Every morning at 7 a.m. Mark Woolfington boots up his computer at Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital and checks his email inbox for “please pray for me” messages.
Then he does.
Because for some, the holidays aren’t a steady stream of Christmas carols and visits to the mall. For those dealing with loss or pain, it’s a difficult and quiet time.
“There aren’t a lot of people who walk in here and say ‘Pray for me,’” said Woolfington, a chaplain at the hospital. “This is a way for us to bring our ministry to people who need it, especially during the holidays, but can’t bring themselves to ask for it.”
This week, Woolfington launched an E-Chaplain ministry that will extend chaplain care and counsel electronically. Adventist Midwest Health chaplains currently provide spiritual and emotional care with Christian compassion at all four Adventist hospitals in Hinsdale, Bolingbrook, La Grange and Glendale Heights. They are on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week and try to see all new patients.
It’s accessible from the keepingyouwell.com where people can submit everything from simple prayers to complex theological issues. Woolfington will then respond and offer chaplain services through counseling, answering questions and simple encouragement. If requested, he will follow up with a phone call.
“For some people prayer face to face with a stranger is very difficult,” Woolfington said. “I think the anonymous aspect of this program is very appealing.”
After all, prayer is personal. For example rarely does a patient heading into surgery pass up a prayer. But there are other patients who politely decline a prayer when surrounded by family, but have a chaplain paged after his family leaves, said Woolfington.
People don’t have to be patients or staff to use the E-Chaplain ministry either. In fact, about 90 percent of patient contacts at Adventist Midwest Health are not admissions to one of the four hospitals – instead they are through outpatient services, Adventist Health Care at Home, or Adventist St. Thomas Hospice, said John Rapp, regional vice president of ministries and mission at Adventist Midwest Health.
“Our mission statement is to “extend the healing ministry of Christ” to everyone we serve, and this is a major extension of spiritual care into the community,” Rapp said.
Information about the E-Chaplain service will be given to patients with their discharge packets and an Adventist Health Care at Home chaplain can make a home visit if requested. If a professional counselor is needed, Woolfington will forward on that information. A Spanish speaking chaplain will help out with the Spanish prayer requests.
Every single prayer will be answered. Woolfington will check his email throughout the day to see how many prayers have landed in his inbox. As word spreads and the program gains popularity, Woolfington may forward some prayers to other Adventist chaplains.
The E-Chaplain ministry will also serve employees, who are often overlooked when tragedy strikes.
For example, after a 14-year-old girl who lived near La Grange was recently stabbed and pronounced dead at the hospital, television cameras and reporters lined up across the street to cover the murder. Grief counselors were brought in to talk to her family and friends.
But what about the doctors, nurses and staff who work at Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital? They live in the area. They knew the girl. And they too were devastated by the loss.
“After such a tragedy, I’m sure many of our employees went straight home to be with their families and loved ones,” Woolfington said. “But their grief and their heartache may have surfaced later. With E-Chaplain ministry, we’re there whenever our staff, our patients or our community need us.”
To view the website, click here: www.keepingyouwell.com/PastoralCare/EchaplainMinistry.aspx
Adventist Midwest Health includes Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital, Adventist GlenOaks Hospital, Adventist Hinsdale Hospital and Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital. To find a physician, visit www.keepingyouwell.com.
Media contact: Sheila Galloro, public relations specialist, Adventist Midwest Health, Sheila.Galloro@ahss.org; 630-856-2359.