Most Viewed Stories
Called of God: Rideout Health chaplain headed to Deep South
The Rev. Aamir Masih, 39, has lived in Yuba City for more than two years. He was born a Christian in Punjab, Pakistan, and moved to the United States more than 10 years ago. He went to Dallas, Texas, where his 15-plus years of service included working as a missionary and converting Muslims.
The pastor is fluent in English and Urdu, speaks Punjabi and knows some Arabic and Spanish.
"I'm very excited to be serving the diverse community," Masih said.
The hours for a hospital chaplain aren't always easy. Visits are sometimes requested on late nights, early mornings or on weekends. Masih said he's not concerned about that part of the job.
"It depends on the need, I can be reached on my cell phone, I'm always available for the need in the hospital. Doesn't matter what time, I try my best to be there and support," Masih said.
Gail Fontana, director of the chaplaincy program at Rideout Health, said Masih is doing "some wonderful things," and that the chapel at Rideout Regional Medical Center will soon get a makeover.
"We're painting and getting a lot of family and patient input," Fontana said. "We just got 50 free Bibles from Gideons, we're giving them to patients and families. We're putting out Qurans as well."
Rideout's chaplaincy program is also making copies of prayers in Punjabi, English and Spanish, and will be putting in a spot in the chapel where people can lay down a rug to pray upon.
"We just have so many different prayers for people to access," Fontana said.
Fontana is enthusiastic about Masih's arrival, and said on Christmas Eve, he saw almost every single patient there, including a woman who'd been there for months.
"She was so appreciative that he went out of his way and spent a lot of time with her," Fontana said.
— Laura van der Meer
After almost 13 years of service for Rideout Health, the longtime chaplain said a calling from God is prompting her to move on.
Melissa Knight said Thursday that she's moving away to be near her family in Meridian, Miss. She was the first paid chaplain on staff, created the pastoral care department there and helped with the interdisciplinary team. Knight said she plans to stay in chaplaincy.
"There's been a lot of prayer about it, and I feel like I heard God say it's time to go. I honestly feel that God called me here, and now he's called me away from here," Knight said.
She's formed many good relationships in Yuba-Sutter, and plans on staying in touch with friends and colleagues from Rideout.
"It's been a pretty rewarding experience to have the opportunity to come in and grow. I know I've grown so much as a minister, I've grown as a chaplain, and I've grown as an individual. I owe this community, letting me in in the worst moments, and giving me the opportunity to learn," Knight said.
An active member of the community, she's led services at various churches in the area, and has participated in events like Pink October, Heart Month and Relay For Life.
Her denomination is Cumberland Presbyterian, which split from the Presbyterian church in the 1800s over concerns about the education of ministers. The denomination is believed to have ordained the first woman in the United States, Louisa Mariah Layman Woosley, in 1889.
"There were more of the great revivals at the time, and they were trying to educate ministers locally rather than on the East Coast," Knight said.
Knight says her favorite Bible verse is Psalm 46:10: "I am God: I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in all the Earth."
Knight said the psalm has seemed to follow her over the years, appearing to her in various places, like on a billboard.
"The local bookstore on Plumas had a placard with it, so I bought it. It's over one of the doorframes in my house," Knight said.
Her advice for keeping faith during the impending death of a loved one is encouraging people to interact as much as possible, like sharing music or stories, even if the person is not conscious.
"As hard as it is to live in the now ... take advantage of the opportunities if the loved one is still awake about things you've always been curious about," Knight said. "Letting the moment be what it is, and what you need it to be."
Chris Kersting, the former pastor at St. Andrew and Knight's friend, said she did a good job of helping clergy improve the way they care for congregants.
"She was always there to support," Kersting said.
He recalled a program she did for hospital staff called "blessing of the hands," to offer prayer at work.
"Some of them were dealing with life or death situations, and it was just to have that spiritual support," Kersting said.
Taking over for Knight is the Rev. Aamir Masih, an ordained pastor with the Presbyterian Church of the United States. Recently, he's led a Punjabi ministry associated with St. Andrew Presbyterian Church. He started in December.
As for Knight, she said she'll miss the people of Yuba-Sutter the most, and that she believes residents here are friendly, family-oriented people. She cites acts of kindness she recieved from St. Andrew Presbyterian Church when, as a newcomer, Kersting brought food to her home after a particularly rough start.
"Within my first week of moving here in 2000, I broke my leg," Knight said. "People pitched in and were there for me, in the absence of me having any family here at all."