Connections: Renee Girdler
Healing as Ministry
Renee Girdler has been a much-honored practicing family medical doctor for 20 years, is an associate professor of family and geriatric medicine teaching residents and students at the University of Louisville, overseer of the Kentucky Assemblies of God Women in Ministry, and the first woman ever appointed to the AG World Missions Board. Girdler’s husband of 25 years, Joseph Girdler, has been AG Kentucky District superintendent for eight years. Last year, Renee received the General Superintendent’s Medal of Honor, the highest honor for a layperson in the Fellowship. She recently took time to speak with Pentecostal Evangel News Editor John W. Kennedy.
evangel: Why did you decide to become a medical doctor?
GIRDLER: As a sophomore in high school, I knew I would become a medical doctor. I was intrigued with the sciences and wanted to just help people. My parents encouraged me to pursue my dreams. More importantly, I knew I would marry a minister.
My first HealthCare Ministries trip occurred during my fourth year of medical school and led me to pursue a career in family medicine where I would care for all age groups, families and communities of people. This trip helped identify my career goals in family medicine.
evangel: Where have you served on HealthCare Ministries teams?
GIRDLER: First, in 1989 to Argentina, then to South Africa in 2002, and in 2010 our entire family went with HCM to Cuenca, Ecuador, to work with AG world missionary Bill McDonald in establishing a medical clinic. On that particular trip, I prayed for a gentleman who had Parkinson’s disease and watched him walk away healed. Tremor and shuffling gait gone! And all he could say was, “What did you do to me?”
evangel: So you are able to combine your profession with ministry.
GIRDLER: Medicine is not just a career, but a ministry. It serves as the portal to reach people who are hurting and looking for something real. Many times on call I have prayed that God would give me opportunities to reach people for Him and to share His love with them. I have missed opportunities on occasion, but I have seen God perform miracles as well.
evangel: How do you have time to devote to ministry when you are in a demanding profession?
GIRDLER: I have grown up in ministry all of my life. My dad, Lorie Vannucci, has pastored the same Kentucky church for 40 years. We have always involved our children (Steven, 20, and Rachel, 16) in ministry. They were always a part of what we were doing, whether Joe was making visits to people in their homes or I was helping organize and make Thanksgiving baskets.
We can no longer leave ministry up to the pastor, but we are all ministers in our occupations, schools and to the people we are in contact with every day. We all find time for those things that are important to us.
evangel: How many hours a week are you engaged in practicing medicine and teaching?
GIRDLER: Around 60 hours; it’s not terrible.
evangel: What is your advice to Christians who say they are too busy for ministry?
GIRDLER: We must first make sure we take care of our families and ourselves. We must pray and be in the Word. If we are involved in every ministry of the church and neglect our family, then this is not beneficial. Find a ministry in the church where you are needed and get involved. Learn to not overextend yourself. Be organized and use your time wisely.
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