Kellie Chalker can’t go to church.
The 30-year-old from Glascock County, Ga., has leukemia. She received her second bone marrow transplant in early October and hasn’t been allowed past the double doors of the Georgia Health Sciences University Hospital in weeks.
“When you find out you have leukemia or any kind of cancer, it brings you down,” she said. “You have to stay focused on the Lord. In our case, we’re not allowed to go to church. All we have is Brother Wayne.”
“Brother Wayne” is her chaplain, the Rev. Wayne McKnight, who for the past year has ministered to Chalker and her family.
He’s one of several chaplains Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics will recognize Tuesday with a service during the 27th annual Pastoral Care Week.
Patients, staff and the public are invited to the ecumenical service, where the Rev. Sid Gates will speak.
The midday service held in honor of Pastoral Care Week celebrates the role of “spiritual caregivers” and is themed “Giving Voice.”
“To me, it’s a beautiful imagery of our role in making sure every person has the ability to be heard,” said Jeff Flowers, the health center’s director of pastoral care.
The chaplains serve people of “any faith and no faith,” he said. “We want to make sure they have access to whatever gives them hope and encouragement.”
Eighteen years ago, when Flowers was first hired, “it was just me. One chaplain,” he said. Now, three full-time chaplains, a resident, and several volunteers, including local clergy, serve hundreds of patients a week.
“We tell folks all the time we have the largest congregation in Augusta,” Flowers said. “On any given day, 400 of them are in the hospital.”
Chalker has been in and out of the hospital for about a year. Over that time, she has developed relationships with her chaplains, her mother, Debbie Chalker, said.
“We really need them. We depend on them. God sends them to us,” she said. “We keep our faith by Brother Wayne. He’s become part of our life. He tells us we’re not alone.”