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Chaplain says her ministry offers a ‘face of grace’

DALLAS (BP)–Melissa Walker-Luckett has seen it all. As a career health-care chaplain, she has been called to emergency rooms to minister in the wake of gang shootings, drownings and automobile accidents. She has been a constant witness to the trauma and drama that accompany life- and-death situations. Yet, in the midst of the suffering, she continues to bring a presence of peace and calm.

“I’ve walked with a dad to the hospital morgue to help him identify the body of his son. I’ve been with a mom as she had to identify the body of her son following a Saturday morning accident when he drove to a doughnut shop and didn’t return,” she relates.

“To be with that dad or mother in a life-changing moment is very sacred. I see myself as a physical reminder of God’s presence with them. As a seminary professor said, it is an opportunity to be a ‘face of grace.’ Many times we describe ourselves as God’s feet and hands, but there are times when we are called on to be his face as well.”

For the past six years she has lived out her calling in a variety of settings ranging from a hospital to a hospice. Today she commutes 35 miles from her home in Ferris, Texas, to the Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. There, as chaplain at the Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation, she is a face of grace, bringing hope and encouragement to individuals learning to deal with catastrophic loss.

“I primarily deal with the grief that families encounter after a traumatic brain or spinal cord injury. I’m frequently with families who struggle with realizing their son or daughter will never return to college or to a new job,” she explains.

“Part of what I do is help them reframe the picture of who they were and who they are going to be. Our pictures of ourselves are changing all the time, and we need to update them, put them in new frames. My responsibility is to help these families and individuals realize there is still great promise in their lives. God’s presence is still there, and his love is still there for them.

“Paul tells us we are to laugh with those who laugh and weep with those who weep. That’s a reflection of what God did for us through Jesus. He became incarnate and dwelt among us. As we do those things to become salt and light, we embody Christ’s spirit,” she says.

The daughter of a pastor in Little Rock, Ark., she made a profession of faith at age 7 in a revival meeting. During summer camp at age 10, she felt a call to missions. But it wasn’t an easy call to embrace.

“At that time it was scary because I didn’t know God did anything with women other than send them to China,” she says. “It wasn’t until my days at Southwestern (Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas) that I learned about Southern Baptist chaplaincy. The decision to enter the health-care field fit my calling well,” she says.

Her work doesn’t always concentrate on loss. Today she is helping a great-grandmother find the courage to get out of her wheelchair and try a walker.

“It hurts to get out there and walk on her new titanium knees, but I’m glad to be here and help her celebrate the medical technology that God has given us,” she says.
Reprinted from MissionsUSA, March-April 1997.

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  • Joe Westbury