spiritual first responder.
Wright leads the music ministry at her campus and works with Clayton Alves, senior manager of change management on the organizational readiness team, to manage the systemwide devotion blog.
“There is something special about being present with people,” Wright said. “In that moment, we’re able to encourage and become responsive to their spiritual needs.” Alves added, “I love the spiritual emphasis AdventHealth places on its mission.”
At AdventHealth Kissimmee, Audrey Carty, senior nurse manager, inspired her entire endoscopy unit team to serve. She said, “I love that we are a 100-percent spiritual ambassadors team. We all feel empowered to spiritually support and be present in each other’s lives.”
The ministry has made an impact on communities too. In 2019, Victoria Martinez, an ordained minister of another Christian church in Florida, attended a chance meeting with spiritual ambassadors at an AdventHealth facility in Chicago, where she met Torres and became a spiritual ambassador. Martinez is now enrolled in AdventHealth’s clinical pastoral education program. “I felt God was calling me to be in that place,” she said. “I thought to myself, ‘What a wonderful way to be healed spiritually.’ ”
Steven Napier, information technology support specialist at AdventHealth Manchester in Kentucky, said his role as a spiritual ambassador helped during the devastating July 2022 floods there. “I remember praying for a team member who had lost his home. I like lifting others up and sharing the light of Jesus,” he said.
Following Hurricane Ian in west Florida, Cynthia Rowell, assistant vice president of nursing at AdventHealth Wesley Chapel, said, “As a leader and as a spiritual ambassador, the hurricane was a crucial time to check in and calm fears among my team.”