Former Church of God Missionary, Pastor Connect through Hospice Chaplaincy

 In All Church of God, Central, CHOG

By Sarah Hunnicutt

While Church of God ministers, missionaries, and lay leaders collaborate daily across the globe, it isn’t often that the paths of two Church of God leaders connect organically in the workplace. So when Sherman Critser—Church of God missionary for over forty years—and Jon Ewers—and Army medic for twenty-two years and Church of God pastor for twenty—found themselves working together as hospice chaplains for Interim Healthcare in Oklahoma City, they knew they’d been presented with a unique opportunity to minister together and serve people they otherwise might never have reached.

Each day presents different challenges for Jon and Sherman. Sometimes the logistics of covering a fifty-mile radius can make scheduling complicated. Other times there are late-night calls to come and sit at a bedside. There are patients and families who are ready to talk and process deep questions and life issues, and others who simply need someone to sit and be with them.

“The work itself was what I expected,” said Sherman, “but far more enriching than I’d expected and eye-opening. It opens your eyes.”

Jon said, “With a medical background, I was very familiar with hospice. It was always intriguing. When I look at a list of diagnosis, it puts both worlds together—medicine and ministry.”

They both reflected on what it means to help individuals and their families grapple with the end of life:

“Hospice is a hard job,” said Jon. “You can get so attached. I don’t focus on what I’ve lost. I focus on what I’ve gained, because I learn something from everyone—patients and family. It is a privilege and an honor to journey with somebody in their closing chapters.”

“We’re very thankful for the opportunity we have to minister,” said Sherman. “Sometimes you don’t know what response you’re going to get. The other day I read a scripture and prayed with someone who had been nonresponsive, and then she said ‘Amen.’ Those are the unexpected moments that make you thankful you went.”

While it could be easy to get bogged down in the heaviness that often accompanies what we think of the end of life, both Jon and Sherman have been able to find joy and grounding in the work, as well as with their Interim team. “In this business,” said Sherman, “you have to laugh. It’s hard work.”

“And,” continued Jon, “our relationship with Jesus gets us through.”

There are many difficult days in the middle of the joy and love Jon, Sherman, and the team have cultivated. “I’ve got one patient,” reflected Jon, “and every time I see her, I know she’s ready to go. ‘Why is God leaving me here?’ she’ll ask. So sometimes you just try to shift the focus. Every visit, even with the same patient, is different. Sometimes it’s health. Sometimes it’s family or end-of-life issues. It’s just where the patient’s mind is that day.”

Relationships are at the heart of everything that Jon and Sherman do. They have many different patients, family members, and staff members with whom they interact daily, but they are deeply invested in each person as an individual. “Whether it’s staff or patients,” said Jon, “it’s all relationship-building. I love the people I work with.”

“I’ve learned so much from my patients,” Jon continued. “There are a lot of people out there that come from all kinds of backgrounds. One patient had been deeply hurt at age eighteen by the church. When I first saw him, he didn’t care if I prayed or not, but always wanted us to come visit him. The last time I went to see him was when he began passing. He grabbed my hand and didn’t want to let go. I prayed for him, and that just moved me intensely.”

Even after years of ministry across the globe and in church settings, both Jon and Sherman agreed that working with hospice patients and their families in such tender situations has continued to grow them. “I’ve grown in more sensitivity to people’s needs,” Sherman said. “As a pastor, you don’t get into the home as deeply as a chaplain in hospice. You learn more about the families. I’ve grown in my prayer life. You learn how to pray for people differently when they are dying than when they are alive.”

“Grace,” said Jon. “There are a lot of patients we get with Alzheimer’s, so often you’re not sure if you’re making a connection, but then you’ll say or do something that does. I’ve just gone to my car and cried. I thank the Lord for speaking through me. The love of God is so incredible, even in this profession of death.”

Sarah Hunnicutt recently served the Church of God as a missionary for Global Strategy to Roatan, Honduras. She also serves as a freelance writer for Church of God Ministries.

Learn more about Chaplain Ministries in the Church of God at Learn more about the Church of God movement at

Feature (top) photo: Sherman Critser and Jon Ewers.

Start typing and press Enter to search