By Norris Burkes Sept 17 2023

PK is an old-time church abbreviation for “preacher’s kid.”

My wife and I are both California PKs. Her dad pastored Fairvale Baptist Church for 49 years in Fair Oaks and my father pastored multiple churches, moving us every 3-4 years to a California congregation.

We were PKs and proud of it. But my siblings and I also knew that our title was sometimes applied in a pejorative sense to describe the bratty kids that ran unabated through the sanctuary before and after service.

As in when the choir director stage-whispered to the choir, “Wouldn’t you know it? It’s those PKs running through here like hooligans!”

My mom used to advise me that if I was ever asked why PKs don’t behave, I should tell my detractor that PKs are bratty because they spend too much time around the DKs – deacons’ kids.

I suppose it was inevitable that Becky and I would have a gaggle of PKs of our own. After I graduated from seminary, we welcomed our firstborn the way most people do. But over the next five years we moved through the process of adopting a full sibling group of three.

So, I’ll often tell people we have one “homemade” child and three store-bought children. My humor here means no disrespect to the adoption choice – in fact, quite the opposite.

I use the expression to convey a sense of purposeful decision. We didn’t just want more children – we wanted these particular children.

But I must tell you that prayer was the only way we could raise four children.

And Mrs. Chaplain was a PW. No, not Pastor Wife.

She has a reputation as a PW, prayer warrior. I use that term warrior because her prayers sometimes result in people getting hurt.

Some years ago, she prayed that our college-age daughter, Sara, would find a way to get more rest. Sara was a world traveler, an avid lacrosse player, and she was majoring in three subjects.

Prayer outcome: A week later, Sara broke her thumb, and it wasn’t just an ordinary break. It required surgery and rehab. I guess the prayer worked. Sara dropped her extracurricular activities and lived a slower-paced life.

Simultaneously, my wife prayed to find more quality time with our then 12-year-old daughter, Nicole. With Sara successfully out from thumb surgery, Nicole broke her foot. The doctor prescribed no walking, and Nicole spent many hours with Becky during the next two months. Prayer request granted.

Then, about the same time, she started praying for me. Like my oldest daughter, I too had been keeping a hectic schedule.

Becky prayed I’d reduce my writing deadlines to spend quality time with family. Her prayer established a “target lock” on me sometime Saturday afternoon as I finished one writing project and was assembling my entry for a contest, all the while multitasking on a sermon in the midst of making travel arrangements for another cross-country speaking tour.

I grabbed my chest. Breathing hurt and the pain stretched from my navel to my throat. I was thinking: heartburn, I’ll be OK. But as a hospital chaplain, I’d heard too many people sing the heartburn tune of denial that later turned out to be their funeral dirge.

With the calm demeanor of a drowning rat, I asked my PW to drive me to the emergency room. Within a few minutes of arrival, I took my first nitroglycerin tablet and the pain subsided.

The short version of this story is I spent 23 hours in the hospital cardiac ward under observation. Diagnosis: heartburn from hell.

The prayer hit its mark with accurate precision, but fortunately it was only a warning shot over the bow intended to just wing me. My busy schedule slowed significantly, and my wife cut another notch in her prayer belt.

At this point, I should say to my readers that if you’ve read all of this, and you’d still like me to pass on your prayer request to the PW, be forewarned. I’ll be asking you to sign a release form.


Column excerpted from Norris’s upcoming book, “Tell it to the Chaplain.” My books are available on my website at Send comments to Leave recorded comments at (843) 608-9715.