Kathy Martin: Minister of compassion

August 20, 2011 in Featured Rotator, Guest Blog by Kathy K. Martin

Kris Azlin describes her career change from physical therapy to pastoral care as switching from bending knees to being on bended knees.

“Looking back,” she says, “I can see how God used those 15 years of hospital care to prepare me for what I do now.”

As director of women’s ministries for Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women, Azlin sees herself as a vessel whom God uses to remind others that he is their hope, peace, healer and comforter. “If I know that I’ve helped someone each day, then it’s been a good day.”

Azlin appreciates her role in encouraging not only patients, but also staff at Baptist. “My job is to help our patients and staff sense that not only is God present with us each day, but that God cares and is involved with each one of us. He is our personal God, and we can trust him.”

She explained that she wants to convey this to patients so that they have peace. “Employees get so busy here with work, and life on the outside can be stressful, so I want to encourage them that God is with them and is faithful.”

Anita Vaughn, CEO of Baptist women’s hospital, said Azlin has been invaluable to the hospital and its mission and has a way of putting people at peace. “Kris is compassionate, an active listener, and thinks of the good in everyone,” Vaughn says. In addition to visiting patients each day, Vaughn says Azlin also provides many ministries to the hospital, such as a knitting ministry that creates prayer shawls, a daily chapel service and a daily message over the hospital-wide intercom. She also provides blessing jars throughout the hospital as well as baby Bibles and prayer guides for new parents.

When she isn’t working, Vaughn says, Azlin always seems to be knitting. She and her volunteers create shawls for employees and help teach knitting

to patients there for extended stays. “The knitting becomes a diversion, since our patients can be here as long as a week or three months,” Vaughn explains.

Azlin moved to Memphis in 1983 and continued her career in physical therapy at Campbell Clinic. She says she enjoyed her job for 15 years, but was then approached by the pastoral care department of Baptist Memorial Hospital, where the need was great for a female pastoral caregiver to serve women patients. “I hadn’t thought about changing careers at that point, but now I look back and see how God had a plan and a purpose for my past.”

A typical day for Azlin begins with visits to preoperative patients. Next, she might read a Bible verse or a motivational thought for the day over the hospital intercom and then lead a chapel prayer time that is open to patients and staff. She also visits new mothers and fathers on the fourth floor, where she enjoys seeing the babies and hearing their names and how they were chosen. On the third floor, she visits patients who have had surgery or have a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. “I hope to remind them of God’s presence and power,” she says.

Many spiritual reminders can be found throughout the hospital, such as the scripture plaques in each patient room, the 11 blessing jars throughout the hospital that are filled with more than 300 written Bible verses and messages of faith, and the indoor and outdoor chapels that provide ways for patients and their families to sense God. In addition, Azlin says she sees staff also playing an important role in the ministry of God’s hope as they care for and pray with patients.

The outdoor chapel, the Pathway to Prayer, is accessible from the first-floor cafeteria doors on the north side of the hospital. The area, which opened in 2005, contains wooden benches along a stone path flanked by rocks, plants and a nearby fountain. The entrance sign reads, “In this place there is peace, healing, hope, comfort, help, strength, rest, thankfulness. In this place there is God.”

The indoor chapel near the front entrance to the hospital remains open at all times and resembles a small sanctuary or place of worship. The scripture verse over the door reads, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10).

When Azlin was grieving the death of her mother about eight years ago, she was given a prayer shawl that brought her comfort, and she wanted to offer the same ministry at Baptist women’s hospital. “A prayer shawl is a visual reminder of our love and prayers, and it serves as a tangible reminder of God’s presence,” Azlin says. She and her volunteers, who have knitted more than 300 shawls, now average about four or five a month that they create and distribute to staff members who are grieving the loss of a loved one.

One of her staff volunteers, administrative assistant Mandie Cool, has crocheted about eight prayer shawls since she joined the ministry about a year ago. She feels rewarded just knowing the purpose for the shawls, and she prays over them as she makes them. Azlin also prays over each one prior to presenting it to a staff person. “I hope that each person feels God’s arms and strength around them as they use the shawl and that they receive comfort during a difficult time,” Cool says.

Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women

6225 Humphreys Boulevard

Memphis, TN


Pastoral Counseling at Baptist Memorial Hospitals

The department’s 24 chaplains serve all of the Baptist Memorial Hospitals in Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas. They also work with the more than 200 volunteer chaplains within the Baptist network.

Chaplains’ duties:

1. offer comfort and spiritual and emotional counseling to patients and their families.

2. facilitate support groups.

3. conduct Sunday morning worship services and/or daily chapel services.

4. distribute literature such as daily devotions, prayer books, grief books and children’s books.

5. present a spiritual presence in the hospital through blessing jars, broadcast of prayers and thoughts for the day in the hospitals and spiritual plaques in patient rooms.

Kemmons Wilson Family Center for Good Grief

The first comprehensive bereavement center for children, adolescents and adults in the region, the Center for Good Grief offers support for those grieving the death of a loved one by sharing their experience with others as they move through the healing process in a therapeutic environment led by professional counselors. Located adjacent to Baptist Trinity Hospice House, the area’s first residential hospice, the center is a free service of Baptist Trinity Hospice, which provides care to terminally-ill patients. Funding is made possible through individual donations and grants funded by the Baptist Memorial Health Care Foundation, as well as donations from various organizations and individuals.