It was a Thursday, late afternoon, as my wife and I finally settled in behind the “news desk” – really just an eight-foot long folding table covered with a checkered tablecloth – while the senior pastor adjusted the zoom feature and double-checked the audio on the camera in front of us. Once the camera was rolling, the folding table would indeed become an authentic looking, digitally-created desk scene, complete with skyline background and appropriate lighting, but for now it was simply a folding table.
It had been a little bit of a stressful, traffic-dense commute from our client’s hobby farm, where my veterinarian wife and I had just been tending to a mini-pig and a couple of pet goats, to the church building from which we would momentarily be teaching our mid-week Bible study – this week on Genesis chapter two.
In our haste to get to the “studio” on time, I had only just managed to change out of my surgical scrub top and into a presentable, “green-screen” suitable, button-up shirt while neglecting to swap out my work pants and boots, reasoning that the online audience would only be able to see my upper torso anyway, as long as I didn’t fidget too much while in front of the camera.
My wife had wisely set out a complete change of clothes for herself before we had left our home that morning and she masterfully transformed her look from house call doctor to teaching pastor in about the same time it took me to shutdown, restock and secure our veterinary house call vehicle for the night before shooting off to our pastoral “gig.”
Thanks to the skillful and judicious use of text messaging, the senior pastor and, now, master audio-visual technician/director/producer was ready and waiting for us as we assumed our seats in preparation for that night’s lesson.
After a brief but very sincere and heartfelt moment of prayer we began to teach our lesson on Genesis to an enthusiastic audience of one – the aforementioned senior pastor (due to pandemic related attendance restrictions) and the unblinking eye of the camera.
As soon as I sat still for a moment, I realized I should have probably changed my pants as well as my shirt, as the musky, unmistakable, but not entirely unpleasant scent of goat began wafting up and around us. I had earlier pinned the goats we were working on between my knees to hold them still for their injections and now we were being subtly reminded of our other vocation even as we began to delve into the teaching for the evening. However, the camera was rolling, and the lesson was live, so I only quietly acknowledged the fleeting, crinkled nose, wifely glance from my spouse and co-teacher.
Soon enough the social media comments, questions and hellos began to scroll across the large monitor screen positioned off-camera, but readily viewable to us, and the goat smell became irrelevant. The counter tracking the number of views began ticking upwards as we carefully and joyfully teased meaning and nuance out of each verse in the text before us.
Although I remained relatively certain that few other American pastors were addressing the heady yet absolutely critical topic of the Creation Week whilst sporting the fragrance of pygmy goat, I mentally referenced an article I had just read citing the fact that roughly 38% of all pastors in the United States fall into the category of being bi-vocational (LifeWay – “Facts & Trends” – May 2019). I could not help but smile at the thought that there were likely many men and women just like us, racing home from factory jobs, office jobs, retail and restaurant jobs, caretaker jobs and homemaker jobs with just enough time to compile their notes and references and swap out their uniforms of the day in order to carry out the equally important duties and calling of serving their church congregations, be they teaching, making hospital visitations, dropping by on a shut-in or praying with a family in crisis.
I also briefly envisioned Paul the Apostle, tossing aside his own work apron with that same mixture of satisfaction over a job well done and annoyance at the limitations of time that we too feel each week, before running out the door of his shop in order to engage the audience of his day amid the eye rolls and shaking heads of his first century contemporaries.
As we continued teaching, my heart leapt with delight as the name of a client we had seen earlier in the week and invited to join online flashed on the monitor in front of us. In the course of our veterinary practice, the topics of death, suffering, the “big picture” and other such topics often come up. As our clients learn more about us and get to feel more and more comfortable around us they usually learn rather quickly that we are also Free Methodist pastors in addition to being a husband/wife veterinarian and registered veterinary technician team. Admittedly, this information about our pastoral calling might never go beyond the “that’s interesting” stage but frequently it lends itself to sincere and frank discussions and/or confessions, in some cases, about their church experiences or lack thereof. Sometimes the animal medicine part of our visit is over long before the soul tending part and we end up talking with our clients for an additional forty-five minutes about things that are essential to their well-being but have little to do with a rabies shot or eye exam we just conducted on their beloved pet. We often invite those clients to tune in or check out one of our studies, either online or in person, when that is possible. Many do.
And even if clients don’t end up joining a study, many will call upon us should tragedy befall. We are honored and consider it a blessing and part of our ministerial role to have performed memorial services for family members of several of our clients simply because they trust us and have nowhere else to turn. Occasionally, those simple acts of kindness lead the way towards much deeper, more meaningful relationships that extend well beyond the veterinary realm and into the eternal realm.
On this particular evening, however, it was a pleasant enough and satisfying treat and answer to prayer simply to see our client’s name show up on the screen and to know that they were taking small steps to find out more about the faith that we hope is so intrinsically interwoven into our veterinary business so as to be virtually inseparable from understanding who we are and how we practice.
And, thus, after an hour of, hopefully beneficial, and certainly animated teaching and digital discussion we concluded our lesson for the evening, signed off from our online Bible study and switched modes yet again to become support crew and audio technicians to the senior pastor and incoming music team who were arriving to pre-record their song set for the following Sunday.
Like us, many of them were stepping out of roles they occupied in the so-called secular realm to do their other job of ministry and service to the Kingdom.
It would be another hour before we finally pulled into the driveway but two more before heading off to bed. We would, naturally, be weary in body but joyful in spirit. Even in our tiredness, though, we were able to reflect upon Paul’s encouragement in 2 Thessalonians 3:13
“And as for you, brethren, never tire of doing what is right.”
About the Authors
Veterinarian Dr. Gay Zambrano and husband, Dan Zambrano love to speak and teach on the truth of God’s Word and His creation. Dr. Gay Zambrano is a 1991 graduate of the Ohio State University School of Veterinary Medicine. She fulfilled an externship at the London Zoo. Practicing full-time small animal and exotics medicine in the Long Beach/West Orange County area since 1991. Part-time clinical and consulting positions in laboratory animal medicine for 15 years. Gay has also been an adjunct professor at Bethesda University, teaching Life Science and Earth Science from a young earth biblical creation perspective.
Dan Zambrano has a B.S. in Marine Biology from Cal State Long Beach. He is a Licensed Registered Veterinary Technician. He has worked at Cabrillo Aquarium, the Los Angeles Harbor Dept., California State Fish & Game Dept., and the L.A. Zoo before partnering in the mobile veterinary practice with his wife. Dan is a certified speaker for the IAC (International Association for Creation). He is currently working on biblical creation based guide book for local zoos in Southern California.