For Louie and Peggy Locke, co-pastors of Fountainhead (Carson City Foursquare Church) in Nevada, their additional roles as hospital chaplains and chaplains to the Nevada State Legislature create a beautiful mosaic of ministry that is both incredibly heartfelt and intensely personal.
The parents of three adult children and six grandchildren, Louie and Peggy, who have served as legislative chaplains for four years and as hospital chaplains for at least 20, were propelled into the milieu of the medical world when their son, John Leavy, was diagnosed with cancer. He died at the young age of 17. His passing had a lasting impact that would serve as a foundation of experience from which the couple could empathize with others and minister to them. For, as Peggy knows, walking down dark hospital hallways is something very difficult to do alone.
“I have great compassion for families who are experiencing chronic illness or dealing with loss,” Peggy, 60, tells Foursquare.org. “After losing our son, I believe God called me into this area of ministry, as well as serving with the youth in our church.”
During the many months of her son’s hospitalization, Peggy practically lived at the facility. She walked the halls and prayed, and saw the pain and suffering of others who were there.
“But I also experienced the joy and hope when Jesus is there,” she affirms. “He makes all the difference. I felt a call from God to minister at the hospital; it was like ‘home turf’ for me.”
Peggy’s responsibilities as a hospital chaplain include walking the floors and visiting patients; responding to urgent calls; praying for needs; holding devotional and ministry services; and being available for special family requests, such as offering communion, praying a final prayer, or dedicating stillborn infants to the Lord.
One such opportunity to minister came when a young couple, distressed over the unexpected death of their newborn daughter, asked for a chaplain. Peggy was on duty and remembers praying for wisdom, asking the Lord what she should do.
She entered their room, introducing herself as the chaplain on call. Walking over to the mother, she simply put her hand on her arm. The young woman began to cry, and Peggy held her while touching the arm of her husband, who was also weeping. They all wept together.
“We then sat together and talked about their relationship with God, that they both had a salvation experience in their youth but had not been walking with the Lord or going to church anywhere,” Peggy recalls. “They desired for their baby to be dedicated to the Lord.”
The nurse brought the baby into the room, wrapped in a pink blanket, and placed her in her bassinet. Peggy anointed the little girl with oil and prayed a prayer of dedication, inviting the parents to pray as well.
“It moved me deeply to see them transition from grief and sorrow to hope and joy in Jesus,” Peggy shares. “We sang ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘Jesus Loves Me.’ I hugged them once more and left the room while they said their final goodbyes to their beloved daughter. They were looking forward to seeing her in heaven.”
Louie and Peggy bring that same heart of compassion to their role as legislative chaplains, where they provide an opening prayer for legislative sessions in rotation with other area ministers.
“It’s a great opportunity to pray for our state senators and assembly representatives in person,” Peggy notes. “Serving as a chaplain for the legislature has given me an opportunity to glorify God in a public place before elected officials. It’s an honor to serve God like this.” On more than one occasion, she says, legislative officials have visited their church.
With “tolerance” and the requirement to be “politically correct” being embraced more and more as the cultural norm, situations need to be navigated with finesse, whether among the legislature or in the hospital. But Peggy has not let that quench her fire.
“For as long as I can, I will keep sharing Jesus Christ with any and all whom God brings into my path,” the minister asserts. “I’m a Christian, and proud of His name. Jesus. I’m glad He chose me and links my name with His name.”
Sharing that name, that relationship, is what it’s all about. No matter what their walk of life, people really just need three things, Peggy says: the Lord, someone who will listen, and love. Ministry is as simple as that.
“I wish everyone knew how special a smile is, or a touch, or a prayer; that eye contact makes a person feel important,” she explains. “Listening is part of ministering. Anyone can be used by God to make a difference.”
That is something she and her husband have experienced firsthand, both as givers and receivers, and why Peggy says that “walking with Jesus is such a wonderful adventure.” You never know what’s going to happen next. And even amid life’s difficulties, God surprises us with blessings.
“When our oldest grandson was born to our oldest son soon after the home-going of Johnny, he and his wife named their son Johnny,” Peggy shares. “It was a huge gift for us to keep pressing forward through the grief. Each additional grandchild has brought more happiness and healing as we continue to keep moving forward.
“It was a gift beyond measure,” she continues, “and made me realize all the more that God comforts us and blesses us with new life in the midst of pain and sorrow.”
By: Bill Shepson, a Foursquare credentialed minister and freelance writer in Los Angeles
This article is Part 4 in a four-part series.
- Part 1: Foursquare Chaplains International statistics and the profile of a military chaplain
- Part 2: Chaplains in the Civil Air Patrol and fire department
- Part 3: The story of a hospice chaplain