Westmont Magazine Called to Serve and Overcome
By Matthew Smith ’00
Shelley Bartick ’89 is only too familiar with phrases like, “You can’t do it, Shelley;” “Give up;” “Your life was not intended to go in that direction;” “Be realistic!” But Shelley believes she has been called to fight through the barriers she faces every day.
Shelley suffers from cerebral palsy, which affects her motor cortex, the area of the brain that controls body movement.
She graduated from Westmont in 1989 with a dream and a calling to become a hospital chaplain. Now in her second year at Bethel Seminary in San Diego, Shelley — besides getting a seminary degree — must also earn 1600 hours of supervised training and clinical service, obtain an ordination and denominational endorsement, and receive an accreditation from the Association of Professional Chaplains.
Her determination to become a chaplain compelled her to seek permission from doctors to gain bedside experience while meeting her educational requirements, which is not usually done.
“I’m not trying to circumvent the system,” she told Bethel Seminary Magazine. “My opinion is that it is easier for non-paid chaplains to do ministry … Having a doctor’s endorsement is one of the best ways that you can be certified within the hospital system.”
Volunteer chaplains may have an easier time doing ministry, but an ability to identify with those in need also makes ministry effective, or “easy.”
While attending Westmont, the only physical help she needed was putting on her socks and shoes.
Even though she couldn’t take the minimum 12-unit semesters, or finish assignments without getting extensions, she graduated — a feat her high school teachers thought she would never accomplish.
At Bethel, Shelley suffered muscle spasms that left her paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. For almost a year she lived in a nursing home, until she underwent an operation to reduce the number of spasms in her legs. The surgery placed an infusion pump underneath her skin to regulate the flow of anti-spasmodic medicine into her spinal fluid. She receives around-the-clock attention, gets new medicine every three months, and faces surgery every five years. While the treatment helps her, a malfunction could be fatal.
Westmont taught Shelley how to study and how to learn, she says, which is helping her survive seminary and the many challenges she faces each day. One of those has been financial. Shelley owed Westmont $5,000 after she graduated. But not too long after she left, she received a call from the financial aid department.
“They had just found funds designated for special purposes, like my physical condition, and I was able to have my debt paid off,” she said. God has also provided funds for transportation to and from the hospital for treatment.
When asked what she remembered most about her Westmont experience, Shelley recalled walking down the dormitory halls looking for an open door to visit people. Though now confined to a wheelchair, she still looks for those opened doors.
One gentleman she visited in the hospital was in rehabilitation after suffering a stroke. “All he wanted was people to pray for him,” Shelley said. “Eventually we cried together and couldn’t stop.”
Dr. Glen Scorgie, professor of theology, told the Bethel Seminary Magazine, “One of the things I really respect about Shelley is that even in the midst of everything she faces, she empathizes with other people … she rejoices when other people succeed. She’s turned her suffering into a platform for empathy for other people.”
“My joy is knowing that I am His responsibility,” Shelley says. “Does joy mean that we have to be happy, or is it a spiritual state of contentment with where we are? There are many days when the last thing I want to do is go through another day, but just knowing Christ’s love and that He is within me gives me the courage to go on.”
Shelley knows God has been by her side since her birth, and the treasure of serving God and being a witness to doctors and patients is the joy she receives as a result.
An article about Shelley Bartick appears in the Bethel Seminary Magazine, Spring 1999.