This post was originally inspired by a patient who expressed gratitude for Stamford Hospital’s chaplains during a stay. We thank all of our chaplains for their selflessness, dedication and love for other human beings. The following is an interview with Reverend John Drakeford.
1. Tell us about yourself. What inspired you to be where you are today? How did you know this career was your calling?
I’m originally from South Carolina, but moved to Connecticut in 1965 for better job opportunities. I worked for a telephone company for 30 years and was laid off. I decided to pursue my desire to take a pastoral ministry class.
Years back, I always had a vision. I didn’t quite understand it until I became involved in the ministry. There was an incident in my life—in 2000 I became ill with cancer in my spine. I was healed and it was that healing that made me feel I had to surrender. This all led me to become more deeply involved in the church and [act upon] my desire to help people. This realization brought me closer to what God wanted for me. After graduating from Hartford Seminary certificate program, I was appointed to the position of assistant to the pastor at Union Baptist church. I have always had a passion for visiting the sick in the hospitals and nursing homes.
2. Why did you choose Stamford Hospital?
I’ve been with Stamford Hospital for nine years and have worked at Norwalk and Bridgeport hospitals. Being at Stamford has helped me to experience meeting and ministering to many people from all walks of life. Stamford Hospital has broadened my understanding of what people go through during their stay.
3. What’s the most rewarding/challenging aspect of your role here?
To be able to perform this type of job effectively, you have to be “called.” It’s truly a blessing to be able to impact the lives of others. The biggest challenge is watching people experience pain, suffering, doubts and fears as they navigate their personal issues. It’s important to remember that you’re not always able to reach everyone all the time—and that’s OK. I have always tried to meet the patient where they are regardless of the situation.
4. When someone says, “You’ve changed my life,” what initially goes through your head?
To me, it means people are open to a spiritual and physical transformation. It’s not so much about me personally, but that God has made this transformation. I give all praise and honor to God. I thank God for giving me the right words at the time to comfort them.
5. Do you have a particular person who has inspired you along the way?
Yes, my pastor right here in Stamford. In my 25 some-odd years in the ministry, I’ve learned so much from him. He helped teach me that life is always a test of faith. I know that my issue with cancer was what propelled me to become a chaplain. My experience can be a blessing to others.
6. What’s one philosophy by which you live?
The Golden Rule. Everything begins with you: whatever you think, speak and share. This belief has a spiritual element as well. When overcoming fears, I try to remember and share that the spirit is the greatest part of who we are. It’s our personal state of peace. Fear will always try to overtake you, but it does not define who you are. Along the way, we’ll always feel fear and face rejection; we learn to not take it personally. Life is challenging, but having an open mind is crucial.
7. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I enjoy spending time with my family. My wife Mattie and I have a daughter (Tarsha) and two granddaughters (Genisis and Eden) who live in Virginia. We spend 1-2 vacations together each year.