Community Circle the Hospital in Prayer


​On December 24, 2013, at 12:30 in the afternoon, the community is coming together around the PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center to pray.

One year ago, on Christmas Eve, a touching scene unfolded outside a small Southeast Alaska hospital. More than 600 community members in Ketchikan encircled the hospital to offer prayers of healing, strength and peace for the patients and caregivers inside.

The original vision for the hospital prayer circle spread when community member Rhonda Bolling issued a plea for prayer on behalf of her pregnant friend, Kelsey Newsom, who was at the hospital in very pre-term labor. After quickly discussing the idea with hospital leadership who embraced the idea, word went out through churches and social media that people would be gathering the next afternoon to pray.

“I truly was blown away by how many people gathered on such short notice,” said Rhonda. “When I arrived at the hospital, I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know if five people would show up or 25, but I was considering what we would do if we didn’t have the 500 people I estimated would be necessary to circle the hospital hand-in-hand. I played over several scenarios in my head as to where to stand if not enough people showed up. I had to completely let it go and know that it wasn't in my control. It still moves me to think about how people just started pouring in as we neared the start time. My original vision of people hand-in-hand around the hospital was easily realized!”

In a matter of minutes, people stretched around the front corner of the hospital, up the hill toward the Long Term Care wing, and continued the chain around the backside of the building past the Emergency Room. The participants joined hands and sang a moving rendition of “Silent Night.” The circle then stood praying both individually and with their neighbors for the next 10 minutes.
As quickly as it began, it was over. But thankfully the story doesn’t end there. Kelsey Newsom, her unborn daughter, and her husband Jonathan still had a miraculous journey to take.

“This time last year, I was in the hospital, in the maternity ward, uncertain of what my future and my family’s future was going to hold,” explained Kelsey. “I was 23-weeks pregnant and they weren’t sure if my daughter was going to make it, let alone if I was even going to make it out of the pregnancy. And, if she was to be born, the doctors said that she was going to have spina bifida and wasn’t going to have a normal life.”

On Christmas day, Kelsey was medevac’d to Swedish Medical Center in Seattle where she could receive advanced care. The long flight was hard on Kelsey and when she arrived doctors prepared to delivery her baby that night due to the advanced state of her labor. Miraculously, the doctors were able to stop her labor process and after a few weeks in the hospital, she was released to spend the next few months on bed rest at a nearby apartment.

Finally, on March 20, 2013, at 36-weeks, Kelsey delivered a beautiful baby girl, Makenzie Kay, who was fully developed and born without spina bifida. Makenzie, now an active 9-month old, does receive ongoing care for a kidney condition that may or may not improve in the future. Family, friends and community members continue to regularly pray for Makenzie.

“The most important thing, is that she’s here,” shared a misty-eyed Kelsey. “I look at her and just think what a mighty God we serve.”

“This year, we are so blessed to be able to be on the outside with those circling the hospital in prayer as a family of four,” said Kelsey’s husband Jonathan Newsom, a member of the US Coast Guard, whose family also includes their 2-year old son, Jonah. “We want to encourage everyone to come out and join us as we pray for all those who are inside and we can be the angels that get to bless them this year.”

Many off-duty KMC caregivers plan to be actively involved in the prayer chain again this year including the hospital’s Chaplain, Sister Arnadene Bean who shared, “We’re going to be letting the people inside the hospital know what’s happening outside and extending an opportunity for them to ask for prayer from those in the circle if they’d like.”

“We all feel so blessed to serve a community filled with people who care deeply for each other—with so many who believe in the power of prayer,” said interim CAO Ken Tonjes. “We’re touched that this special event is becoming an annual event. It literally brings tears to my eyes. It means that our patients and caregivers will be the focus of many prayers each Christmas Eve. It’s nice to know that even with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, they will always be remembered in this meaningful and touching way.”

Prayer Circle around Ketchikan Medical Center