Ministering at the Office Cubicle
Shawna Beeman strolls along the cubicles of the offices of Vermeer Corporation in Pella, Iowa, carrying a basket of individualized hard candy. The treats serve as an icebreaker to converse with the staff in the corporate office of the machinery company that employees more than 3,000 across the globe.
As the only woman full-time chaplain in the large corporate building in the Vermeer headquarters as well as in the front offices of seven onsite plants, Beeman is on call 24/7. But it’s those casual conversations she has while walking around the workplace that make personnel comfortable enough to contact her in a crisis. When a team member’s child is threatening suicide at 2 a.m., Beeman’s cellphone rings.
Beeman, who drives to work 55 miles from her home in Urbandale, also interacts with the labor force at work stations where agricultural, underground drilling, and mining machinery are manufactured. Although the company has two full-time male chaplains, some troubled employees prefer to talk to Beeman.
“A surprising number of production team workers pat me on the shoulder and say, ‘My wife and I had a disagreement; she is so upset, can you come to our house?’” says Beeman, who has a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Counseling. She makes many house calls in her marriage and family support role.
Before joining Vermeer three years ago, Beeman, who is nationally endorsed AG chaplain, spent 11 years as a hospice and Veterans Administration chaplain in West Des Moines. Chaplaincy Ministries is a department of U.S. Missions.
“I loved helping people go through the process of grief, but I thought I had more to learn as a chaplain,” Beeman says. “I asked God to open up a place where I could grow.”
When Pat Ashby learned of Beeman’s availability, she hired her immediately. Ashby owns and directs Workplace & Family Life Services, which serves as the liaison in paying the chaplains who work at Vermeer. Ashby and her husband, Ed, also operate Family Legacy Counseling in Johnston.
“Shawna has a warm, glowing way about her,” says Ashby, 66. “Her caring shows with everyone she meets. I was excited to find someone of her caliber and experience to hire as a chaplain.”
Beeman’s background in grief benefits those going through illness or loss. She also refers workers to resources in the community that can help. Vermeer, a family-owned business, pays for employees as well as family members to receive up to three therapy sessions annually.
“The corporation sees the value in chaplains when employees get the support they need,” says Beeman, a graduate of North Central University.
Ashby knew Beeman from Des Moines First Assembly, where Beeman’s husband, Steve is community care pastor.
As a pastor, Steve Beeman also has his share of being called out at odd hours. Steve has formed relationships with many immigrants who have converted to Christianity from a Buddhist background and conducts a Cambodian service at the church. The Beemans have three children: Andrew, 10; William, 8; and Chloe, 5.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve people outside the church,” says Beeman, 46. “Often it just involves being a confidential listener, but many times it’s about allowing the voice of the Holy Spirit to speak a deeper knowledge of Christ.”