When I was called to serve as the chair and graduate program director of Andrews University’s Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology department (now The School of Communication Sciences and Disorders) in 2013, I received the opportunity to gain a fresh new perspective on my work. With my new responsibilities came the realization that suddenly, God was in the workplace. Although I felt called to be a speech-language pathologist, I spent so many years keeping Him separate from what I did for almost eight hours per day, seven days per week. What an amazing thought.
Now in my new role, I have to serve my students not only as an instructor but also as a minister. Two steep learning curves. The question quickly became, “How do I blend the two?” It is so much more than reading a simple passage and praying. Being a speech-language pathologist is not simply what you do, but who you are. After several years of contemplating this fact, I found ways to relate our profession and our God to my students. I drew from the areas that speech-language pathologists consider the foundations of the profession.
Each semester I show my new group of students “Stand by Me,” which is the music video by Playing for Change. Through our discussions of this video, we are able to see how the creator’s work overcomes distances between people. The musicians were encouraged to create their music in their natural environment while combining culture and talent. Students have reflected that while each musician has different vocal “styles” and uses different instruments, all are perfectly blended together into a beautiful song. The song itself reminds us that we are all uniquely created – fearfully and wonderfully made. We can make so much music when we work together. One student’s areas of strength are another student’s areas of weakness and vice versa. Through connectedness, all are strengthened.
Giving a Voice to the Voiceless
A speech-language pathologist is commissioned to work with individuals who are unable to communicate optimally thereby giving a voice to the voiceless, speech to the speechless, and fluency to the non-fluent. If ever one wondered about one’s purpose, what better job than one that enriches more people to sing praises to our Savior and to preach the acceptable year of the Lord! “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
Serving People is a Privilege
It has always been important that I communicate to my students the fact that speech-language pathology is not simply a profession, but a service. If making money is the most important factor in becoming a speech-language pathologist, one should consider another field of study. It is a true blessing to have a career that allows you to be of service. God has given us so much in His service to us that to be paid for such a privilege is a blessing. If one is not about the business of loving and caring for people, it may be wise to choose a profession that requires less people-love. God has loved us, given His son for us, and promises a spectacular return for us. He simply asks that we care for the “least of these.” This is a mandate that God has given. To fulfill this mandate through one’s career not only helps the individual receiving the gift of service, but also the professionals privileged enough to serve. “…Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
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