Matt Mundall loves the work of a chaplain—connecting and providing support to people in a medical setting when they need it most. And thanks to AdventHealth’s recently expanded chaplaincy internship program, Mundall spent this past summer getting practical experience in his dream job in their Denver health care facilities.
For him, it’s just one more confirmation that he has discovered his God-given calling. But his life direction hasn’t always been so clear.
First, he thought of becoming a pastor, but he became disillusioned after seeing the discord in so many churches.
Then he set his sights on becoming a missionary. He completed an internship at a farm, enrolled in a year-long health evangelism course, and signed up to serve as a student missionary. While he had intended to go to Russia to use the Russian language skills he’d been working on, he took a health counselor position in Ireland. Since Ireland is a predominantly Catholic country, Mundall, who grew up Adventist, found himself interacting and making friends with people of a different faith. “It really opened my eyes and changed the way I viewed God,” he said. “I found a more personal God, and it transformed my spiritual journey.”
As much as he loved his year as a missionary, he was still in search of a life plan. He decided to study nursing when he came home.
Union is first on the list
He applied to an Adventist college, but the acceptance process dragged on and on, and Mundall began to feel like God was leading him to seek out a different school. When he searched online for Adventist nursing programs, Union was the first college that came up.
Mundall had been on Union’s campus during high school, but he’d never considered attending. However, the response he got to his initial application took him by surprise. “They were so friendly. They wanted me here,” he said. “I was impressed that Union had such a good nursing program, and I felt that God was opening doors for me.”
So, in the fall of 2015, Mundall enrolled as a first-year nursing major. He got involved with Campus Ministries, working with the student missions program and became the religious liaison connecting the nursing students with Campus Ministries. Then, one day in clinicals during his sixth semester, he had a realization.
A catheter and an epiphany
“They were asking us who wanted to practice doing a catheter and starting an IV, and everyone else was volunteering,” he said. “I didn’t really want to do any of those things. Then the professor said, ‘We have a patient who is really struggling and frustrated, and we need someone to listen to them and just be present.’ My hand was the first one up. I realized that what I loved about nursing wasn’t all of the procedures and memorization—that was actually what I didn’t like. What I loved was that bedside connection and the ability to help people emotionally. That experience really opened my eyes to the fact that God had a different calling for me and that He’d used nursing to bring me to it.”
That epiphany lead Mundall to consult his adviser. “I’m so thankful for Union and the faculty advisers,” he said. “My adviser told me that God had a special calling for my life and that the nursing program wanted to help me find what that was.” Mundall explained that he’d thought about becoming a pastor, but that he didn’t feel that was the path down which God was leading him. “But my adviser told me that there were different ways to be a pastor—and that’s where the idea of becoming a chaplain came in. The more I thought about it and prayed about it, the more I got excited.”
Mundall met with his new adviser in the Division of Religion, Ben Holdsworth, to further explore chaplaincy. “We talked about what a hospital chaplain would do, and I had seen a few chaplains at work during clinicals,” Mundall said. “And it all started to make sense—my time in Ireland as a health intern and getting to know people of different religions, my desire for missions, and my desire to relate to people and help them through nursing. All of that brought me to this point.”
Mundall transitioned into a new major, a religion degree with a leadership minor. “After being in religion classes for a year, I’m more sure now than ever that God has led me to this path,” he said.
Real experience in a dream job
The one thing missing was practical experience to really immerse him in the culture and daily activities of a chaplain. Unfortunately, while internships and hands-on practical experience is common in some fields, very few opportunities exist for individuals studying chaplaincy.
Fortunately for Mundall, Advent Health in Denver contacted Union, looking to expand their internship program to include chaplaincy interns. When Mundall’s professors heard about the program, they encouraged him to apply. One interview later, Mundall was invited to become the first intern chaplain for Porter Adventist Hospital and Centura Health.
He said, “This process affirmed the calling that God had put on my heart. God is so good—he opened up all of the stops and used Union as the conduit to do that.”
The internship is a 12-week program that’s split into two segments. For the first six weeks, Mundall worked under the head of the mission and ministry department, shadowing and working on leadership projects. During the last six weeks, he shadowed chaplains to learn more about their role.
Mundall will graduate in May 2020, and his ultimate goal is to become the head chaplain at a hospital. “Working in one of our Adventist hospitals would be a dream for me,” he said. “I have a burden for our ministry and interacting with people of different faiths who just need someone to love them.”
He explains that his time at Union prepared him for this journey. “The hands-on experience of the nursing program really helped me identify the strengths that God has given me and discover what I love about caring for people,” he said. “And the opportunities Union gave me to be involved with Campus Ministries changed me. Pastor Rich encouraged me—he told me there was nothing I couldn’t do. It helped me see how spiritual mentorship works and has helped me interact with different people and stay open to God’s leading. Union helped me realize that even though God is using my talents for chaplaincy, there’s so much growth that can take place within me. I just have to look at Christ and move forward on His path for my life.”
Lauren Schwarz is a Union College graduate and freelance writer based in Boseman, Montana.