The Musical, Translating Chaplain
by Debbonnaire Kovacs
by Debbonnaire Kovacs
submitted August 6, 2014
Imagine a hospital chaplain who has a pastoral assistance degree from a college in Spain, completed a theology degree at Walla Walla University, and then got a masters’ at Andrews. This would clearly be a well-qualified chaplain. Naturally, what matters even more than education in such a setting, so the fact that this chaplain is brimming with those qualities enriches the experience for all.
Now imagine that this chaplain is also a musician, having studied music along with theology at Walla Walla, and uses a guitar and some songs (and love and compassion) to work with patients whose illnesses are in the behavioral health arena. The chaplain’s qualifications have just gone up several notches.
Add to this the fact that our chaplain speaks English, Portuguese, Spanish, and French. Imagine the richness such a multi-gifted person would bring to a ministry team, particularly in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic environment like Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital, located in a suburb of Chicago. The hospital’s vice president of ministries and mission, John Rapp, says, “Her theological background is impressive, but Grys has so many talents that go beyond that…She is the perfect addition to our team!”
Christina Matos Grys might never have imagined such a future for herself. Born in Portugal and raised in Angola, Africa, she was in high school in Portugal when she began questioning her future. Her career testing suggested that she might like to be a civil engineer. Seventeen-year-old Christina said, not so much.
It’s strange, the medium God used to turn her in a new direction. She saw an environmental documentary that impressed her with the challenges the planet faces. If she had truly been meant for engineering, she might have turned her mind to something like sustainable energy. Matos’ reaction, however, was to immediately pray to God that what she did with her life would matter for eternity. “I wanted to help tell people about Jesus,” she says.
Soon after, she learned of the college in Spain where she could study theology, and we’ve seen the short form of the directions in which the next few years led her. When she arrived at Andrews, seeking her masters’ degree, she also found a new blessing. She met young John Grys, who was also studying for pastoral ministry, and they married.
In the years since then, their ministry has led them in still more far-flung directions: Miami, Florida; Richmond, Virginia; Chattanooga and Knoxville, Tennessee; Napa, California. In “apple and cherry country,” Wenatchee, Washington, John was assistant pastor and academy Bible teacher, while Christina was Spanish teacher, chaplain, and also Bible teacher. They even spent a year pastoring in Geneva, Switzerland.
In the summer of 2011, John completed his Doctor of Ministry in Leadership at Andrews, and launched a new journal, The Journal of Applied Christian Leadership. He specializes in organizational and human culture and the question of transformational leadership. He also studies and writes about church history (including Adventist), organizational culture, leadership, issues of human development, the formation of the canon, and the contextualization of the gospel.
Now, as of January, 2014, they have arrived in Chicago, where John grew up. While his wife exercises her skills and joys in hospital chaplaincy, he pastors two suburban churches. This is the kind of broad, wide-ranging, God-centered ministry that will help build up God’s work in a diverse world, and Adventist Today salutes the Grys family and wishes them God’s blessing in their work for him and for his people.