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Waxahachie, TexasJanuary 26, 2012Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) alumnus James Austin serves as a chaplain resident for Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri.

Austin says, "Chaplaincy is a challenging and fulfilling ministry. I try to be Jesus in skin to everyone I meet and in the process witness spiritual, emotional, and physical healing. I have seen people come to Christ and people who are comatose open their eyes and begin talking. Every day when I clock out, I feel that I have served God well.”

With a medical staff of 1,800 members, Barnes-Jewish is the largest hospital in Missouri and the largest private employer in the St. Louis region. Barnes-Jewish is an affiliated teaching hospital of the Washington University School of Medicine and has been recognized by the U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s Best Hospitals for more than 18 consecutive years. Barnes-Jewish Spiritual Care Services are available twenty-four hours a day. As a hospital chaplain, Austin provides spiritual care to patients, family, and staff.

Austin is enrolled in the Clinical Pastor Education (CPE) program through the Assemblies of God Chaplaincy Department. The CPE program is designed around a learning method of action and reflection. Through hands-on experience, students practice what they learn and discuss with peers their experiences and how to improve.

Austin grew up in Logansport, Indiana. In 1992, Austin graduated with bachelor’s degrees in missions and bible from Central Bible College (CBC).

While at CBC, Austin met and married his wife, Karma. After graduation, the couple served a two-year missionary assignment in Guam and neighboring Rota Island, where they worked with Yigo Assembly of God and its accompanying bible school.

At the conclusion of their assignment, the Austins returned to the United States. They settled in the Kansas City, Missouri area, where they served as the children’s pastors at Karma’s home church, Raytown First Assembly of God, for nine years. In 2004, Austin became the senior pastor at Bourbon First Assembly of God in Bourbon, Missouri.

After four years of pastoring, Austin sensed that God wanted him to further his education in preparation of a particular ministry. He enrolled in the SAGU Graduate Program and graduated with a Master of Divinity in 2011.

Austin was greatly influenced by SAGU professors Robert Harden and John Wyckoff. Austin says, “Professor Wyckoff taught me how to communicate what I believe and why to those who don’t share the same belief systems or understandings. He emphasized being able to communicate deep-felt beliefs with a reasonable response. Professor Harden emphasized being able to communicate cross-culturally within a pluralistic environment.”

Austin deals with the challenges of diversity on a daily basis as he encounters a wide variety of cultures and belief systems. He encounters folk religions, superstitions, animistic influences, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Wicca, atheism and the various denominations within Christianity. Among approximately 20 chaplains, chaplains residents and contract chaplains at Barnes-Jewish, a variety of these belief systems are represented. Austin says, “Professor Hardin’s teachings were preparing me to serve in such a diverse environment. I have learned it helps to capitalize on similarities.”

Austin relies on the Holy Spirit to give him wisdom and insight. Austin says, "I have no idea of a patient's spiritual background when I walk into a room. In only 30-40 seconds, I must ascertain the person's beliefs from their responses. Often God reveals to me knowledge about a person that I could not know, or He directs me what to say and do or not say and do."

Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) is a private, Christian university located 30 minutes south of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex in Waxahachie, Texas. The University was established in 1927, and now offers more than 60 associate, bachelor’s or master’s degrees on campus or online. More information is available at or by calling 1-888-YES-SAGU.

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