I am Cheri, great jumper of hoops. Of this title I am deservedly proud.
It started a few months ago when I felt God telling me it was time to phase out of children’s ministry and find a new area in which to serve. In the back of my mind was an experience with Churchill the Wonder Dog at the nursing home where my uncle was staying. Churchill had calculated an algorithm for how to wow the patients, and his calculations were spot on.
So in the back of my mind as I walked and prayed one day was this whole idea of using Churchill as a therapy dog. Imagine my surprise when a lady pulled over next to us to admire Churchill (naturally). Sitting next to her was a therapy dog wearing his telltale jacket.
When she was done fawning over my dog, she handed me a business card for a local organization that works with therapy dogs and their owners. I immediately started investigating, only to find out the application process was more arduous than applying for student financial aid and that I needed one to two full days of training – a little hard to swing for a self-employed writer.
So why not go right to the source? I thought. I did just that, going practically right down the street to an assisted living center where I had visited friends in rehab. The volunteer coordinator – a delightful lady – was thrilled about my plans.
“I’m going to be straight with you,” I said. “I want to build relationships with the patients for the sake of telling them about eternal life in Jesus Christ. Do you have a problem with that?”
“Absolutely not!” she said without hesitation. This was encouraging.
So from the start it felt like a done deal. “This is Cheri,” she told everyone. “She’s going to be doing dog therapy using her dog Churchill. Look at his picture. Isn’t he beautiful?”
As I prepared to leave, she said, “Okay, so you have to fill out this application, and let’s set an appointment for when you can come back next week to turn it back it,” she told me, handing me a thick stack of papers. I had done background checks before. No biggie. But reviewing the paperwork, I came across a request for a personal credit check.
“Is this necessary?” I asked. “I just went through a case of identity theft, and I am really hesitant about giving out my personal information.”
“Unfortunately, you have to do it,” she told me. “It’s perfectly safe.”
So I filled out every single page, including the one with references. As soon as I turned it in – literally within minutes – she had called my references (who then called me to tell me so), and I assumed we were off and running.
“Okay, now we need to do a drug test,” she told me by phone a week or so later. So I came in the next week for the drug test. It’s no different from getting a urinalysis at the doctor’s office, I thought in my naiveté. Wrong.
“No, honey, you can’t take your purse in there,” she advised me. “And you can’t lock the door. And you can’t flush. And you can’t wash your hands until you open the door and I check everything.”
As I said, I’m naive. But I’m also the girl who changed in the bathroom during gym class. Still, I complied.
Needless to say, I passed. “So when can I start?” I asked.
“Well, now we need to do the fingerprinting,” my coordinator said. “You can come in next week for that.”
The next week, right on schedule, I stepped away from my computer long enough to get the fingerprinting done – only to find out my appointment was only to schedule the fingerprinting. And that in itself was a separate application process.
Unfortunately, the day of my actual fingerprinting – at a site about 30 minutes away in light traffic – turned out to be the day a tropical storm dumped its watery wrath upon us, except it waited until I got out of the car.
“We’re moving right along,” I was told. “Now we just need to do the TB test, and we’re all set.”
Are we really? I had to wonder.
So, yet again, I went back. “You have to come back in 48 to 72 hours for a nurse to check it,” I was told. Two days later, I went back again. (I have a favorite parking place by now.) A nurse walking by heard why I was there, looked at my arm, and shouted, “Negative,” to the receptionist.
A few days later, I got a call. “I understand you had a reaction to the test,” my coordinator said.
“Uh, no,” I said, confused. It was negative.”
“Oh. Um, let me see here . . . Okay, so the next thing we need to do is have you come in and watch two hours of videos. When can you come?”
“Next week,” I said. “After that can I finally start?” (Note that I’m slow to the draw.)
“Well, the last thing we have to do is orientation. We’ll take you and Churchill on a tour of the entire center. Then you can start.”
My knees are aching from all the hoop-jumping, but in my quiet time this week, I had a great reminder from James, Jesus’ brother, about the importance of perseverance:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything. . . . Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.
– James 1:2-4, 12
I intend to stand the test. Therefore, for now I will jump. And the joy will be mine. The treats will be reserved for Churchill.