On November 16 the sky lit up in front of St. Paul’s Hospital, in Vancouver, B.C., for the 20th Lights of Hope Festival. George Keulen, new pastor at Bridge Community Christian Reformed Church in Langley, B.C., and former patient, is featured in the hospital’s giving campaign this year.
Keulen is one of the many people for whom this spectacular display truly does symbolize light and hope. Born with cystic fibrosis (CF), Keulen became critically ill in his early 20s, requiring a double lung transplant to continue to live. He spent 200 days in St. Paul’s before receiving transplant surgery June 18, 2010, acutely aware of how his gift of life meant another person’s ultimate gift in dying.
Seven years later, Keulen serves as a spiritual care practitioner at Providence Health Care and interns in that capacity at the B.C. Children’s Hospital. Keulen said: “My first love, to be a dairy farmer on the family farm, was not possible because of my compromised immunity. So I turned to my second love, being a pastor.”
Post-surgery, Keulen enrolled in Regent College and continued at Calvin Theological Seminary, all the while deepening his desire to learn more about providing spiritual care. Rev. Martin Contant, a retired CRC pastor who now serves Faith Formation Ministries, has walked alongside Keulen. “His posture of self-reflection, experiences, and sensitivities are gifts to George in his desire to be a pastor,” Contant said.
Keulen has served Bridge Community CRC as interim pastor since the summer. The congregation voted this past Sunday to extend a call to him as permanent pastor.
In his inter-faith ministry at Providence Health Care, Keulen appreciates ministering to people of all faith backgrounds or no faith at all, and working alongside practitioners who also have different faith walks and expressions.
“My struggles with CF have given me a deeper level of compassion and patience that I would not have had otherwise and have given me a heart for those who are suffering especially with health difficulties,” Keulen said.
Telling his story in the Lights of Hope campaign this year isn’t the only way Keulen has given back. Each summer he participates in a cycling fundraiser for cystic fibrosis research.
Keulen has a word of encouragement for any young persons who find themselves on the edge of waiting and wondering about their health and future: “Be open. Find a few people to share your burden and ask them to covenant to pray for you. It is amazing how the Spirit works to lift your soul when others are walking with you, sharing your burden.”