Henk Lups works at the sharp edges of the human experience.
As the new Nelson Hospital chaplain, he and his team of 20 volunteers offer emotional and spiritual care, for all patients, all staff and their families. “Faith or non-faith, religion or non-religion, it doesn’t matter,” he says.
Henk says he is in the role now because of “life’s journey” – one that took him from being the head of a hospitality school in Christchurch, to Cambodia where he suffered an accident that forced him back to New Zealand, and to his home being red-zoned during the earthquakes. Then he and his wife moved to Nelson.
“We had to start again, no job no nothing. You get more resilient, a better sense of who you are and what you can cope with.”
Henk trained in clinical pastoral education and during that time he felt pulled towards the health sector. “We share in people’s sadness but also celebrate the wins and everything in between,” he says. “It is quite a magical place, a hospital.”
There are about 150 in-patients in Nelson Hospital every day.
“So, every day is different, every encounter and conversation is different,” Henk says. “And that makes it fascinating but also very meaningful. It’s the sharp edges of people’s lives. Sometimes it is demanding but other times encouraging and uplifting.”
Henk says, even though he is a chaplain, most often when he talks with people at the hospital Christianity is not even mentioned. “It is about what are people wanting to share and who is there to listen and encourage.
“We are there often for one of the most significant moments of people’s lives. It is a privilege.”