Imagine waiting for a phone call that you’re not even sure will come. Would you feel nervous? Sweaty? Resentful? Uneasy?
Or would you feel ready to serve? Almost calm? Unprepared but willing to listen?
Field education can take students in a lot of varying directions, but for Jon Mehlhaus, he had the opportunity to work both for New York City’s hospital and prison systems as a chaplain. One of his duties, among others, is to provide pastoral care over the phone. Occasionally, that means not knowing if he’ll get a call while he’s on-duty, or, if he does, what the content of the call will be.
Over the summer, Mehlhaus chatted with hospital patients and family of patients, and starting in the fall, he worked with both staff and inmates of one of the city’s prisons. He, along with another student, provides resources in the staff wellness center of the prison, as well as some religious services and meditation practices for the inmates.
“This experience has helped give me more vocational clarity for sure,” said Mehlhaus. As someone who was already interested in prison ministry, he’s been able to learn a bit more about the system and logistics connected to that path; he’s also become less attached to where his ministry or chaplaincy experience will happen, as there are concrete issues that need to be addressed in many areas.
For students interested in pursuing field education in the future, he recommends looking at multiple places to ensure you have enough options that appeal to you so you can “avoid tunnel vision.”
“These experiences are multi-faceted,” said Mehlhaus, “and being open to new experiences is important.”