One of our hopes, through Unlocking Femininity, is that women would learn how to glorify the Lord through their lives, their ministries, and their careers. Sometimes we wonder what our place in ministry can be as we’re trying to live within the Scriptural framework God has designed for us.
Whitney Martin is one of those ladies who has sought the Lord as she felt called to ministry and found a career, as a hospital chaplain, that helps her minister to the hurting and spread the Gospel to those in some of the darkest situations. A graduate from Southwestern Baptist Seminary with a Master of Divinity, Whitney has specifically worked as a hospital chaplain in the neo-natal intensive care unit. As one of my best friends, I’m honored to have her share about her journey in ministry with the Lord, her struggles and her joys as she’s strived to live out God’s calling in her career.
Diane: I used to have some misconceptions about chaplains that they were all male, all preached, were “pastors” in the military, and performed wedding ceremonies. Thanks to meeting you, all these were completely debunked! Can you explain what a hospital chaplain does and how you perform these functions as a woman obedient to God’s Word?
Whitney: The duties of a chaplain can vary depending on the organization and it may take on different forms. I work specifically within the capacity of a hospital chaplain but the main responsibility of a chaplain is to serve and minister to the patients, their families, and the staff within the hospital.
One of the responsibilities of serving the patients includes visiting the patients on a regular basis during their stay. Many of these patients are facing life-altering decisions. Some are just looking for someone to talk to. They want help answering some of the difficult questions facing them head-on. This provides a unique opportunity for ministry, the opportunity to share the love of Christ and the promises of Scripture. Doctors and nurses walk in and out of their rooms to take information, vitals, and blood but the chaplain has the opportunity to walk into their room and give back to the patient through listening and ministering to their emotional and spiritual needs.
The families of the patients are also walking a hard road. Many times they too are enduring the sleepless nights, unending fears, and difficult questions. While they may not experience the physical pain of the patient, the emotional strain may weigh just as heavy. Rather than enduring the procedures, the family spends countless hours in the waiting room. Depending on the patient’s condition, it’s not unusual for a chaplain to interact more with the family than the patient. In the event of a trauma the chaplain’s only interaction may be with the families. Their hearts are equally in need of the Lord’s comfort.
Three of life’s most significant events include birth, death and salvation. These events have a lasting, significant impact on people as well as the families surrounding them because they reshape their lives. Two of these events, birth and death, occur regularly within hospitals. They provide a chaplain with the unique opportunity to walk alongside people at crucial moments in their lives. These life-altering situations open doors for sharing the Gospel. Because of these things, I believe hospital chaplaincy can be a unique and important ministry.
Diane: What has influenced your decision to become a hospital chaplain?
Whitney: I spent some of the most formative years of my life within the hospital setting. My mother was sick for four and half years, which required us to spend countless hours and even holidays in and out of hospitals. Through this process I saw and experienced firsthand the fears and pain that occur in that setting on a daily basis. I remember what it’s like to be a family member sitting in a cold waiting room full of nerves for my loved one. I remember watching countless other families alongside me experience the same thing. The Lord allowed these things to open my heart to the patients and their families who continue to walk this path each day.
However, I never even thought of chaplaincy as an option, much less an area the Lord would want me to serve. I pretty much viewed my options as limited to a few, specific areas including missions, women’s ministry, and children’s ministry. I spent most of my college years trying to force myself into one of those areas. It wasn’t until my senior year of college that a professor encouraged me to simply try a chaplaincy internship with a local hospital. This resulted in the Lord opening my eyes to where He wanted me to serve. I realized I could serve as hospital chaplain using the skills and talents God gave me while still living in obedience to Scripture’s commands for me as a daughter of God.
Diane: What are some challenges you’ve faced in your ministry?
Whitney: One of the greatest challenges I have faced involved the expectations of patients and their families. Not a day would pass when I would walk into a hospital room, introduce myself as the chaplain, and see confused faces looking back at me from the patients, their families, or both. “You’re the chaplain?” they would say to me in disbelief. They would fire questions or comments at me.
“You’re so young!”
“I didn’t know women could be chaplains!”
Early on in my ministry this crippled me; I immediately felt disqualified. After all, I wasn’t so sure I would take a 23-year-old girl walking into my hospital room claiming to be a chaplain seriously. When I operated under the authority of my insecurities, I realized the hindrances they posed to the possibilities of effective ministry. I came to a point where I placed my security in the Lord and His Word versus holding on to the insecurities that I was allowing to take root. It was only when I surrendered this to the Lord that I began to see the full impact that He was having through this ministry.
All these things remind me of the importance of the chaplain’s ministry and why I have a heart to serve here. Though I have faced challenges the Lord has been incredibly gracious to me and taught me so much through this ministry. I love being able to serve those in some of their most hurting, life-altering moments with the love and Gospel of Christ.
If you have any questions for about chaplaincy, being called as woman to ministry, or anything else you’re curious about, please leave a comment! Whitney would love to answer any questions you might have about chaplaincy or her journey!