Faith in Action

The Lord’s Work

Nereus Mogaria, who is now an accepted candidate for the Salvation Army College for Officer Training in 2018, says his roles as soldier and cardiac surgery physician assistant make him who he is. “Sometimes, I wear my soldier’s uniform to work. I keep on the pants, shirt, and tie, but just switch into my white coat.”

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart,
as working for the Lord, not for human masters.

— Colossians 3:23

Surgeons will tell you that after every medical procedure, they leave a piece of themselves in the operating room (OR). As a cardiac surgery physician assistant (PA) for Mt. Sinai St. Luke’s in New York, a major part of my job is to assist surgeons with the various cardiac cases, as well as harvesting veins from patients. This delicate procedure involves taking veins from a patient’s leg and arteries from their arm, so that a surgeon can use those veins during bypass surgery. When a patient has a blocked artery in his or her heart, doctors create a detour (bypass) around the blockage so blood can flow.

During my years of studying cardiac and neurosurgery, I enjoyed being involved in the process of helping to fix this crucial part of a person’s body. I also saw a strong connection to the Lord in what I was doing because Jesus is a healer. However, years before Jesus cured a leper or gave a blind man his sight, He was a carpenter. He fixed objects that were broken. So, to help repair someone’s heart is an opportunity given to me by God.

Calling on God

When I’m harvesting a vein, I may run into problems, such as uncontrolled, unexpected bleeding. That’s when I ask God to show me what He sees. He reminds me to start again, begin a new cut, re–enter with the scope, and locate a healthy vein.

I have participated in bypass surgeries that have lasted 6 to 8 hours. Some cardiac cases and emergencies can last 12 hours. Those are the times when I feel the weakest. But it is also when I realize that the doctors and I aren’t doing this alone. God is with us through every surgery. This is His work, not ours.

I sometimes meet patients who tightly clutch their Bibles before or after surgery, or see their loved ones openly recite prayers. When I realize they are believers, I talk to them. I let them know that I am also praying for them.

For example, we had a patient who was suffering from Rapid Atrial Fibrillation (AFib). Her heartbeat was faster than it should be. When I walked into her hospital room, I saw her daughter sitting next to her, softly chanting Jesus’ name, as in a hymn. When I began chanting His name along with her, her face lit up. That small gesture felt like a blessing to both of us.

When we finished our prayer, we talked about her mother’s health. I explained the procedure she would undergo. When we were done, I looked at the daughter, smiled, and said, “Now, let’s go fix your mother’s heart.”

Doctors know that, when they walk into an OR, it is all about helping that patient in the moment. Past successes, framed medical degrees, or their hours spent studying notwithstanding, only that moment in the OR matters. A patient’s life is on the line.

People’s lives are also on the line in a Salvation Army corps. That is where officers, soldiers, and volunteers come together to meet the needs of a community in the name of Jesus. Whether serving a patient in an OR or serving a ministry in a corps, the work is always about the people who need help.

His plans for me

When I attended “Fuego: A Catalyst Experience for Young Adults” in September of 2016, I felt a stronger connection with the Lord than I ever had before. He awoke a fire in my own heart, and He let me know that He has bigger plans for me. I was inspired by a verse I had carried with me. But on that day, it held a special meaning. “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).

I have let God summon me, in my career and in my abilities, be it in an OR or in a Salvation Army corps. In the medical field, the first thing one needs to do is plan his or her future. One must think, Where do I see myself in 5, 10, or 15 years? That answer will determine what a person’s calling in medicine will be and the length of study needed.

Today, God has given me a new call to do work in the name of His Church. It’s a call just as strong as the one He gave me to be a cardiac surgery PA.

I now have a plan for my own future: to go from physically fixing hearts to fixing them spiritually as an officer of The Salvation Army.

—Nereus Mogaria is a soldier at The Salvation Army’s Brooklyn (Bay Ridge), N.Y., Corps

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